|Source: The Garden of Eden|
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.
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:)