How to Grow Flavourful Garlic
One of the most distinctive and popular of all flavourings,is simple to grow, easy to store, and an ideal crop for any gardener.
Garlic (Allium sativum) is the easiest-to-grow member of the onion family. A perennial herb, it is grown for the aromatic cloves which make up the bulbs. A clove or two of garlic gives an intense flavour and characteristic aroma to a variety of dishes. In fact, the flavour of garlic is so powerful that simply cutting a clove in half and rubbing it around the sides of the serving dish or cooking pot will be enough to flavour the food.
Garlic is thought to have originated in central Asia, and it spread from there to the Mediterranean region, and throughout Europe. Today it grows virtually everywhere, being quite unparticular about climate, site or. Because it is so easy to grow and care for, garlic is a welcome crop for the busy gardener and an ideal choice for the beginner or for children.
A garlic bulb contains up to 20 individual cloves, all arranged concentrically and each covered in a fine layer of paper white skin. The bulb itself is covered in several layers of the same skin, and it measures 4-7.6 cm (I5—3”) in diameter, on average. However, bulbs measuring up to 20 cm (8”) high are not unknown, although they generally have a poor flavour. The cloves are roughly 2 cm (f “) long; they are wedge-shaped, rounded on the outside and pointed at the top.
Garlic for planting does not have to be ordered specially. Simply buy a fresh bulb from your greengrocer or supermarket. But, if you prefer, you can choose one of the special large-cloved, mild-flavoured types which are offered by most nurserymen.
Mid-autumn is a good time to plant it but if your area is subject to heavy frosts, hold off planting until early or mid-spring. In normal gardens, late winter is also a suitable time to plant. Choose a sunny spot in your garden, or a windowbox or pot in a.sunny window.
A rich, sandy loam is best, although it will thrive in any reasonably good soil. Good drainage is especially important if it is to survive the winter rain. It is a good idea to mix in well rotted garden 15 cm (6”) between cloves and 30 cm (1’) between rows.
As a crop, garlic is virtually carefree; all you need do is hoe out anythat appear. Watering is not essential unless conditions are extremely dry. Garlic produces fine, hollow rounded leaves, like other members of the onion family, reaching about 45 cm (1V) in height, and it may be necessary to support them by tying them to a cane to keep them from falling over on the ground.
A light dressing of a compound fertilizer high in potash in mid spring and another which contains mainly nitrogen in mid-summer will do much to help the production of large cloves and bulbs.
Garlic is ready for harvesting when the leaves begin to wither and turn yellow, usually from late summer to early autumn. Do not pull the bulbs out of the ground, which may cause them tosome weeks before planting, and to make an application of bonemeal at the rate of 60 g per sq m (2 oz per sq yd) about a week before planting.
Garlic is much hardier than is generally realised.
Just before planting, rake the surface down finely. Separate the garlic bulb into cloves, but do not remove their papery skins. Your best results will be from the large cloves at the outside of the bulb, especially if you are planting in autumn. Place the cloves about 5 cm (2”) deep, base down and tip pointing upwards. There should be 2.5 cm (1”) of soil over the tip; vary the planting depth according to the size of the cloves. Allow break up. Use a small fork to dig them out and lift them carefully. After lifting, leave the bulbs on the ground to dry in the sun for a few days. Cover them at night to protect them from the dew. If the weather is wet, take the bulbs inside to dry in an airy room or shed.
When the bulbs are thoroughly dry, clean off any soil and loose skins, but do not remove the outer skin completely. Bunch the bulbs together by tying the stems with raffia or string. You can leave the bunches on a tray or shelf in a frost-free place, or you can string the bulbs for hanging on a wall by braiding or plaiting them together. Properly stored garlic will last for at least a year.