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Grow Your Own: Garlic

Piers Warren helps us to nurture garlic

So useful for adding flavour to all sorts of savoury dishes, garlic is also extremely good for you. It is especially beneficial for the heart and blood system but can also be used as an antiseptic on wounds and to treat colds as well as many other conditions.

If you eat raw garlic but don't like the aftertaste, try chewing parsley at the same time! From the onion family, it has a long history, having spread around the world over 5,000 years ago; the ancient Egyptians were known to use it in cooking and medicine.

It's an easy crop to be self-sufficient in all year-round, taking little space and effort to grow and storing well. Choose varieties developed for cultivation in your region (rather than supermarket-bought ones) and save a few bulbs each year for future sowing.

Varieties are described as either 'hardneck' or 'softneck' - the softneck ones are recommended for longer storage but they produce smaller bulbs with a milder flavour, so you may wish to grow a mix.

Recommended varieties

Picardy Wight (softneck): Suits a cool, wet climate, good flavour.
Vallelado (softneck): Large bulbs for planting early winter.
Flavour (hardneck): Medium sized bulbs for planting late winter.
Elephant Garlic: Not a true garlic but actually closely related to the leek. Produces large bulbs and big fat cloves. The flavour is sweeter and milder than traditional garlic.

Depending on the variety, the cloves are often planted in winter, around November/December time, but a second planting can also be made in February. Plant individual cloves 30cm apart, just below the soil surface.

 

 

Garlic can suffer from onion white rot - a fungal disease that lives in the soil and causes the foliage to wilt. If this happens, check the bulbs for signs of rot or a white fluffy fungus.

Remove affected plants as soon as possible and in future years grow garlic (and other alliums such as onions) in a different part of the plot as the fungus will remain in the soil for some time.

Cut off any flower heads that form - they can be used in salads. After the tops have died down in mid-summer, the garlic bulbs should be carefully lifted on a sunny day and left on the ground or on a wire rack to dry. Excess soil can then be brushed off the bulbs and they can be used immediately or put into storage.

Storage: When the skin on the bulbs is dry and papery, they can be stored in a cool, dry, frost-free place (not in the kitchen, or they will soon start to
sprout). The dried stems can be plaited together to hang them like onions.

If the conditions are right they will stay in good condition for months - although some will start to sprout as the weather warms up again next spring. Either use these straight away or plant them for a late crop later in the year.

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Piers Warren is the co-author (with his daughter, Ella Bee Glendining) of The Vegan Cook & Gardener: Growing, Storing and Cooking Delicious Healthy Food all Year Round available from shop.permaculture.co.uk

VeganLife

The lifestyle magazine written by vegans for vegans.