Garlic is not difficult to grow in a kitchen herb garden. In this article we describe some of the many uses of garlic and provide some easy-step lessons on how you can start growing it in your herb garden or in pots or containers on your patio or balcony.
Garlic is Famous
Most of us know the story of Dracula, the main character in a classic Gothic novel written by Bram Stoker. In this novel Van Helsing uses garlic cloves to protect Lucy from the vampire Count by placing these cloves in her room and around her neck. In all probability this legend about the use of garlic as a means of protection against vampires arose because garlic was found to work well with mosquitoes (they don’t like the taste of garlic). People then made the connection between the blood-thirsty habits of vampires and mosquitoes, and hey presto, a famous legend was born.
But vampires apart, garlic is definitely famous as a herb with healing properties. Reports of these go back to Egyptian times. It has a reputation for preventing everything from the common cold and flu through to the Plague! Even today with the vast numbers of over the counter cold remedies and prescription medicines lots of garlic enthusiasts start taking it in one form or another during the winter weather to reduce the chances of catching colds and flu. It’ also still commonly used to clean out the stomach.
However, garlic is best known today for its ability to enhance the taste of food. It makes a superb addition to many recipes, enhancing and bringing out the flavor of other ingredients. If you have used it in recipes you probably bought it from a local shop or convenience store, but if you really want to enjoy the true taste of garlic you need to make sure it’s really fresh, and the best way to do that is to grow it yourself.
Growing Your Own Garlic
Garlic, like many other herbs is not difficult to grow. For very little cost and effort, but with the help of a few “secrets” on how to do it you can very soon be enjoying your own garlic fresh from the garden, your back-yard or even your balcony.
You can start in a fairly modest way without any prior knowledge of gardening. All you need are some garlic cloves, a place to plant them and a little determination. Starting in October or November you can have your first harvest the following June, and then a major crop in August or September. This main crop can either be used immediately or stored for use over the following six months. Follow the simple steps below to find out how to do it. You’ll find it a real adventure which I guarantee you’ll not regret.
Growing Garlic in a Container
You don’t have to have a garden to grow herbs like garlic. They can be grown very successfully in containers. In fact a container which can be positioned outside, close to your kitchen door, is an excellent way of providing you with a fresh and readily available supply of garlic from June through to late September. Once you have had the opportunity to use flavorsome fresh garlic in your recipes (or to help cure your cold!) you’ll not want to look back.
Buying Your Garlic Cloves:
Garlic is grown by planting the individual cloves of a garlic bulb. Each clove when fully grown will become another garlic bulb. You will need about half a dozen or so bulbs to provide you with enough cloves to plant.
Although garlic bulbs can be purchased from your local food store, it’s better to buy them from a specialist supplier. The reason for this is that shop bulbs are very often treated to prevent them from sprouting. Needless to say, this is not you want! Also, a specialist garlic bulb supplier will offer you a choice of different varieties of garlic, varying from mild to strong. We recommend starting with a mild variety, and then experimenting with stronger varieties after you’ve grown your first crop.
Planting Your Container:
Find or purchase a plant container that is 8 to 10 inches in diameter and at least the same size in height. A container of this size will enable you to plant around a dozen cloves, which, all being well, will produce the same number of garlic bulbs.
Fill your container with a good quality “seed and potting” compost. Break the bulbs into cloves as described above, and plant them 1 ½ inches deep and about 3 to 4 inches apart. Make sure you plant the cloves the right way up – the bottom of the clove has a slightly concave end.
When to Plant:
The ideal time to plant is October/ November. You can plant later, but by planting the cloves at this time of the year they will be able to develop some roots before the cold weather sets in. Keep your newly planted containers in a cool place (around 10 degrees centigrade) for about a month. This will make sure that the clove produces a bulb. And don’t forget to keep your cloves well watered.
Harvesting Your Garlic:
Your garlic should be ready for harvesting any time between August to September the following year depending upon the weather and the variety of garlic you have chosen to grow. You should be provided with information about planting and harvesting the bulbs when you buy them from your specialist supplier.
It’s sometimes difficult to work out when your garlic is ripe enough to dig up. The leaves may look strong and healthy, but if you dig them up too early your bulbs will be too small. However, if you harvest too late your bulbs will have started to lose their quality. The best thing to do is to pull up a single bulb in late June and see how many sheaths (the thin papery layers that surround the bulb) you can peel off the bulb, if the answer is three then the bulb is ready to be lifted. If you can remove four or more layers then it is best to wait another couple of weeks or at least until most of the leaves have turned brown.
Storing Your Garlic:
After you have pulled up your complete crop of garlic, lay the bulbs with their leaves attached on paper or sacking in a dry area. When they have dried out completely, remove the leaves and store them in a dry place. If you feel inclined you can try and plait your bulbs together with their leaves to produce a “garlic string”. Once prepared as described here, they will keep well for an average of six months, although some varieties will keep longer.
Cook and Notice the Difference
Garlic can be used in lots of different recipes and always tastes best when it’s fresh. The distinctive flavor of garlic is released in varying intensities depending on how it is prepared and used in recipes. The more the cloves are chopped or crushed, the more their juices and essential oils are released. For the mildest flavor, use garlic in whole cloves or large slices. For medium to full flavor, chop or mince the garlic to produce small pieces. For a full-on garlic intensity, smash, puree or press the cloves with a garlic press to release its juices and oils.
You’ll get lots of satisfaction from experimenting with new recipes using your own fresh garlic. Not only will the flavors be better but the garlic will also do you good into the bargain. Finally, when you’ve finished your meal and all the dishes and pans have been washed and put away, you can retire to bed having no fear whatsoever of a visiting vampire!
This article by Adam Gilpin has been produced to support his extensive program of on-line activities to promote a wider interest in herb gardening. Adam has been an enthusiastic gardener for many years. He is involved in many aspects of gardening, but has a particularly strong interest in herb gardening.
Please visit Adam’s website at http://www.herb-gardening-help.com/ to learn more about the secrets of home herb gardening and to find out about his new book on the subject which has just been published by Oxford Digital Press.
(c) Copyright – Adam Gilpin. All Rights Reserved Worldwide
Article Source: EzineArticles.com