There are many uses and benefits in a simple bulb of garlic.
ILLUSTRATION: KENNETH LIN
There's really no reason not to plant garlic in your garden. It's easy to grow, even easier to eat and easiest of all on your arteries, according to a rash of recent medical data. Plus, garlic is an effective guard plant that can keep pests and fungi away from your other flowers and vegetables.
Whether you're already sold on the stinking rose or are curious about trying something new, here's a collection of garlic tips from growers and connoisseurs to keep you reeking — that is —reaping, for seasons to come!
If in a mild region, plant cloves in late September to mid-October. If in a cold region, plant in early spring, or as soon as the ground is workable.
Divide the bulbs into cloves only when ready to plant; early separation lessens yield.
Use bulbs that are large and firm. Make sure there are no soft spots or mildew on the cloves.
Plant in a sunny location.
Plant in crumbly, light soil that drains well and that is high in organic matter.
Plant cloves two to four inches down, four to six inches apart, pointy sides up. Space rows twelve inches apart.
Mulch with several inches of leaves or straw to protect the cloves over the winter months.
Weed often to prevent cloves from losing light and nutrients.
Flower stalks containing tiny bulblets should be cut off as soon as they appear to encourage growth of the larger garlic bulb. Both flowers and bulblets are edible, and are delicious sauteed or steamed.
Fertilize fall-planted garlic in early spring, and spring-planted garlic in early summer. Avoid "burning" by placing the fertilizer four to six inches on either side of the bulb. Fine compost, manure tea and balanced liquid fertilizers all work well.
Keep the beds evenly moist. Stopwatering two weeks before harvesting or when tops begin to dry. This will generally happen some time in July or August.
The bulbs are ready to harvest when the majority of the leaves have turned yellow and dry but there are still three or four green leaves left on each plant.Waiting too much longer increases the occurrence of split skins.
Using a digging fork, carefully loosen the soil and lift the plants out. Do not pull the tops. The skin around the bulbs should be thick, dry, and paper-like.
Shake off loose dirt and allow bulbs to dry on a wooden or wire rack or on a cloth screen. Hanging them in bunches works well also. Keep them out of direct sunlight.
Allow the bulbs to dry for about two weeks. Then trim the tops and the roots to within an inch of the bulbs.
Store the bulbs in a cool, dry place with good ventilation. Hanging baskets, mesh bags, cardboard boxes, or clay pots with holes are all good storage containers. The garlic will keep for six to eight months.
Keep stored garlic away from foods that might absorb its flavor, such as potatoes or fruit.
To store in refrigerator, peel the cloves and submerge them in olive oil. They should keep for up to three months.
If you plan on selling your garlic, leave the tops long and braid the bulbs. Braided garlic can sell for double the price per pound of loose garlic. Braiding will be easier if done before the tops are completely dry. For long-lasting braids, reinforce with floral wire.
Use and Benefits of Garlic
Peel garlic easily by pressing down on a clove with the broad side of a knife until the skin splits and can be pulled off.
Rub a bowl with a cut clove of garlic,before putting in salad greens to give salads a subtle garlic flavor.
Add garlic flavor—without garlic chunks—to sauces and sauteed dishes by putting cloves on toothpicks and cooking them with the other ingredients. Then simply pluck out the skewered garlic before serving.
Avoid sautéing garlic for so long that it turns brown. It will become bitter and in-digestible. Use low to medium heat, and stop cooking it when it turns to a pale golden color.
Get rid of garlic breath by chewing on fresh parsley.
Get garlic odor off hands by rubbing them with lemon juice or vinegar.
Before planting cabbage, cauliflower,or broccoli, place a clove of garlic in the hole to keep those vegetables from getting club root.
Grind up cloves in the blender and mix with water to make a spray. Use on shrubs to discourage pests.
Plant garlic cloves around the base of rose bushes to ward off aphids.