Garlic Gusto

Bloomingfield's braided garlic in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer

Bloomingfield’s braided garlic (photo by: Kathy Diemer)

Garlic, a relative of the onion family, is one of the most healthy, beneficial foods you can eat.  Since ancient times, garlic has been revered for its countless advantages, from boosting the immune system to treating skin conditions.  Garlic has been used to repel mosquitoes, eliminate warts and for relieving nasal congestion. And recent studies indicate that garlic has also been recognized for aiding in the prevention of some types of cancer, for its anti-inflammatory and detoxifying properties, for promoting liver health, even helping lower cholesterol levels.  All those benefits aside, I love it for the flavor it adds when sautéed with leaf vegetables or added to stews and sauces.  Cloves can be inserted into pork or beef roasts, with a delicious outcome.  Garlic is a tasty addition to many food dishes, while providing vitamin C and potassium.  In other words, just a spoon full of garlic . . .

Monarda embellished with Garlic in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer

Monarda embellished with Garlic scapes (photo by: Kathy Diemer)

Not only is garlic incredibly healthy, but it’s very easy to grow and looks great as an ornamental garden element as well.  When you purchase garlic from your local farm or farmer’s market, simply take a few of the cloves and plant them a few inches into the soil, and about six inches from other plants.  This is usually done around the same time as other bulbs are planted (late October to early November).  Plant your garlic cloves in a full sun location with good drainage to ensure they don’t rot.  When spring arrives, you’ll see the scallion-like stems come up, eventually becoming decorative–or tasty–garlic scapes.  The time to harvest is (usually the end of June) when they become most ornate, all twirling and twisting like ballerinas of the garden.  I can’t make myself cut them down, but you can and should, as they are quite delicious sautéed, in salad dressings or for pesto.  And, I suspect their aroma may keep some critters away from your garden as well.

** If you love garlic, you may also enjoy growing CHIVES in your garden ~

Ornamental Garlic Scapes in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer

Ornamental Garlic Scapes (photo by Kathy Diemer)

There are two main varieties of garlic, hardneck (Allium sativum var. ophioscorodon) and softneck (Allium sativum var. sativum), and the basic difference is that generally the hardneck garlic produces a flower stalk (best choice for ornamental value) while the softneck garlic does not.  Hardneck varieties are considered more winter hardy and produce a larger bulb, but may have a shorter storage life than the softneck varieties.  In northern climates, a hardneck garlic such as Porcelain, Purple Stripe or Rocambole may produce between 6 to 12 cloves per head, while the softneck types, Artichoke, Asiatic, Silverskin and Turban, typically produce around 6 to 8.

Hanging Garlic at Bloomingfield's in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer

Hanging Garlic at Bloomingfield’s (photo by: Kathy Diemer)

Right around the corner from my home is Bloomingfields Farm,, where I was able to purchase and sample both the hard and softneck types of garlic.  Growing organically since 1980, Lee (Mel) and Diana Bristol have become quite well known for their delicious garlic (among other things, but that’s another story) and this year they offer Inchelium Red, a milder flavored softneck (perfect in mashed potatoes) and a more robust tasting Italian hardneck called Medici, which I just sampled in pasta sauce last night-fabulous!  Approximately 2,000 heads are grown annually at Bloomingfields; the garlic is harvested the end of June and dried (in a cool, dry location) for about a month before it is available for sale in July.  The Bristol’s stay open until mid to end of October, but visit their website for updates.

Organic Medici Garlic at Bloomingfields Farm in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer

Organic Medici Garlic at Bloomingfields Farm (photo by: Kathy Diemer)

In the meanwhile, if you’re a garlic aficionado like myself, now is the best time to locate some locally grown, tasty bulbs to savor through the months ahead.  And with Halloween right around the corner, a garlic necklace might not be a bad idea either . . .

Speak Your Mind