Did you plant garlic this year? If so, you are probably eagerly anticipating harvest. It seems that everyone knows garlic is good for you, but what do you really know about garlic?
How to Grow Garlic
How to grow garlic from cloves (seed)
When we refer to seed here, it is in reference to the individual cloves that are broken from the bulb of garlic and planted. This is the common way to grow garlic.
However, hardneck garlic produces scapes and also has the potential to bear seeds, more on scapes in a minute.
I have a patch of garlic in my garden right now that started as seed and I successfully grew in this manner. It can be done, but planting cloves is much faster and more productive.
Eat your garlic scapes
You’ll find scapes at the farmer’s market in May and June. They are the flower stalks produced on hardneck varieties. When they are young and tender they are delicious and can be pickled, sautéed, or turned into a delicious pesto. They must be picked so you might as well eat them. If you leave these on they will result in a smaller bulb of garlic when you harvest.
When do I harvest?
The answer here will vary with the weather and your location. An easy rule of thumb is to watch your garlic. In June or July (here in Ohio) the leaves will begin to yellow and die off, starting at the soil line and moving up. When you have only five sets of leaves remaining, it’s time to dig your garlic.
Health Benefits of Garlic
Is garlic really healthy?
Yes! If we simply look at the nutritional aspect of garlic, it is a good source of vitamins C, B (particularly B6), choline, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, manganese, and selenium.
Can I supplement with it?
Yes! Garlic is one of the most ancient medicines we know of. It has been proven in the circulatory system (blood pressure, cholesterol, etc.), respiratory system (cough, bronchitis, congestion, infection, etc.), urinary tract (stones, swelling, arthritis, etc.), reproductive system, skin (anti-fungal, antibacterial, antibiotic) and much, much more! (Find a garlic supplement here.)
Raw or Dried?
This is a larger conversation and depends on why you are using it. In most cases, the benefits of garlic are most available to you if you are using it fresh, shortly after being crushed.
A Little Garlic Folklore
- Garlic is said to be an aphrodisiac. Surprised? Most people would think the opposite because of the possible offensiveness of the smell. The truth is that, yes, garlic will make you odiferous, but it aids the circulatory system. Any plant that encourages good blood flow to our reproductive bits earns its reputation in the love department. In this case, it’s worth getting past the smell, or serve it to both you and your partner.
- In various holy places around the world it is prohibited to grow or eat garlic. Many have inferred that these rules are in place to suggest the garlic is somehow inherently evil. I believe it is more likely related to item number one above. Garlic stirs the blood and inflames the passions. As an aphrodisiac, it would have no business in a holy place.
- Garlic wards against the evil eye and can be worn around the neck to keep illness at bay. This gets tied up with vampires, evil creatures, and magical thinking, BUT there is some truth here. I wrote a while back about how to make your own Vinegar of the Four Thieves. Garlic is prominently featured in this tale about warding off the plague.
What about you? Do you know how to grow garlic? What is your favorite way to use this nutritional powerhouse?