The Secret Life of Garlic
Garlic and Healthier Living
Garlic is an amazing plant that can do so many things with. I was introduced to seed garlic by a nursery a few years ago in western PA, as a neighbor that I regularly worked for wanted me to plant some for her. She had a couple of beautiful Macintosh apple trees that produced a lot of apples, but sadly, they were worm-filled. I had explained to her that one of the properties of garlic was that if planted around wormy apple trees, the worms would be eradicated. The other half of the equation is that the apple drops with the worms would also have to be disposed of elsewhere. No point of keeping those worms around to return to the new apples!
A Member of the Onion Family
Garlic is a hardy perennial, and the strongest member of the onion family. Garlic will bloom pink flowers, but may or may not make seed, depending upon the circumstances and the variety.
Consequently, garlic is best propagated with garlic bulbs, or heads that grow underground. The roots will go as deep as two feet. Each head is made up of cloves, which can be dug up and stored like onions. Don’t try to plant grocery store bought garlic, which is usually too dry to plant and give a yield.
Where to Plant
For garlic(or even elephant garlic, if you prefer that), plant in well drained soil with a pH of 5.5 to 6.8. Garlic plants need fertile, moist soil and full sun. They do best with a loose, even sandy soil or high humus soil, so that the bulbs can easily spread out and grow. The optimum planting time is late August to mid-October, as garlic grows best during cool weather, which is fall. It will store energy, which will make the cloves. If you’d rather plant in the springtime, do it as soon as the ground is thawed, probably early March. Garlic will not transplant, so plant it where you want it to grow, which can even be a window box. Don’t plant in a pot, as that is too small.
Planting and Growth
If you plant in rows to share the garlic with others, two pounds of cloves will be plenty for each 50 foot row. There are about 150 cloves to the pound. Plant the cloves with the points face up, 2-3 inches deep, and 3 inches apart. Plant very shallowly if you’re planting on the late end of spring. Each planted clove will yield about 15 cloves in the head. Garlic repels many insects in your garden, and is compatible with most vegetables EXCEPT any legumes. It will inhibit their growth, as well as the growth of flowers, especially roses. Since it takes up little room, you can plant it between vegetables, if you wish. Keep the garlic free from weeds, don’t let them get dry, and loosen the soil around them.
Harvesting and Drying
Once the garlic leaves get a foot high, cease watering. Harvest the bulbs as soon as the leaves die and fall over, which will be around August. Garlic won’t make cloves until the last minute, the last 45 days of its growing season. To speed them up, knock over the above ground shoots 90-110 days after planting. Don’t cut the leaves if you’d like to braid the garlic. In a few days, you’ll be able to loosen the dirt and pull up the entire plant. After digging, wash them well and allow them to sun dry until they are white, which should be in about a week.
Dust off, trim roots, and store in paper or mesh bags. They will stay good for months and if the humidity is low, even longer. Bulbs for a winter kitchen look gorgeous braided together by their stems and hung up.
Cooking with Garlic
Peel the clove’s outer papery layer, and use the clove whole, minced, chopped, or crushed with a garlic press. It can be rubbed on meat, added to salad dressings or tomato sauce, or even roasted as a vegetable.
Or roast an entire head after you trim the tops, in a terra cotta roaster with a little olive oil at 350 degrees for about an hour, but don’t try to speed it up. Garlic will taste bitter if cooked at too high heat. It will smell fragrant when done. There's no need to remove the peel, as you'll do that at the end, when you mash it with a fork and spread it on crackers for a lovely and mild taste sensation. Make sure that you use the roaster as directed. Most of them need to be soaked in water first.
Garlic Powder Recipe
Peel cloves, slice or chop, dry at 120 degrees, then grind, mortar, or pound them into a powder. This will be stronger than what one buys in a store.
Mince 3 garlic cloves, mix with ½ cup melted butter, add chopped parsley. Let sit for an hour. Then spread on sliced French bread, heat under the broiler, and serve hot for a taste of heaven.
Heat 12 cloves of crushed garlic in 3 cups of whole milk for 8 minutes.
Garlic is a great antibiotic. For a sore throat, mix garlic and lemon juice and a sweetening agent mixed in a cup of warm water. For a chest cold, mix garlic juice with a vapor rub. To worm a large cat, give one crushed clove each month mixed in wet food.
For insect and plant blights, blend several garlic cloves with a little water and a tablespoon of soap emulsion or cooking oil. Then strain. Dilute to 1 quart and spray on your affected plants. If you have a bad case of either malady, spray frequently.
This should give you a good start on garlic knowledge. You will learn new things, too, as you experiment with garlic. Have a wonderful experience with it.