Sunday, September 9, 2012

Garlic (Allium Sativum)

Garlic It’s easy to grow, hardy, and not usually attacked by pests or diseases. In warm to mild climates it can be grown all year, unfortunately though, our Canadian winters don’t allow for such warmth and so we can trick these little cloves by planting them inside!

Start off with a Canadian grown organic head of garlic. You can choose to refrigerate your garlic for a few weeks prior to planting or placing the potted garlic in the fridge later on, whichever works best for you (I refrigerate mine prior so that the dormant period for proper growth has already occurred). Separate each clove, trying carefully not to peel the skin from each one. 

In your chosen pot filled with nutrient-rich soil, dig a small hole about 3-4 inches down for each clove and place the cloves in each hole with the pointy end facing up. Garlic does well in an acidic soil pH so if you have any leftover coffee grounds sprinkle a handful across the top to help with growth and then cover the cloves with soil. Leave in a sunny place and water every other day to avoid root rot.

Your garlic sprouts will push through usually within a few days (this is when you should store refrigerate, shortly after they sprout, if you didn't prior to planting) and will grow high green stalks which will eventually form beautiful flowers at the tippy top, however, if you want large garlic bulbs it’s best to cut off the stalks before they flower so as to ensure all of the energy goes into bulb growth. These stalks, or garlic scapes as they are more commonly known as, can be used as a garlicky addition to many culinary dishes in the meantime. 

When the leaves at the base of the stalks (I like to have at least 4-5 left at this point) have yellowed and dried, it’s harvesting time - this could take 8-10 months. From what I've seen in harvesting garlic, the number of green leaves remaining at time of harvest equal the number of intact wrappers surrounding the head. A few weeks prior to harvesting reduce the amount of water given, then dig up your bulbs.

Leave your fresh picked & washed garlic laying out in a warm, dry environment for a week or two so they develop several 'wrappers' of dry material around them. Store them in a mesh bag to keep for months, replant and/ or enjoy them right away.

Cooking with garlic
Crush or cut the garlic, then leave for 10 minutes to allow the allicin to fully develop before adding to recipes. Add the garlic about five minutes before the end of cooking - this way you apply just enough heat to convert the allicin into medically active compounds.
  • Purée fresh garlic, canned garbanzo beans, tahini, olive oil, pinch of salt and lemon juice all together to make quick and easy hummus dip.
  • Sauté steamed spinach, garlic, pinch of salt and fresh lemon juice.
  • Purée roasted garlic, cooked potatoes and olive oil together to make delicious garlic mashed potatoes. Season to taste.
Fresh garlic has many useful properties such as:
  • Antibiotic (anti-bacterial) 
  • Anti-viral
  • Fungicide
  • Blood thinner. Use it to treat high blood pressure, lower cholesterol, dissolve blood clots, help prevent heart attacks and strokes 
  • Expectorant, good for bronchial and pulmonary secretions
  • Immune stimulant
  • Cardiovascular health. A number of studies have found that garlic reduced the accumulation of cholesterol on the vascular walls 
  • Sulphur source
  • Reduces platelet aggregation 
  • Gastric stimulant. Helps with digestion, acts as an anti-flatulent, carminative and diaphoretic

Happy Healthy Harvesting from our family to yours,