As warmer weather arrives I walk as often as possible by my garden to see the first shoots of plants and bulbs emerge from the soil where they have been in hibernation for the winter. My excitement could not be contained when I saw the first red nubs of rhubarb and green leaves of garlic poke through the garden soil several weeks ago. I knew that spring was in fact here and the cycle of a new season of gardening was beginning.
Garlic is an easy plant to grow. Last fall I planted several varieties of garlic including some types that I purchased at the Garlic Festival in Bennington in September. Mark your calendars for the 14th Annual Southern Vermont Garlic & Herb Festival that will be held in Bennington, Sept. 5-6.
Before planting the garlic last fall, I broke the bulb apart into individual cloves of garlic. Keep the papery husk on the garlic clove and plant with the pointed tip up about 2 inches deep and 4-6 inches apart in rich, well-drained soil. The garlic can be mulched, but the mulch needs to be removed in the spring. My garlic will be ready for harvesting in July.
Garlic has been used as a medicinal food for centuries and plays an important part in the folklore of many cultures ranging from bringing good luck to protecting one from evil spirits, vampires, or werewolves. Garlic is used as a flavoring agent throughout the cuisines of the world. There's nothing like the delicious scent that wafts through the air when cooking with garlic!
Garlic is a member of the Allium genus as is the onion. Garlic is classified as Allium sativa and consists of the bulb wrapped in a loose, crackly outer skin. Each garlic bulb is made up of smaller individually wrapped cloves. There are over 300 varieties of garlic grown throughout the world!
When purchasing garlic, look for a solid, healthy looking bulb with taut, unbroken skin. A heavy, firm bulb indicates that the garlic will be fresh and flavorful. Garlic has at least 8 cloves and often many more. Sometimes you find garlic with numerous tiny cloves which can make for a tedious job to peel if you are using a lot of garlic in a recipe. A quick way to peel garlic is to lay the garlic clove on a cutting board, place the flat side of a knife on top of the clove and rap the knife blade once to loosen the skin.