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Full of health benefits and so easy to grow!
Member Name: Lunaria
Date: 19/02/12, updated on 07/07/12 (88 review reads)
Advantages: Health benefits, tasty in cooking and an easy crop to grow
Disadvantages: The pungent smell
Garlic (Allium sativum) is renowned for its health benefits, it has been found to contain strong antibiotic and antifungal properties as well as selenium and vitamin C. It is believed to benefit the heart, help treat viral infections, purify the blood, strengthen the immune system and even reduce cholesterol. An important and delicious ingredient in many savoury recipes, it is very useful to add flavour to pasta dishes and has an affinity with tomatoes and cheese. The most loved garlic recipes in my house are bolognese sauce, hummus and garlic bread.
There are two types of garlic. Hardneck bulbs are very hardy, send up central stalks called scapes in the summer (these are delicious lightly steamed) have small cloves and are best eaten fresh or within a couple of months after lifting from the ground. They are considered to have more distinctive and variable flavours. Softneck bulbs are the ones mainly used for storing, they have larger cloves, are strongly flavoured and also grow faster.
We find garlic bulbs in the supermarkets mostly packaged into bags of 3 or 4. They will usually be softneck garlic, but how long they have been stored for is not stated and the variety another mystery. It was when I first started to grow garlic I realised there are many different varieties and sub-varieties such as Rocambole, German Red, Tuscany White, Blanak and Purple Wight. They can vary in size, colour, strength and emphasis of flavour. Elephant garlic is actually a perennial leek, which is why it has a much milder flavour and an extra large bulb.
Garlic is so very easy to grow. Bulbs for planting can be obtained from garden stores or gardening websites during the spring and early autumn. Planting times differ around the country, here in Wales I usually plant mid October. Firstly I dig over my chosen plot and incorporate a good amount of wood ash. I've found garlic really benefits from potash or wood ash added to the soil at planting and again in early spring. I grow garlic mostly in open plots in my vegetable garden but have successfully grown it in pots, narrow tubs and amongst perennials in small borders. The tall and thin plants take up very little space, planting distance is roughly 15cm apart. I plant each clove (root downwards) 7cm into the soil and lightly cover. Frost and harsh winter weather conditions are not a problem to garlic, but plants do like plenty of sun during the spring and summer.
In February shoots appear and from spring onwards the plot needs occasional weeding. I have been growing garlic plants for several years now and rarely have to worry about them, they seem untroubled by viruses and pests. During June flower buds appear amongst the tall leaves, these need to be removed as they reduce the size of the bulb. A few weeks later when the leaves begin to die down I start lifting bulbs to use when required.
Fresh garlic (also called wet garlic) is loved by everyone in our family, it has a milder and sweeter taste and not something you can buy in the shops, at least I have never seen it. At the end of the summer I pull up the remaining bulbs and dry for storing in an airy and warmish place, we then continue to use it through the winter. From my experience, garlic is extremely straightforward to grow and the result is a good supply for many months.
On the downside there is, of course, the pungent smell which can linger on your breath for hours after eating it. I've found that fresh and recently stored garlic has much less effect this way and is gentler on the stomach too. Food containing garlic can create problems when stored near other food in the fridge so I place any leftovers in a tightly sealed container. Bulbs are stored in an open pot on the side in my kitchen as it is not a good idea to keep garlic cloves in the fridge because they tend to sprout. The inner sprouting part of a clove can taste bitter but this can easily be removed before crushing or chopping.
In my view garlic is worth its pungent drawback, it is a very useful cooking ingredient, full of health benefits and requires little effort or space to grow. If you don't already grow it and have a spare sunny spot in your garden or outside, I highly recommend you consider it.
Thank you for reading my review!
© Lunaria 2012
Summary: Easy to grow garlic, fresh or stored, is delicious and healthy.