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Steadfast Garlic

| 9/3/2014 3:55:00 PM


An heirloom can be defined as a traditional or heritage plant variety that is preserved generation after generation through small scale agricultural practices. Throughout history, small-scale family farmers and gardeners have taken pride in preserving plant heritage through seed saving. Preserving heirloom plants is vital to the future of safe food. Fortuitously, there are plenty of food revolutionaries who are playing major roles in heirloom seed preservation including Jere Gettle, founder of Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds, deemed by the New York Times as “The Indiana Jones of Seeds”. We can all do our part in our own gardens by saving our seeds and growing them year after year, sharing our harvests and sharing our seeds with our neighbors. Seed saving is one of the single most important things a backyard organic gardener can do for the future of food.

History of Garlic

The origin of garlic can be traced back to Central Asia. Garlic’s illustrious history includes reverence in a vast array of ancient cultures and has been traced back to use in Roman, Greek and Egyptian civilizations and is mentioned throughout Ayurvedic medicine. It has been considered sacred by many civilizations that used garlic not only for its culinary charm but also for its highly medicinal properties. Garlic is the earliest documented plant used by humans. Garlic is a natural antibiotic which has been used in many cultures to prevent and treat a plethora of diseases. Garlic is loaded with antioxidants, vitamins and minerals.

According to the extensive research done on garlic collections around the world by Dr. Gayle Volk, Cryobotanist with the USDA in Ft. Collins, Colo., the varieties of garlic worldwide have been narrowed down to 10 distinct varietal groups. Five varieties are hard-necked including Rocambole, Porcelain, Purple Stripe, Glazed Purple Stripe, and Marbled Purple Stripe. Three are bolting hard-necked varieties that may produce softnecks including Asiatic, Creole and Turban. Two are soft-necked varieties which include Silverskin and Artichoke.

There are many stories of garlic being recovered from ditches, swamps, abandoned farms and the like. According to David Stern, founding director of the Garlic Seed Foundation, “stories like these prove the tenacity of garlic. Garlic has an enormous presence of life, meaning that it is highly adaptable and incredibly strong”. David states that American scientists discovered garlic growing and thriving in unbelievable growing conditions in the Ural Mountains which borders Afghanistan, the Soviet Union and China. This garlic was found growing at high altitude in almost no topsoil, exposed to harsh elements including strong winds and extremely cold temperatures. David highlights that garlic is one of the few plant species that has three separate means of reproduction: vegetative via the bulbil (clonal daughter), vegetative via the cloves in the bulb, and sexually above 4,000 feet via flowering.

Gateway Garlic Urban Farm


9/8/2014 3:57:34 PM

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9/5/2014 9:13:53 AM

Great article. I've never grown garlic before, but getting ready to plant some soon. Just to clarify a couple of thoughts on "Planting garlic this fall". Do you remove the straw layer when the scapes come through in the spring? Do you cut the scapes at dirt or straw layer level? Only cut the scapes once?

9/4/2014 6:18:24 PM

#StLouis #RobinHood of the Urban Garden Scene- Feeds the poor with the Mobile Garden! I've also been telling his story at: and I added the Mother Earth News to the page! Thank you for promoting the StLouis Urban Garden scene!

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