“Eat onions in March and garlic in May –
Then the rest of the year your doctor can play”
Old Folk Rhyme
Chosen as an "Herb of the Year," garlic is as indispensable as salt in many countries throughout the world. Indigenous to southwest Siberia, garlic spread and naturalized in southern Europe and was consumed by ancient Greeks and Romans, used as currency in Egypt, and was described by herbalists as early as the 16th century. Throughout its history, it was consumed by rich and poor alike for a multitude of uses and today the world's consumption is still 1 clove per person per year. Cultivated in the countries bordering the Mediterranean and central Asia, China, Thailand, Spain and Egypt produce the most garlic.
Known as “the stinking rose”, its name is derived from gar meaning lance and leac meaning pot-herb in reference to its long, narrow and flat leaves which grow in 1 foot tall clumps like grass. Fresh garlic is odor free, but garlic’s pungent odor is produced when an amino acid and an enzyme from different cells mix when they are ruptured. You can remove the scent from your hands by scrubbing with salt and lemon juice, by using coffee soap or stainless steel!
There are two main types which are identifiable by their stalks. Softneck garlic is the most common with thin stalks, no flowers, more but smaller cloves per bulb, and the longest shelf life but hard to peel. Hardneck garlic has a stalk almost as thick as a pencil, a whitish flowering stalk from June to July, and a shorter shelf life but easy to peel. Both should be planted in fall in the North to produce bigger bulbs and a 3 foot by 5 foot bed will produce enough for a good supply. Garlic, which is virtually pests and disease free, is a heavy feeder and should be planted in a rich, moist, sandy soil in a sunny spot. 1lb of bulbs equals about 50 large cloves suitable for planting. Plant “seed” garlic which is grown especially for cultivation rather than consumption and divide into cloves just prior to planting about 2” deep and 6” apart. Mulch with weed-free clippings, straw or leaves to a depth of 6” after the soil has frozen, but be sure to remove in spring and top dress with compost. Harvest in summer when bottom leaves are beginning to yellow and before leaves turn brown by digging with a spade fork, being careful not to bruise them. Brush off soil and cure by hanging in bundles, braiding or spread on screens in a warm, shady place with good air circulation.
Garlic is a plant with many uses which include fighting disease, digestive aid, natural pesticide and of course seasoning a variety of foods. Including garlic in your diet contributes to good health since it is antiseptic, killing both bacteria and fungus. It is also a great aid to digestion and will help the body absorb much less fat. As a natural pesticide, garlic is effective against borers, spider mites, aphids and mosquitoes and will protect carrots and roses from blight if planted nearby.
Nevertheless, its widest use is in the kitchen as a seasoning to enhance culinary pleasures. Garlic may be rubbed raw onto a bowl or pan for just a hint of flavor, sautéed over low heat for a pleasantly strong flavor, poached to soften and sweeten the flavor, and roasted to produce a complex nutty, caramelized flavor. Store at cool temperatures, a little below 60, in a dry, dark place in whole-bulb form in bundles or braids. DO NOT REFRIGERATE
Plant cloves in a large pot
in a mixture of rock and sand,
keep well watered and harvest decent sized bulbs.
As the greens grow (6-8*), snip for garnishes
1 whole head garlic
1Tbs olive oil
sprig of thyme
Slice off top of garlic head and place on aluminum foil. Spoon on olive oil, drizzle water over, top with sprig of thyme and seal foil securely. Bake at 325 for 45mins. Uncover, baste with pan juices and bake uncovered 15 mins more until golden. Stores in refrigerator for 10 days. Serve as appetizer or spread.
GARLIC SALT: bury 3 peeled and pressed cloves in 1/2c salt, let stand a few days in sealed jar
GARLIC BUTTER: 6 cloves mashed per stick of butter, form into logs, wrap in plastic and freeze – slice as needed
And for some unusual sweets:
CHOCOLATE COVERED GARLIC
24 garlic cloves
2” piece lemon rind
1/2c red wine vinegar
2oz bittersweet/semi-sweet chocolate
Peel garlic. Bring garlic, wine, sugar and lemon rind to simmer. Reduce heat, cover and cook over low heat 30 mins, stirring occasionally. Test for tenderness.
Cool garlic on waxed paper. Melt chocolate in double boiler. Stick toothpick into garlic, using spoon, cover with chocolate and place on new wax paper to cool and harden.
Store in cool place, but do not refrigerate. Best eaten within 24 hours.
HONEY GARLIC SAUCE
10 garlic cloves, peeled
1Tbs lemon peel
1 – 6” cinnamon stick
Combine all in heavy saucepan and bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer until water has evaporated and garlic is tender and golden (caramelized), 40-50 mins. Remove from heat and let cool. Discard lemon peel and cinnamon and mash garlic. Ladle over vanilla ice cream.
". . . I have given you all things even as the green herbs."