Hooray for Garlic

By: Nancy Olsen

June 2018

Hooray for Garlic

I thought I would visit with you about my favorite herb, GARLIC. You really should spice up your tastebuds and give them a get-along-garlic-giggle once in a while.

The two types of garlic frequently grown in home gardens are Allium sativum, the type more commonly cultivated and Allium ampeloprasum, usually called great-headed or elephant garlic. The smaller, more reddish clove varieties of allium ampeloprasum are milder without an overpowering aftertaste.

Garlic is a member of the onion family, although differs from onions because its bulb is composed of about 10 cloves that are arranged inside a membrane somewhat like an orange. Garlic and its other relatives in the onion family are among the oldest known foods and seasonings. Garlic is traditionally thought to be a strength-giving herb. It was eaten extensively by Egyptians working on the pyramids and by Greek and Roman athletes while training before contests. Garlic in the diet has been highly recommended for everyone today. Just chew lots of parsley after each indulgence!

Garlic is one of the most frequently used culinary herbs due to its distinct flavor and aroma. Garlic was most likely native to central Asia and introduced to Europe and the New World by early immigrants.

Plant garlic in September or early October, expecting to harvest next August. It is best to plant a month before the first hard frost, as you would for spring-flowering ornamental bulbs, allowing time for the roots to develop before the ground freezes. By spring, the plant is well established and makes rapid top growth as the weather warms.

Spring plantings can also be made. Cloves would be planted in the early spring as soon as the soil can be worked. Spring plantings will be ready for use later than fall plantings and will not produce as large a bulb. Plant each clove 3-4 inches apart in rows 6-inches apart with the skin intact in full sun. Elephant garlic should be spaced 4-6 inches apart in rows 8-12 inches apart. You can use a garlic bulb from the grocery store, but be sure it is firm, plump, and free from brown spots. Garlic likes manure and plenty of compost, or a balanced (13-13-13) fertilizer, and must have good drainage. Although it needs a lot of water (until July), garlic mustn’t sit in it or it will rot.

The allium family all have wonderful long-lasting flowers. The flower of garlic looks like most allium flowers, they have a long stem with a ball of purple flowers. You can have flowers and a bulb of garlic.

Harvest garlic as soon as the leaves start to turn yellow and the tops bend over. Dry the whole bulbs in a dry, airy place until the outer wrapper scales are crispy dry. Then, remove the tops and roots and store in a cool, dry area. Garlic may be stored in a mesh bag or the tops may be left on and braided together.

FRESH GARLIC HINTS

*You can flavor foods easily with fresh garlic by cutting up garlic cloves and storing them in a jar of salad oil. Use this garlic oil to marinate meats, for salad dressings or for frying. Make only enough for a two week period and keep in the refrigerator.

*Is garlic breath a problem? You may want to try the following: Eat fresh parsley, nature’s “breath mint”, chew on a coffee bean, have a bowl of sherbet for dessert. The best method is to make sure everyone you’re with eats garlic, too!

*Should you refrigerate garlic? It’s not recommended. The best place to store it in the home is a cool, dry area, where air can circulate freely. An open mesh basket or bag is a good storage container. If sprouts develop, do not discard the garlic. It is still useful even though it may be somewhat milder in flavor.

Give Nancy Olsen a call (910-862-4591) or come by the Bladen County Extension Office, 450 Smith Circle Dr., Elizabethtown for help with your yard concerns.

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Nancy Olsen