Garlic is a native of central Asia. The Egyptians building the vast pyramids at Giza were sustained by garlic cloves as were farm labourers and pilgrims of mediaeval England. Most pilgrims would carry a clove or two of garlic as protection against the plague.
Garlic is a perennial with irregularly shaped bulbs, held together by a white membrane and broad flat leaves tapering to a point. The flowers are white and appear in dense clusters during July and August. Introduced by the Romans to the lands they conquered, its cultivation has spread throughout the world.
Garlic is relatively easy to grow, and almost always meets with success. There are just a few points to bear in mind when planting these bulbs for home use.
As can be seen in the photo below, Garlic is composed of several cloves - as many as 20, but normally between 10 and 15. Depends upon how well you grow your garlic.
Planting and Growing Garlic.
In spite of its eastern origins and associations with continental cooking, Garlic is hardy enough o be planted and grown in most areas of the UK. There are two basic planting periods - and using both should give you a supply of garlic throughout the year.
The cloves of garlic (The individual bulblets that make up the whole garlic bulb) should be planted in a light soil, with plenty of sunshine. An open aspect is essential in order to get the maximum sunshine which will be needed for ripening the matured garlic. A well-manured soil from past crops would be ideal.
Split the garlic bulb into its individual cloves, such as in the photo above. Best results are obtained by planting the cloves in late Autumn and well before the winter sets in. Alternatively - if you miss out on that time, then they can be planted in very early spring. The earlier planting allows for a more developed garlic bulb at harvesting time.
Simply plant the individual garlic cloves into the soil - using a dibber to ensure that there is around 1in or 2.5cms of soil over the top of the clove. Plant in rows with each individual clove set at 6in spacing from each other, and if planting a few rows, then allow 12in - 30cm - between rows. Alternatively, plant the cloves in shallow furrows, made 2in (5cm) deep and 10in (25cm) apart. Whichever, make sure that the plants are well watered in dry periods.
Weed regularly - by hand NOT hoe in order to prevent damaging the cloves.
The cloves are planted in October in mild climates and in March
elsewhere and it is one of the few plants to enjoy loose soil. Those
planted in autumn will be ready in early August; those planted in March
will be ripe by early October, when the leaves turn yellow. The garlic
bulbs will ripen better and make a larger size if the flower stem is
bent over as it forms.
Lift and store on trays in an open airy shed to dry. The Garlic should then be strung up in fine mesh nets in a frost free airy room and used as required.
You can either use cloves of the garlic that you buy for the kitchen - there are several types with either white or red colourings - or you can buy specially grown and selected cloved from your seed merchant.
Garlic is rich in alkaline salts and sulphur compounds. It acts as a tonic and blood purifier and if eaten regularly, it is reputed to ward of colds and coughs. Tinctures - made from the cloves with spirit of wine – are used for the relief of asthma and whooping cough. Garlic also makes a useful embrocation to use for sprains and rheumatic pains. Crushed garlic cloves and lard juice are also used as a rub, used to help ease a tight chest, loosening the phlegm.
Garlic has become widely popular in the UK during recent years. (It has always been popular in France and Italy.) Garlic was first used to rub over meats when there was no refrigeration. It’s powerful taste did much to hide the strong smell of the stale meat!
When cooking, a clove can be inserted with a small cut made into the flesh to improve the taste. The flavour may be imparted to a salad, stews and soups merely by rubbing the pan or bowl with a clove before the food is prepared. A small clove placed in a pan of fried tomatoes will add interest to the meal and the same may be said when making cheese sandwiches; just rub a clove on the cheese, a few thin slices of tomatoes, or cucumber.