Garlic 101

Glorious garlic. Its potency has been acknowledged for thousands of years. Mentioned by name in the Old Testament and the Muslim Quran, garlic is said to be one of the foods the Israelites missed most during their years of wandering. Ancient Egyptians considered it sacred enough to be buried in the tombs of their deceased kings.

The health benefits of garlic also date back to ancient times. In 1500 BC, the Egyptians used garlic to treat at least 22 different conditions. And the ancient Greeks credited it for repelling scorpions and treating dog bites. Since then it has been used as a remedy for intestinal disorders, flatulence, worms, respiratory infections, skin diseases, wounds, symptoms of aging, and other ailments.

Because of its strong smell, ancients also used the “stinky rose” to drive away evil spirits, protect against werewolves and vampires, protect from evil and to bring good luck.

Today garlic, with its myriad of amino acids, vitamins and minerals, is believed to assist in reducing high levels of cholesterol and to help fight cardiovascular disease and cancer. Garlic is also thought t stimulate the immune system, build up strength, and help prevent symptoms of stress and aging.

Grow garlic at home

If you love cooking with garlic, you may want to consider growing it at home. Not only will you be able to harvest it fresh, but you’ll discover varieties that aren’t readily available in the grocery store. Garlic literally comes in hundreds of varieties with varying colours and degrees of spiciness.

Autumn is the best time for planting garlic, at around the same time you plant spring-flowering bulbs, according to the gardening experts at HGTV. The goal is to achieve good root development before the ground freezes, but not so early that you have significant top growth.

Here are some more tips for growing a good crop of garlic:

• Buy the bulbs at a garden centre or mail-order catalog. Grocery store bulbs may be treated to prevent sprouting or retard growth.

• Separate the bulbs into cloves the same day you’re going to plant them. If you wait longer, the cloves will dry out.

• Select a site that has good drainage and receives full sun. Till or spade the soil six to 10 inches deep. Unless the location offers rich sandy loam, enrich the soil with liberal quantities of organic matter. The soil should be loose and workable.

• Dig a trench two to four inches deep if you live in the North, about an inch deep if you live in the South. You may want to line the bottom of the trench with bulb food since garlic is a heavy feeder.

• Space bulbs four to six inches apart and position the pointed tips up. If you’re planting elephant garlic, space the cloves six to eight inches apart.

• Cover with soil so that the tips are about two inches below the surface, and be sure to water well.

• Provide a generous layer of mulch for the winter, especially if you live in a colder climate.

• When spring arrives, be sure to keep the garlic bed well weeded.

• Harvest in early to mid summer.


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