Tuesday, April 8, 2014

G is for Garlic

Source: The Garden of Eden
This  was a harder post to write as it's my first year growing garlic in our garden and I'm still finding my feet.

My family loves garlic and it's hard for me to imagine a day where we didn't use garlic in some dish or other.

So growing it successfully, in enough quantities to provide fresh cloves until the next crop is  ready, is essential.

Most of the time garlic is a hidden ingredient in our meals. We know it's there in a dish and it provides the nutrients we need, but it's not one of the central flavours.

Then there are times when having garlic is one of the main way to enhance the flavours.

Unfortunately I struggled  quite a bit to get started on growing garlic. Local nurseries did not seem to stock seedlings and I could not use cloves from store-bought garlic, as I read  that the majority of  garlic sold in South African supermarkets is imported from China and it's irradiated before it's transported to our shores, killing all growing activity in the clove.

It took me a while to find someone who has non-irradiated seedlings, but I finally located them this month.  Just in time before the garlic planting seasons in the region ends.

Preparing the soil: I'm still using the well-composted clay soil in my garden with nothing else added. Most of the garlic is being planted in existing beds which already have vegetables and herbs growing in them.

Planting process: Online research tells me that garlic is good at repelling pests when planted under fruit trees, peppers and tomatoes. It's also good with repelling caterpillars in broccoli, spinach and cabbage so I'm planting it directly as companion to these vegetables.

I'm also planting garlic directly on borders of the garden beds, so that most of them are surrounded by garlic. We've been doing this with onions for many seasons now and the two plants can share the border spaces.

When planting garlic, break the garlic head up into separate cloves, then use a stick or trowel handle to create 2 cm deep holes that are spaced 10 to 15 cm apart. Gently plant the individual cloves on their 'backs' so that the pointy tips face upwards. Put a layer of mulch on top to help the area keep its moisture.
Caring for the garlic seedlings: Make sure that the bed is weed free and watered regularly. As with any bulb, garlic doesn't like to be left dry. Also make sure you don't overwater the bed, as the bulbs will rot if left standing in water.

Harvesting:  I can't wait to start digging for garlic in my own garden, but I'm told it's going to be a very long time, as  garlic matures in 8-9 months after planting. For me, harvest time will be in around December/January. I'll apparently know it's time when the leaves start to go brown and dry.
by digging the plant up as you gently pull up on the stalk.  If you don’t dig as you pull, you run the risk of breaking the entire stalk off the garlic head, exposing the raw garlic and getting dirt into it - See more at: http://thebaldgourmet.com/gardening-how-to-plant-and-grow-garlic/#sthash.z0Jl8InX.dpuf

Once harvested, I'm then going to put the garlic in the sun for a couple of days, and then store it in a cool and well-ventilated area.

Serving suggestions:  I'm not sure whether the recipe I'm about to share is as good as I think it is, or if I love it because my friend Christelle made it for me once after a long, hard day when I needed comfort food.

Anyhoo, she fried bacon and thinly sliced medium onion, then added three spring onions, four cloves of crushed garlic and a couple of basil leaves, also thinly sliced, a bit of salt and pepper.

Then cut a soft round loaf into thick slices, opening the top side with the crusty bottom serving as a seat. Insert portions of the garlic-laden bacon into the bread. With Christelle there's always cheese in a meal and the more, the better.

That one time she stuffed in grated cheddar and mozzarela, pulled the loaf back together as much as possible, wrapped it tightly closed with foil and put in a oven 150 degree Celcius (300 degrees Fahrenheit for  up to 20 minutes).

Ja. That was some comfort food! And we had very generous portions for lunch the following day too:)

BTW, if you're seriously considering growing garlic and want the experiences of someone who's done it several times to back up newbie me, check out this guy's post. I'm also planning to write regular updates on my plants' progress, so you can also track my plants' developments and learn with me throughout the year.

37 comments:

  1. We just recently start our artichoke seeds in container and nothing showing yet. Next we will start our onions and shallots.
    Have a good growing season.

    Stop in from A to Z challenge.

    Coffee is on

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    1. Thank you Dora. Good luck with your artichokes. It's also a good time here in South Africa to plant Globe Artichokes and they are in my long-term plan along with a number of perennials.

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  2. I learned how to grow garlic after moving from New York to Virginia. Locals gave me some wisdom (at least for our climate) - plant on Columbus Day (Oct 10) and harvest on Father's Day (June 10). I wonder if there's similar wisdom for where you live, Damaria? The best garlic here grows throughout the winter months. Garlic I plant in the spring and harvest in the fall is never as good. Good luck!!

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    1. LOL. That is so odd Jeanne! An Afrikaans friend of mine once said to me, don't plant until Paul Kruger's birthday (October 10). He was the president of South Africa around 1883 and a Boer (Afrikaans people) leader. So that wisdom transcends countries, it seems.

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  3. And know I'm wanting a Garlic and Cheese toastie!

    I've tried Garlic, the Chickens like nibbling the leaves. Even the soil you grow them in gets the pungent smell, I started mine off in pots and it was startling.

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    1. Good luck. I hope something comes through. I have roaming chickens too, and so far, their snack of choice is cabbage :)

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  4. That's crazy that China essentially kills all seeding possibility before exporting garlic! I'd never thought about garlic being hard to get hold of, but if it was, that's the first thing the hubby would start growing in his herb garden. Don't think we could live without it.

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    1. From their perspective they are ensuring the quality of the garlic they send over, so we get it "fresh" instead getting sprouting cloves or something. What irritates me is that there is little effort to encourage locals (in my town, and it's not a small town with limited infrastructure) to grow their own, not to sell, but just to use. There's plenty of it in the supermarkets... fresh, crushed and mixed with ginger, in sauces and butter etc. But try to get the kind you want to germinate....

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  5. we love garlic! I have lots in our garden this year! love your blog too!

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    1. Thank you Kathe. Nice seeing you again.

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  6. Damaria, we eat garlic practically every day. My husband is from the Mediterranean region so garlic is just part of the daily diet there. All the best with your plantings.

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    1. Support from the DTE has helped off late to expplore more food choices, be more structured in my plantings. It's appreciated

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  7. Dropping by from AtoZ challenge .. and your concept of food gardening is very cool. It is more nature friendly .. I love garlic and its smell..

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    1. Thank you for coming by. I was slow in acknowledging the impact on nature. Initially I grew them the way I do because I was a newbie and I did what my grandfather and father did in the garden before, and I didn't have the money to buy large quantities of fertitiliser (large yard). Now I'm very glad I went that route because it has been so gentle on me and the soil

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  8. I love where you are going with this A-Z series and thank you for visiting my blog so I could discover yours. I can see many hours exploring your gardening endeavours :) I have yet to try garlic growing but it is on my very long list :)

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    1. Thanks for coming by Tanya. Glad I found you. Your blog was introduced to me by Nana Chel, who was very welcoming to me last year when I joined the DTE forum.

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  9. We love garlic and it is an integral part of our cuisine. Love its distinct aroma and flavour! Hope you have a great harvest of garlic :)

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    1. Thanks. It would be so lovely to have fresh garlic any time I want without having to pay.

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  10. Garlic is one of my favourites. It's the first thing my Dad plants in any new garden -- being one of the few things you can plant in autumn in most of Canada (besides spring bulbs -- we plant those, too!). He's been keeping the largest heads each year and planting those cloves, doing a bit of small-scale plant breeding to get garlic that is best adapted for his garden. Here in the Maritimes people eat the scapes (the flowering stems, before they open); I've also heard you can pickle the scapes but I've not tried that.

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    1. Sounds like your dad is doing some interesting things with garlic. The cloves must be getting bigger every year. Does this breeding affect the taste though, or do they maintain the same flavour, just get bigger?

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    2. Oh.. and you made me think of a saying, something about "eat it all," said by the French.

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  11. Thanks for the info in this post and your referral post about garlic. I definitely need to try planting some.

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    1. My pleasure. I hope you do get to grow them and enjoy your crop. Looking forward to my first harvest.

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  12. Love garlic - so good for us and food seems lost without it in my view. Can't wait to get growing my own here in France http://detoutcoeurlimousin.blogspot.fr/

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  13. My husband used to grow garlic - just a little for our personal use - in our previous garden in the previous home. But we would even start cutting the green stalks from the top, chop them up and use in our Indian cooking. It was great! Thanks for another informative post.

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