Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Grow Your Own Garlic

As a gardening novice, the harvest that most impressed me last year was garlic. Easing it up from the ground, everything about it was a thing of beauty. Purple and white on the outside, it was gigantic and had ten times the fragrance and flavour of a store-bought bulb. Its huge fresh cloves were of a quality unlike anything at the most upscale grocer, and the crop of a few plants lasted into the fall with enough to give away to friends and family.

Garlic grows in cold weather and is to be planted from November to March. Last year, my garden partner Nancy took the initiative and planted it, so I didn’t know how easy garlic is to grow until I looked it up in my handbook, From the Garden to the Table. You just plant the cloves with the pointed end up, in holes 2 cm deep and 15 cm apart. Then you weed well, support the stems with lengths of string between stakes, and harvest when the stems have lost about half of their greenness and begin to topple over in July or August.

As most people know, garlic is a supremely healthy food. It’s antibacterial, antifungal, antiviral and antiparasitic. From what I’ve read, it seems as if garlic can do anything but bring back the dead, including boosting the immune system, defending white blood cells against cancerous ones, strengthening the heart, and aiding digestive conditions. Some people eat it plain and raw for the health benefits, but just eating dishes that include garlic as an ingredient is recommended for those who prefer flavours a little milder.

Or, once those bulbs are ready for harvest, try this tip from Boundary Garlic Farm:

“Steam or Stir Fry Garlic Flowers: The garlic tops, called flowers or garlic scapes, are a gourmet delight! Steam them whole and serve with melted butter like asparagus. Cut them into short lengths to add to a stir fry. They have a delicate garlic flavour which gives a subtly different and delicious flavour to the sauce.”

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