A Little Taste of Garlic

Fall is now upon us, for most people this is the time that the garden is being cleared out and put to bed for next year. Not many people realize how many crops can be grown through the winter… Garlic, Leeks, Collard Greens and Kale can all overwinter and in many cases grow and taste better after exposure to the cold. Garlic has to be one of the easiest plants I have ever grown and tends to keep for a long time if it is stored properly. This post is intended to be a guide to planting, growing, harvesting and storing garlic.

Allium Sativum, more commonly known as garlic is a species in the onion genus Allium, garlic’s close relatives include onions, shallots, leeks and rakkyo. Native to central Asia and dating back over 6000 years, garlic has been a staple of Mediterranean dishes, as well as a seasoning in Asian, African and European cuisine. It was known to Ancient Egyptians, and has been used throughout its history for both culinary and medicinal purposes.

Garlic is rather easy to grow and can be grown year around in milder climates, garlic is grown from the individual cloves. Each clove will produce one plant with a single bulb – which may in turn contain up to twenty cloves, growing garlic is therefore self-sustaining. While sexual propagation of garlic is possible, nearly all of the garlic in cultivation is propagated asexually by planting individual cloves in the ground. In cold climates, cloves are planted in the fall, about six weeks before the soil freezes and harvested in late spring. Garlic is very hardy, and is not attacked by many types of pests or diseases. Garlic repels rabbits and moles. Two of the major pathogens that attack garlic are nematodes and white rot disease, which remains in the soil indefinitely once the ground has become infected. Garlic can also suffer from pink root, which is typically a nonfatal disease that stunts the roots and turns them pink or red.

Garlic can be grown close together, you only need enough room for the garlic bulbs to fully mature and can even be grown in a container of sufficient depth. When selecting your garlic cloves for planting, it is important to pick large heads from which to separate the cloves. Large cloves, along with proper spacing in the garden bed will improve head size. When planting garlic, choose a garden site that gets plenty of sun and where the soil is not too damp. The cloves should be planted individually, upright and about an inch (25 mm) under the surface. Plant the cloves about 4 inches (100 mm) apart. Rows should be about 18 inches (450 mm) apart. Garlic plants prefer to grow in a soil that is high in organic material but is more than capable of growing an any soil and pH environment you can throw at it. It is traditional to plant garlic on the shortest day of the year. Whether this is for symbolic or practical reasons is unclear.

As garlic reaches maturity, the leaves will brown then die away. This is the cue that it is time to harvest your garlic crop. If you harvest too early the cloves will be very small, too late and the bulb will have split. Proper handling of garlic after it’s been picked is almost as important as looking after it while it’s growing. It’s essential that garlic is dried properly, otherwise it will rot. The bulbs are often hung up in a cool, dry place. After a week or so, take them down and brush the dirt off gently – don’t wash the bulbs at this stage.

There are different types or subspecies of garlic, most notably hard neck and soft neck garlic. The latitude where the garlic is grown affects the choice of type as garlic can be day-length sensitive. Hard neck garlic is generally grown in cooler climates while hard neck garlic is grown in warmer climates closer to the equator.

The scape or flowers of garlic are removed to focus the plants attention into producing larger cloves of garlic. The scape also happen to be delicious and is used both cooked or raw.

Garlic is usually stored in warm conditions above 64 F and dry to keep it dormant so it does not sprout and is almost always hung. Soft neck varieties are often braided in strands called plaits or grappes. Peeled cloves may be stored in wine or vinegar in the refrigerator. Garlic will keep longer if the tops remain attached. Garlic is also kept in oil, but the practice requires measures to be taken to prevent the garlic from spoiling. Untreated garlic kept in oil can support the growth of bacteria that causes the deadly illness botulism so care should be taken when preparing garlic for storage in oil. To reduce the risk, the oil should be refrigerated and used within one week.

Garlic has been used by many cultures as food and medicine for thousands of years dating as far back as when the pyramids were built. Garlic is mentioned in the Bible and the Talmud. Hippocrates, Galen, Pliny the Elder, and Dioscorides all mention the use of garlic for many conditions, including parasites, respiratory problems, poor digestion, and low energy.

In in vitro studies, garlic has been found to have antibacterial, antiviral, and antifungal activity. However, these actions are less clear in vivo. Garlic is also claimed to help prevent heart disease (including atherosclerosis, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure  and cancer. Garlic is used to prevent certain types of cancer, including stomach and colon cancers. In fact, countries where garlic is consumed in higher amounts, because of traditional cuisine, have been found to have a lower prevalence of cancer. Animal studies, and some early research studies in humans, have suggested possible cardiovascular benefits of garlic.

In 2007, the BBC reported garlic may have other beneficial properties, such as preventing and fighting the common cold. This assertion has the backing of long tradition in herbal medicine, which has used garlic for hoarseness and coughs. The Cherokee also used it as an expectorant for coughs and croup.

Garlic is also alleged to help regulate blood sugar levels. Regular and prolonged use of therapeutic amounts of aged garlic extracts lower blood homocysteine levels and has been shown to prevent some complications of diabetes mellitus. People taking insulin should not consume medicinal amounts of garlic without consulting a physician.

In 1858, Louis Pasteur observed garlic’s antibacterial activity, and it was used as an antiseptic to prevent gangrene during World War I and World War II. More recently, it has been found from a clinical trial that a mouthwash containing 2.5% fresh garlic shows good antimicrobial activity, although the majority of the participants reported an unpleasant taste and halitosis.

Garlic cloves are used as a remedy for infections (especially chest problems), digestive disorders, and fungal infections such as thrush.  Garlic can be used as a disinfectant because of its bacteriostatic and bacteriocidal properties.

Garlic has been regarded as a force for both good and evil. According to Cassell’s Dictionary of Superstitions, there is an Islamic myth that considers that after Satan left the Garden of Eden, garlic arose in his left footprint and onion in the right. In Europe, many cultures have used garlic for protection or white magic, perhaps owing to its reputation as a potent preventative medicine. Central European folk beliefs considered garlic a powerful ward against demons, werewolves, and vampires. To ward off vampires, garlic could be worn, hung in windows, or rubbed on chimneys and keyholes.

Peace – chriscondello

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A little taste of garlic!

Originally Posted To http://www.transitionpgh.org

October 2, 2011 @ 12:00 PM

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5 thoughts on “A Little Taste of Garlic

  1. bcumings1973 says:

    I’ve been growing this for 3 years now. I started small, but I’m up to 40 heads of garlic next summer! Lasts all the way until spring. Once my tree roots finally decompose, I’m going to go for 100.

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  2. If you plant your garlic on winter solstice and harvest it on summer solstice (shortest and longest days) it makes a lovely marking of the seasons, and according to biodynamic gardening it will be stronger and store better. i can vouch for it being stronger, a friend used to have 20 bulbs a year from me for his birthday present, and swore it kept him free of colds, but the first time he chewed a clove (he did this all the time with bought garlic) he had tears running down his face, it was so much stronger! thank you for reminding me of the pleasure of wheeling a barrow full of garlic from the allotment to the house i used to live in, with the sun streaming down and the smell of camomile in flower sweetening the pungency of the garlic…
    garlic is better if it gets a frost, so planting it by solstice is a good idea anyway 😉
    happy gardening!

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  3. I had no idea you could grow garlic in the winter. This is good to know, Hope you are staying warm today.
    Hugs,
    Kathy

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  4. Tony Condello says:

    I need to plant garlic. it is one of my favorite tastes. however, not so much to others.

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