Garlic by Diana Sidebottom
Extra, Extra, Read All About It. This just in from the AP network. The clinical trial of a mouthwash containing 2.5% fresh garlic shows good antimicrobial activity for killing germs and bacteria, although the majority of the participants reported an unpleasant aftertaste and halitosis. Seriously? Garlic Mouthwash? I would like to know who funded that clinical trial to see if they have any extra money laying around for (the most ridiculous thing you can think of) trial because I’m going to sign up!
Garlic has been used as both food and medicine in many cultures for over 7 thousand years. Its close relatives include the onion, shallot, leek, and chive. One of the best known, elephant garlic, is actually a wild leek. Garlic is hardy thru climate zones 4-9 and can be day length sensitive. There are two major subspecies, hard neck which is generally grown in cooler climates with shorter days and soft neck which prefers more equatorial temperatures and longer days.
Garlic has been domesticated for so long that it no longer produces a viable seed, so all garlic grown around the world is essentially a clone of the parent plant, known as vegetative reproduction. However, many hard neck varieties still “bolt”, which creates the emergence and eventual stiffening of garlic’s now impotent reproductive organ, the seed head (perhaps we could create GM garlic and cross it with some Cialis to help the poor little thing). Yes, it is called a scape. The thing that leaves all French chefs frothing at the mouth in spring. A divine vegetable that we Americans have until recently thrown into the compost pile. Guilty as charged.
In zone 8, about the middle of October, plant individual cloves, 4 to 6 inches deep and approximately 6 inches apart in all directions in loose, well drained soils with a high organic material content in a sunny location. Garlic is not picky about pH levels. Garlic plants are usually very hardy and not bothered by many pests or diseases, the exception being nematodes and white rot disease.
In a few weeks your garlic will appear as if by magic and grow all winter. In the spring, if you are growing hard neck or elephant garlic, when those scapes shoot up, call moi, your new BFF, and I will pick them for you. You actually do need to remove them to focus all the garlic’s energy into bulb growth.
In May, when your garlic looks like it is dying, remember they are daylight sensitive and that is just what they do. It’s time to harvest! Get your pitch fork and dig up those beauties. If you wait until the tops die completely there is good news and bad news. The good news is you won’t have to plant garlic next year. Yes, they will stay there all summer and emerge on their own next fall. The bad news is you will lose, as in misplace, can’t find where you planted the bulbs once attached to those dying tops, thus you don’t reap your harvest. After you dig your beauties, leave the tops on and store in a cook dark dry spot. Soft neck garlic may be braided and hung for ease of storage. Select the largest bulbs to planting next year, unless you choose to purchase new every year. So start them out right and they will take care of themselves. Don’t you wish more things were like that? So as always, happy harvesting!