Garlic has many uses. It is used in the kitchen for cooking, as a medicine, and in the garden as a pest repellant, just to name a few. Growing garlic is very easy and so is storing it. Elephant garlic and shallots are all vegetables that are classified as being in the Allium Group 1. They are part of the onion family. They all reproduce by making an underground head of cloves. Garlic and elephant garlic, even though are a lot alike, are two different species.
Elephant garlic is a completely different species than regular garlic. It can be grown as a perennial in many places in the United States. These plants are much larger and will require more space than traditional garlic. Even though the heads and cloves are larger, the cloves have a much milder taste. The taste is so mild the cloves can be eaten alone, in a salad, or as a replacement for onion in a recipe. Elephant garlic is grown just like regular garlic.
Garlic has flat leaves that resemble grass. The plants normally grow about 1 to 2 feet tall. Even though garlic is a perennial, it is usually grown as an annual. The plant grows small pink flowers, but may or may not go to seed depending on the circumstances. The heads or bulbs of this plant grow underground. The head is made up of a cluster of cloves.
Garlic can normally be left in the ground as a perennial in warmer winter areas as it can withstand frost and slight freezing. It can also be dug up and stored like onions.
Planting and Growing Garlic
Planting and growing garlic is simple, however, it is not recommended to use store bought garlic. It is usually too dry to plant. Garlic can be ordered from a nursery and sometimes can be found in home improvement stores. Garlic and elephant garlic prefer well-drained soil with a ph of 5.5 to 6.8. The plants should have full sun, and fertile, moist soil. The bulbs need to be able to spread out in order to grow.
When to Plant
August thru mid-October is the best time to plant because it grows better in cooler weather. During the fall and early spring, it will store it’s energy in order to make the cloves. If you must plant in the spring, try to plant around March, just make sure the ground is not frozen. Garlic does not transplant well, so make sure the spot you choose is permanent.
How Much Do You Plant
2 pounds of garlic cloves, which is about 300 cloves, and will take up a100 foot row in your garden. You can plant the cloves individually, or even 2 to 3 cloves per hole, to make up for any cloves that do not sprout. Garlic is always planted pointy side up and the flat side down. Do not cover the point completely. Plant the cloves 2 to 3 inches deep and 3 inches apart. Garlic can be planted in a row or a bed. Keep in mind, one clove of garlic will produce an average head of about 15 cloves.
Benefits of Garlic in the Garden
Growing garlic benefits the garden by repelling insects. It is compatible with almost all garden plants. Most gardeners will plant garlic within their vegetable crops and in flowers. It is especially beneficial to roses. Be aware that weeds need to be tended to constantly when growing garlic. It also requires water, as it will not prosper if conditions are too dry.
Harvesting and Drying Garlic
The thin shoots from the garlic plants can be used like chives. When the leaves get around a foot or so high, you should stop watering them. The leaves will die and fall over, and at that time the cloves can be harvested.
Garlic cloves are not made until the last 45 days of its growing season. If you wish to hurry the process along, you can bend over the tops between 90 and 100 days after planting. A few days later you can dig up the cloves. Wash them well. let them dry naturally in the sun until they are white. This usually takes around a week or so.
Saving Garlic Bulbs
Even though the plant may flower and produce seeds, the clove is a much better choice. When bulbs are going to be saved. divide the clump into individual cloves and store for at least 8 weeks between 32 and 50 degrees Fahrenheit before planting.
Do not use the small center when saving and replanting, it usually does not plant well. If you wish to store your garlic bulbs for use in the kitchen, the bulbs can be stored in mesh sacks or in paper bags for several months. They can also be braided if you harvest the bulbs and leave the leaves attached and then hung.
Cooking with Garlic
When using garlic cloves to cook with, peel the papery layer off each clove. You can use the garlic whole, minced, chopped, or pressed in a garlic press. It can be used on meat, in sauces, in salads, or even in marinades and pickles. Keep in mind, that if garlic is cooked too long, it will develop a bad taste, especially if cooked over too high of heat. Garlic cooks fairly quickly. Always add garlic after onions when cooking together.
Garlic has a lot of medicinal uses. Garlic has antibiotic properties. When crushed, the juice from the clove will stop the pain of an ant bite. When mixed with a vapor rub, the juice assists people ridding themselves of colds, and when the juice is mixed with lemon juice and honey, it can soothe a sore throat. Garlic powder and warm water can ease the pain and possibly relieve an abscessed tooth. Crushed cloves can be fed to a cat to rid the cat of worms.
Garlic is so versatile! It is easy to plant and easy to harvest and store. It is healthy for you, taste good when you eat it, and it can cure simple ailments. Are you growing garlic on your homestead? What do you use garlic for in your home? Tell me in the comments below.