THE GARLIC REQUIREMENTS of an average family can be easily satisfied by even the smallest of vegetable patches. This is a good thing indeed because most of the garlic available in supermarkets is imported from China (over 5,000 miles!) and not of great quality.
If you were to take any bulb of garlic, break out the cloves and stick them in to the ground spaced about 4 inches apart, each clove would eventually turn in to a bulb of garlic. That’s the magic of it.
However it is recommended not to use supermarket garlic for this purpose as it can bring disease in to your soil (if you are going to do this, sow the garlic in containers). Better to buy certified disease-free garlic from a garden centre or online seed supplier. Garlic is easy to grow (although sometimes the wrong weather conditions can result in smaller bulbs).
It stores really well – if you manage to grow 20-30 quality bulbs they will hang happily in your kitchen through the autumn, winter and spring of the following year.
It is also incredibly good for you. For over 4,000 years of human history garlic has been used as a health food. In 1858, Louis Pasteur documented that garlic kills bacteria, with one millilitre of raw garlic juice proving as effective as 60 milligrams of penicillin.
Science tells us now that its healing powers come from the presence of hundreds of sulfur compounds, including allicin – which gives garlic its aroma and flavour – making garlic the world’s most powerful antioxidant. The vitamins A, B and C in garlic stimulate the body to fight carcinogens and get rid of toxins, and may even aid in preventing certain types of cancer, such as stomach cancer.
Most GIYers sow garlic in early winter (Oct-Dec, but before the shortest day of the year – 21 Dec). Some varieties however can be sown in spring but they won’t grow as big as garlic enjoys a prolonged 4-5 week cold spell in the soil. Pick a sunny site, with good fertile, free-draining soil.
Apply an organic fertiliser before sowing. Sow each clove just below the surface, about 4-5 inches apart, in rows 12 inches apart. If soil is very wet, sow in module trays and transplant when sprouted. If you don’t have a garden, garlic will grow happily in containers or pots.
As with onions, garlic hates weed competition so keep the bed weed free. Hoe carefully around the bulbs every week or so. Water occasionally in dry weather but don’t over-water.
Harvest once at least half to two-thirds of leaves on each plant are yellow. Autumn sown garlic will be ready in early summer and spring-sown ones a little later. Do not allow them to go too far as they lose flavour. Lift carefully and dry on racks in sun (or indoors if wet weather) for two weeks before hanging in plaits.
Solent Wight, Early Purple Wight, Printanor (spring planting)
Rust can affect leaves but it shouldn’t affect bulbs. White rot (as per onions) is more serious as it attacks the root. No remedy – do not grow garlic in that soil again for 7 years.
- Sow garlic before shortest day of year and harvest before the longest day.
- Remove any flowers that form on stems while growing.
Recipe of the Week – Roasted Root Vegetables and a Bulb of Garlic
Too often garlic is a condiment added at the start of a meal to add a bit of flavour. I like that this recipe puts it right in the heart of the action and that when you give each roasted clove a squeeze you get a lovely shot of tasty, garlicy goodness.
We are approaching the end of our carrot crop and because I tended to harvest the best ones first, the remaining roots are generally either short, stubby, forked or all three at once. Not too worry – go ahead and laugh and then peel and eat them. We should all be embracing ugly and mishapen veg!
Don’t worry too much about the quantities of each of the vegetables – whatever you have available is fine and of course it depends on how many people you are feeding.
- Potatoes, parnips and carrots – peeled and chopped in to chunks
- A bulb of garlic
- Fresh herbs – rosemary and thyme
- Olive oil and seasoning
Pre-heat the oven to 200 degrees C. Bring a pot of water to the boil. Add the spuds and carrots and simmer for a few minutes. Then add the parsnips and simmer for a few more. Drain them and dry off carefully.
Add a few glugs of oil to a roasting tin and pop it in to the oven for five minutes. Then add the veg to the pan. Remove the cloves from the garlic bulb and add them too (no need to peel them). Remove the rosemary and thyme leaves from the stalks and add them to the pan.
Season well. Mix it all together with a spoon so that all the veg are coated in oil, herbs and seasoning. Bake for approx 30-40 minutes. Keep an eye on it though – you want them nicely caramelised, not burned.
Michael Kelly is a freelance journalist, author and founder of GIY.