As a former professional chef, I have a beef to pick with those of you who use powdered garlic or that minced stuff found in a jar or squeeze bottle. Yes, it’s convenient, and yes, your hands don’t smell like garlic for days, but I really think that you must be lacking in the taste bud department. Anything that has been used for over 5,000 years as food, medicine, an aphrodisiac, money and to ward off evil should be treated with respect. As the late, great Anthony Bourdain said, “Garlic is divine. Misuse of garlic is a crime. Too lazy to peel fresh? You don’t deserve to eat garlic!” Oh, and he actually referred to the slurry found in jars and squeeze bottles as “vile spew.”
Now that I have had my rant, here’s what I want more of you to do. Plant your own garlic, specifically heirloom. It doesn’t take up much space and it gives and gives. Once the bulbs have cured, they last for months and can be used sliced, minced, roasted, or fermented. Yes, fermented – it’s called black garlic and, while it looks a bit unpleasant, the flavor is on another level of sublime.
Where you get your garlic seed stock is of primary importance – you need good garlic seed stock to grow garlic successfully. Most people don’t realize that the garlic they purchase for growing oftentimes comes from another country and isn’t really intended to grow here in the U.S., so you want a reputable company, and preferably organic, that specializes in garlic seed stock that will thrive well in your area. Keene Garlic is one of these suppliers.
Not only is their garlic certified organic, but they have a great selection of heirloom varieties. Why grow heirloom garlic? Well, for one thing, the garlic thrives better with nearly a 100% germination rate. You’ll also get larger bulbs with better flavor than the pitiful cloves found in the supermarket. Keene Garlic seed stock is grown in the USA, non-irradiated, and non-GMO. They have been producing garlic for over a decade and, if you have a question, call them; they’ll actually answer the phone!
All you need to grow the “stinking rose” is rich, well-drained soil and full sun. It should be planted in the fall (usually October, depending on your region), which allows the bulbs to go through “winter hibernation.” Ideally, you’ll want to space the garlic at least 6-8 inches (15-20 cm.) apart, covering the tip of the cloves with about an inch (2.5 cm.) of soil. You may also want to add about 3-6 (7.5 to 15 cm.) inches of mulch over top for additional protection through winter. Then, once it starts to warm up in early spring, the garlic will begin sprouting. They should be ready for harvesting in summer when there are five green leaves remaining from the top of the plant.
Note: Heirloom garlic is usually a hardneck variety, which produces a scape. This should be picked to allow the garlic bulb to focus its energy into forming a larger bulb versus producing bulbils seeds on top of the plant.
A pound of cloves can produce 7-10 pounds of garlic, plenty for friends and family. So check out Keene Garlic and prepare to worship garlic just like the ancient Egyptians!