Garlic is known for its pungent odor and taste, garlic is a popular safe and useful natural remedy. Featured in the world's oldest surviving medical text, the Ebers Papyrus, garlic is one of the earliest medicinal plants known to man.
Garlic is a hardy bulb which contains up to a dozen smaller cloves and is a member of the onion family. Garlic is well known as a culinary herb and quite easy to grow in the home garden. In recent years the popularity of Garlic has grown as more people learn of the many health benefits of Garlic.
Garlic has been a staple ingredient in Mediterranean, Middle Eastern and Asian cuisines for the ages, our British heritage prevented it from becoming an early ingredient in American cooking. English aristocracy did not eat garlic, it being considered more for the peasants of Europe and England. Lucky for the American cuisine, the common garlic-loving immigrants brought it with them as they moved to North America and the new world.
Herbalists have long claimed strong germ killing properties of garlic.
A substance in the herb called Allicin gives it its strong odor and is also known to be capable of killing many bacteria and fungi. Garlic has been used in the treatment of athlete's foot.
Garlic is effective against staph and strep bacteria. In treating typhus, it is said to be more effective than penicillin.
Recent research indicates garlic oils may be used as an anticoagulant.
Before planning to grow garlic, it is important to know that there are two types of garlic available to the home gardener.
Hardneck Garlic: Hardnecks are typically red, purple, purple-striped, or white, with up to three times the level of allicin that is contained in the the softnecked garlic. Hardneck Garlic may produce a stalk topped with a flower which sometimes produces a small bulb or top-set. The foliage of the hard-neck varieties is too stiff to be braided. The hardneck varieties of garlic are the better choice for gardeners who grow garlic in the cooler weather found in the northern and Midwestern growing areas of the United States and Canada.
Softneck Garlic: Softneck is the Garlic variety typically found for sale in the grocery stores. Softneck Garlic found in the grocery store is commercially grown in California or imported. Softneck garlic doesn't produce a shoot and is usually white with more and smaller cloves with milder flavor. Softneck garlic produces a "soft neck" shoot which is sometimes braided by gardeners following garlic harvest.
Growing Zone: Zones 3 to 8 or 9, depending on the variety.
Do not buy garlic bulbs from the grocery store to plant in your garden! The bulbs are typically softneck varieties and have usually been sprayed with a product that inhibits sprouting. This gives the garlic bulbs and garlic cloves longer shelf life but also limits the number of cloves that will sprout and emerge in your garden.
The best source of garlic to be used for planting is one of the many herb suppliers that can be found online. Richter's Herbs is a great source of fresh garlic cloves for planting in the garden. They serve as my go-to herb supplier for hard-neck garlic sets, most of my herb seeds and potted herbs.
After the UPS man delivers your garlic bulbs, break apart the bulbs into separate cloves. Ideally, plant the individual garlic cloves in the late summer or early fall before the ground freezes or in the spring after the danger of frost has passed. Sow the cloves pointed end up in moist but well-drained soil. Avoid clay soil types.
Plant the garlic cloves in full-sun with the cloves 3 to 5 inches apart set in 12 to 24 inch rows.
Harvest the garlic bulb in about 90 days or after the top turns brown.
Braid the tops of softneck varieties and hang in small bunches, out of direct sunshine, in an area with plenty of fresh, moving air. In the absence of moving air, use fans to provide proper air circulation.
Trim the tops of hardneck varieties to as short as 1/2 inch. Hang the bulbs in a mesh bag or other container with good air circulation.
Following garlic harvest, tie the bulb tops in a bundle and hang in a dark, cool location; or hang in a mesh bag until the bulbs are dry. For softneck garlic bulbs, after the garlic is dry, leave the tops attached for braiding, or trim the tops to ½ inch and store the in the same mesh bags in which they were dried.
The individual garlic cloves will keep for up to six months in the refrigerator with the temperature set at 32° to 40°F. (0° to 4.5°C) Be observant because some varieties of garlic cloves will attempt to sprout as they warm.
Garlic bulbs may also be temporarily set aside in baskets or ventilated jars placed on your kitchen counter or pantry. Do not store the garlic bulbs or garlic cloves in sealed containers.
The following are are two delicious garlic recipes. The first is for a tasty Garlic Vinegar; the second is for crowd-pleasing Oven-Roasted Garlic Cloves.Garlic Vinegar Recipe:
Use the finished garlic vinegar in salad dressing, or in various marinade recipes.
Roast the garlic bulbs in a 500°F (260°C) oven for 30 minutes. When the roasted garlic is finished, gently separate the roasted garlic bulbs into individual garlic cloves.
Serve the Roasted Garlic next to slices of warm Italian Bread with a good imported Chianti on the side!
(Individual garlic cloves can also be roasted in their skins. Just omit the water, and roast for 20 minutes, or until the cloves are soft to the touch.)