Garlic has been used in cooking as well as medicinally all over the world for thousands of years.
It gives a great kick to many types of dishes, and to our health, making it a must to grow in any garden.
Some cultures, such as in the Philippines, even believe that garlic can drive away evil spirits and other evil otherworldly entities, which means it’s grown not just for food, but for protection – you’ve probably heard about warding off vampires with garlic, right?
This flavorful herb offers powerful anti-inflammatory, antibacterial and antioxidant properties that have the ability to fight off a wide variety of ailments. In fact, ancient Greek physician Hippocrates, often called the father of Western medicine, was said to have prescribed it to treat all sorts of medical conditions – after all, he did once say…
“Let food be thy medicine, and medicine be thy food.”
The primary reasons behind its potent medicinal effects is a sulfur compound called allicin, which is formed when a clove of garlic is crushed, chopped or chewed – that’s what also gives garlic its distinct smell. Some of its proven abilities include:
In recent years, garlic has been in the spotlight frequently for its effectiveness as a natural antibiotic. A 2012 study out of Washington State University showed that it was 100 times more effective than the two top antibiotics for battling a bacteria known as Campylobacter, which is responsible for many intestinal illnesses around the world. It not only kills bacteria, but pathogens, fungus and viruses too, all without harming beneficial gut flora. Garlic is chockful of phytochemicals and healing sulfur components like allicin, and is also able to guard against DNA damage, thanks to its potent antioxidant compounds.
All of that, and it floods the body with essential nutrients too, including B vitamins and vitamin C, and minerals like calcium, iron and magnesium.
They say variety is the spice of life, and did you know that there are also a wide variety of garlic types to choose from? You’ll find something for every palate, including spicy versions like St. Helen’s Red, mildly spicy like Vietnamese Red and pungent, such as Italian Late. There are softneck, hardneck, early season, mid season, late season… take your pick! There are tons of garlic flavors that you just can’t find at your local grocery store. Once you taste homegrown garlic, you won’t be satisfied with supermarket varieties.
With so many types of garlic, how do you choose?
Elephant garlic is a great choice if you have kids who don’t like powerful flavors, as it produces a large, mild-flavored bulb. If you live in a cold winter climate, hard neck types are great, and all produce tasty curled scapes (edible curled flower stalks) – some of the most popular subtypes are purple stripe, porcelain and rocambole. Softnecks tend to do better in places where winters are mild, and while most varieties don’t produce scapes, they are very good for braiding – some of its subtypes include artichoke, Creole and lots of Asian varieties.
Growing garlic is incredibly easy too. All you need to grow an entire head of garlic is a single clove. It has a few important requirements that are easily met: decent soil, adequate moisture, and, of course, planting and harvesting at the right time. But there is one caveat, you don’t want just any old garlic, as the majority of garlic sold in grocery stores have been chemically treated. Choose only organic. For growing garlic, you also want the largest cloves you can get.
Did you know that you can grow garlic both indoors and out? That makes it ideal for those who live in urban areas and may not have a lot of outdoor space.
Most experts recommend planting cloves in the fall, after the first frost has passed and the soil is cool. They can also be planted in late winter or early spring as soon as the soil thaws, but cloves planted in the fall tend to produce larger, better bulbs.
Choose an area of your garden that gets full sun and loosen up the planting bed to at least 12 inches deep. Thoroughly mix in a 1-inch layer of mature compost. If you’ve tested your soil and know that it’s more acidic, add in a light dusting of wood ashes which can help make it more balanced. Just before planting, break your garlic bulbs into cloves. Be careful not to damage the base of the cloves as damaged cloves will not grow. Poke the cloves into the ground at about 4 inches deep. Keep the pointed ends up and space them about 6 to 8 inches apart. Cover the area with 3 to 5 inches of organic mulch, like shredded leaves or straw.
For your garlic to grow properly, it’s essential to keep your newly planted cloves moist at all times. Water them regularly, but don’t overwater your plants as the cloves can easily rot if it is subjected to too much water.
Keep a close eye on your plants, and harvest when the soil is dry and the leaves have begun to appear withered and pale. It’s important to harvest once the scrapes start to try, or the head will divide into individual gloves. Loosen up the soil before pulling them out with a digging fork, and handle the bulbs very gently to avoid bruising them. After you’ve finished harvesting your garlic, wash it and let it dry under the sun for a few days.
To grow your garlic indoors, you’ll need a container, potting soil, and of course, a good garlic head. Choose a container that’s at least 8 inches deep and has holes for drainage. If you want to plant more than one garlic bulb, your container should be large enough to accommodate planting the cloves 4 inches apart and 4 inches away from its side.
Ready to start planting?
Whether your grow your garlic indoors or out, it can be stored in many ways. You can hang the bulbs in your kitchen, store them in a jar with oil and vinegar, or simply store the bulbs on their own inside your refrigerator.
It’s so easy to grow garlic, you’ll never go back to store-bought again!