Sunday, October 22

Planting Garlic = Instant Gratification

I have never grown garlic, but after tasting some of the scapes in my friend Dave's garden this summer and realizing just how much garlic I go through in a year, I decided to add it to my own home garden this fall.

I try to always purchase my plant material locally... but after seeing the limited choices this spring for things like seed potatoes ("red" or "white") and onion sets ("red," "white" or "yellow") I decided to mail order my garlic. This turned out to be a good idea because the only choice my local garden center offered was: "garlic" They didn't even offer a selection of softneck vs. hardneck, and most disappointing of all was that the people working there weren't even sure which type they were offering.

When I was a newbie gardener--before I became conscious of the importance of buying things locally-- I ordered two blueberry bushes and a handful of seed packets from Territorial Seed Company. I haven't ordered from them in a few years because they're on the west coast, but I had been happy with their service and products so I checked out their website to see if they had any good garlic offerings. It didn't take too long for me to be seduced. After some time, I narrowed my choices down to 4 types for this year.

'Chesnok Red' is a hardneck garlic said to be great for baking with a creamy consistency, and as you can see here its cloves are very pretty. 'Purple Glazer' is another streaked hardneck garlic, with "a strong flavor that holds up well to baking" but without heat or aftertaste.

'Siberian' is the last type of hardneck garlic that I purchased from Territorial. It wasn't offered as organic, like those mentioned above, but it intrigued me because it is supposed to have a very high allicin content. Allicin is the chemical in garlic that is credited for maintaining normal cholesterol levels, boosting the immune system, and enhancing circulation.

Hardneck garlics are said to have more flavor than softnecks, but hardnecks only keep for several months where softnecks can be stored in a cool, dry place for 6-8 months. Softnecks are good garlics for braiding, too. I ended up adding the organic 'Polish Softneck' to my order so that I could extend my garlic usage through much of next winter. Many softnecks do better in the south than in the north, but this one is supposed to be relatively cold-hardy as well as flavorful. We'll see.

I planted my garlics yesterday, and found another benefit to growing your own garlic. Since you're supposed to only plant the best and biggest cloves, you end up with instant gratification because the rest are immediately available for eating! Some 'Siberian' cloves ended up minced into my potato and leek soup yesterday, and I also tasted a couple of cloves out of hand.

I am going to do a garlic tasting (raw, and baked) of the cloves I have left, and take notes. Then I will do the same after harvesting the grown garlic next summer. It will be interesting to see how growing through the year in my garden affects the flavor of these garlics... I promise to post reviews, a la Hanna's Tomato Tastings, next summer!


Annie in Austin said...

There's a TX vegetable gardening book around here somewhere - maybe we can grow garlic, too, but it might be too hot, here. That will be useful information about the soft and hard necks.

I love the idea of your garlic tasting, and in the meantime, will enjoy dipping bread in garlic & olive oil tonight!

Annie at the Transplantable Rose

growingagardenindavis said...

You've inspired me to look for some good garlic varieties...I've mostly seen the one labeled "garlic"! Those others are so pretty and since I haven't gotten around to planting any yet I'm going to see what I can find...thanks!

Leslie said...

Great choices for your climate, Kim. Enjoy the ride. Garlic is fun!

Anonymous said...

Home grown garlic is the best! Fresh, sweet, not hot, yum! Just don't do what I did a few years ago and mulch between the plants to keep down on weeding. When I did they hated it and rotted off. Much better to spend some time hand weeding.

Leslie said...

Great choices for your garlic crop. How many total did you plant?

Unknown said...

Annie, that sounds delicious. In fact, now that you mentioned it I may have to make that part of my tastings! The softnecks seem to be good for the south, and I saw a few garlic references to "grows well in the deep South," so I bet you could find some type to grow.

Leslie in Davis, are you sure you have room after all of those onions and leeks you planted a week or so back? *grin*

Leslie in MA, I probably planted at least a dozen Siberian, and 18 each of the rest. I wanted to save a handful of each kind for eating, too, and figure that I can plant more of the best-tasting ones next year. (And after reading your recent post, I'm on the lookout for doubles that I accidentally planted--I'm sure I did that at some point!)

THANK YOU John, for that tip! I actually like to hand weed, but still I generally do mulch around almost everything... I'm sure you've saved me some rotten garlic there!

lisa said...

I look forward to your reviews! I wonder what type of garlic they use for the jars of "minced garlic in olive oil" that I see at the store? That may be a method for putting up the hard necks to make them last...wonder if it's easy enough to do at home?

Unknown said...

Lisa, that's a great idea... I think I'd have to pressure-can them, but that wouldn't be so bad. What I was thinking was roasting what I couldn't use (if my yield is really good) and then freezing the resulting paste in about 1 Tbsp. chunks for later use. I might try both!

meresy_g said...

You will love growing garlic. It is easy and very rewarding....both in scapes and cloves. And you'll never have to buy garlic again! Save some of what you grow this time to plant next year.

meresy_g said...

You will love growing garlic. It is easy and very rewarding....both in scapes and cloves. And you'll never have to buy garlic again! Save some of what you grow this time to plant next year.

Nickie said...

Garlic ROCKS!

mine this year was bought from the farm stand down the street. It was only labled as 'Planting Garlic'
Im too broke this year to buy fancier. But I can't do without garlic :)

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