OK In Health - Glorious Garden Gems

Glorious Garlic - October 2018

By Charlotte Ruechel

Clove of garlic

Growing up in Germany my first encounter with Garlic was in the sixties. A guest worker from Poland was in court, because his fellow assembly line workers could not bear to work alongside him, they accused him of – daily – smelling vehemently of – garlic!! Well, the man knew something that all the rest of them did not. He did not just use garlic as delicious flavoring or to fend of vampires, he used garlic as a health food, an immune booster. He knew that garlic is nature’s ancient antibiotic! The active ingredient, allium, is an antiseptic, an expectorant and an intestinal antispasmodic. Today, even in the Western World, Garlic is widely accepted and promoted as part of a healthy diet. It’s even trendy and if someone has a noticeable aura of garlic about him, we think, oh, this guy is really health conscious, I should really go home and have some myself!

Finding local garlic in the Okanagan is not difficult. We are lucky to have great Farmer’s Markets all around us offering a rich assortment of garlic varieties, some more pungent than others. But it is also a lot of fun to grow your own.

Here are a few growing tips: Soil preparation: find a spot with decent dark soil or prepare a patch in the summer prior to planting by sneaking some manure patties from a nearby pasture into your garden. Mix well.

Choosing your seed:  as a cattleman I can tell you, that we don’t choose the bull with the crooked legs and the cow with the poorest udder to parent our next calf crop. The same goes for plants. Crummy cloves from crummy bulbs make crummy garlic, no doubt. Choose an average size bulb typical for the variety, pop the bulb open and pick only healthy looking cloves. Never I mean never plant a moldy clove!

Plant first or second week of October, place clove deep enough, that you have 2 inches of soil cover above the top of the clove, make sure they are right side up 6 inches apart, and don’t plant double cloves. Cover seeds with soil, pat down firmly and bingo….you are done for 6 months. In April you will tiptoe into your garden with a worried look on your face: did the garlic come up? Yep. It did. He is reliable!

For weed control, some people mulch between the rows with leaves or straw; I never do because I worry about mold. Since Garlic is in the ground for 9 months, it enjoys the company of cool and hot season weeds, so please don’t make your garlic compete with all those weeds for nutrients. The weeds need to go!

Watering: It’s a good idea to water the garlic in May and June, when the new bulbs are filling and swelling. Stop watering 10 days before harvest.

Scapes: Sometime in June these funny curly things called scapes start growing from the centre first towards heaven and then curling around in a circle. They are actually the beginning of tiny new seeds. When they have made a full circle we cut them off because rumor has it, that the bulbs get bigger, if you do. Besides, here is your first edible reward: scapes taste mild and delicious and are an amazing addition to any stir-fry.

Harvest all garlic at once around middle of July. Here are a few don’ts: When you loosen the bulb with a shovel, make sure you stay far away from the plant. Under no circumstances damage your precious bulbs! Don’t leave them out in the hot sun. They get a sun burn and don’t throw them, they bruise just like an apple. Also do not just pull the garlic out of the ground by its neck, you will damage the wrappers. Leave the necks attached but cut the beards (roots) off, close to the bulb but never damaging the bulb. If you don’t sell your garlic, I suppose, you can leave the roots on, just dust off the soil.

Now is the time for your second edible reward.

Roasted Garlic Fresh garlic is mild, perfect for roasting. Take a fresh clean bulb, cut a thin slice off the top, drizzle olive oil on the cut area, Bake in the oven in foil or in a clay garlic roaster for 30 min on 350 F. Spread on baguette; eat with melted Brie and jelly. Oh my goodness!!

Don’t overdue it, remember the Polish guest worker? You could end up in court!!

Drying and curing: I make bundles of 10, tie them together with a string and hang for 3 weeks in an airy shed out of the sun. If you want to make braids, you need to grow soft neck varieties and work on your braids while the necks are still moist.

Cleaning: now chop off the necks ( leaving a 2 inch stem) with a cleaver or a sharp ax. This is a stress- relieving activity! Personally, I then take a new (!) toothbrush and brush off the remaining soil actually peeling off one wrapper, always being mindful of not damaging the remaining layers of wrappers underneath. They protect your garlic in storage. You are now the proud owner of beautiful clean garlic and your third edible reward, which can last you all winter.

Store in a cool and airy place, not too dry. In the right storage, your Garlic will last for many months flavoring your food throughout the winter.

Remember, life is only complete with garlic!




Charlotte RuechelCharlotte's Bio: Vale Farms Grassroots. Ltd. We have been farming in the Okanagan near Lumby for 34 years, switching to organic 10 years ago, and are producing cert. organic grass-fed beef and lamb, Garlic and Sea Buckthorn Nectar etc. - Charlotte Ruechel Website


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