The Grandeur of GarlicNov 20, 2012 09:05AM ● By Lisa Drake
It is hard to imagine life without garlic. Whether you are a master chef or just an old fashioned lover of eating, this seemingly innocent little white bulb is capable of flavoring dishes from almost every cultural cuisine.
Garlic, known to botanists as Allium sativum, is a member of the onion family and is related to shallots and leeks.
Beyond its performance as a culinary 'must-have', garlic is loved for a variety of health benefits, as well as its easy growth habits in the kitchen garden.
Garlic may be the perfect winter crop. If you don't have a dedicated vegetable garden, give this simple and delicious plant a home in one of your landscape beds – its tall, slender shoots resemble spring bulbs emerging from the ground, and it can be a pretty addition to container gardens.
Garlic can be planted as long as the ground is still workable in the late fall – some experts even recommend waiting until AFTER the first frost to poke your little cloves in the dirt. Mid to late October through November are the ideal dates to plant garlic here in North Texas.
Garlic planting how-to:
Start with fresh bulbs of ORGANIC garlic. Be sure you get organic bulbs, or they may be treated with growth inhibitors that prevent them from sprouting. This is convenient for grocery stores, but will also mean that the cloves won't sprout in your garden!
Separate your bulbs into individual cloves. You don't have to be fussy or get all of the paper off. It is best to soak the bulbs for 4-12 hours in a dilute mixture of fish emulsion and baking soda. We use 2 quarts of water mixed with a half cup of fish emulsion (available from organic garden suppliers and feed stores) to which 2 heaping tablespoons of baking soda has been added. This will help prevent fungal infections in the soil while your cloves are germinating and starting to root.
Poke pre-soaked garlic cloves into garden beds about .5 - 1 inch under the ground. Be sure that the pointed end of the clove faces up, and the flat surface, where roots will emerge, is at the bottom. In about two weeks, sprouts will begin to emerge, especially if we are still having warm, sunny daytime temperatures. Even through all but the harshest of winter days, garlic will take a beating. If heavy and prolonged ice or super low temperatures and wind chills are expected, then a light covering of straw or hay is good for the shoots. These young shoots are to die for in any recipe that calls for green onions or chives.
In late April or early May, pull a 'test' stalk up to check if your crop is ready. Depending on the winter climate, a garlic crop may not be ready until June. One good way to watch for readiness is to observe the plant and watch for a long, round slender stalk emerging from the center of the leaves. This will bear the flower head, and indicates that the plant has reached maturity.
Dry brush any soil from your harvested bulbs, and store them in a cool, dry and dark location. Enjoy serving this healthy and delicious treat to family and guests by trying one of our recipes!
Traditional Roasted Garlic
- Preheat oven to 400°F.
- Peel away the outer papery layers of the garlic bulb, leaving the skins of the individual cloves intact. Using a knife, cut off 1/4 to a 1/2 inch of the top of cloves, exposing the individual cloves of garlic inside the bulb.
- Place the garlic heads in a baking pan; muffin pans work well. Drizzle a couple teaspoons of olive oil over each head, using your fingers to make sure the garlic is coated. Cover with aluminum foil. Bake at 400°F for 30-35 minutes, or until the cloves feel soft when pressed.
- Allow the garlic to cool enough so you can touch it without burning yourself. Use a small knife cut the skin slightly around each clove. Use a cocktail fork or your fingers to pull or squeeze the roasted garlic cloves out of their skins.
Roasted garlic is delicious when use for cooking, spread over warm, crusty bread, mixed with potatoes, or as a pasta topping with a drizzle of olive oil and cheese.
Spanish Garlic Soup
10 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced
5 cups beef broth
1 cup cooking sherry or other red wine
¼ cup olive oil
French bread, sliced and toasted
Grated Parmesan cheese
Salt and pepper
- Sauté the garlic in olive oil until tender.
- Heat the beef broth with sherry. When it reaches a boil, add the garlic and oil.
- Season with salt and pepper to taste, simmer for 30 minutes on low.
- Strain out the garlic and return to low heat.
- Sprinkle toasted bread generously with cheese, then place slices in a 425 degree oven for 3-4 minutes.
- Put slices of hot toast in large soup bowls, the top with the garlic broth.
Garlic soup is an interesting alternative to French onion soup, and is a wonderful first course for holiday meals!
By Mary Phillips of Forgotten Works Garden Gallery www.guardnplanet.blogspot.com
Have you a favorite recipe utilizing garlic? Post it in the comments section below to share it with everyone.