Garlic (allium sativum)

Garlic Why plant
Easy to grow and store.

Is there anything else that gives cooking such a zing?

Plant when all is autumn damp and darkness, but dream of sunny days, clear blue skies and long light evenings when harvested in July.

Interesting uses
Use to repel night time mosquitoes by placing cloves they gather, or by applying extracts on exposed parts of your skin.

Mix garlic cloves with pepper and a bit of soap to make your own garlic pesticide.

If you don’t have a bottle of adhesive or glue in your house take a clove, crush and rub juice on paper or glass. Adhesives made of garlic have been used to repair glass in China.

The garlic we know today is a domesticated crop native to central Asia around Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan. It’s related to the lily family, which includes onions, shallots, chives and leeks.

Amongst the oldest known horticultural crops, the use of garlic spread across the world more than 5000 years ago, with evidence in China and Babylonia and mention in Indian and Egyptian cultures.

Egyptians worshipped garlic and fed it to workers building the Great Pyramid at Giza to give them more stamina about 2600 BC. Greek athletes ate garlic to build their strength. Ancient Greeks and Romans claimed it repelled scorpions, helped bladder infections and dog bites and cured leprosy and asthma.

It was thought that hanging garlic bulbs on doors would stop the spread of smallpox. Ancient Indians valued the medicinal properties of garlic and thought it to be an aphrodisiac. It was believed to cure several illnesses and promote a long life.

Garlic came to the Western Hemisphere with some of the first European explorers, and its use spread rapidly. During World War I garlic was used as an antiseptic to disinfect open wounds and prevent gangrene.

Health benefits
When cut or crushed an enzyme in garlic combines with an amino acid, creating a new compound called allicin. This  compound is known to kill twenty-three types of bacteria, including salmonella and staphylococcus.

A different compound is formed when garlic is heated. This compound can prevent arteries from clogging, and reduce blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Garlic has a blood-thinning quality which may be helpful in preventing heart attacksGarlic nutrients and strokes.
Garlic contains vitamins A, C, and B, which may prevent cancer by stimulating the immune system to eliminate toxins and combat carcinogens. Because of this it may become a valuable treatment for AIDS. People in China with the highest level of dietary garlic have a reduced risk of stomach cancer.
Garlic is known to kill 60 types of fungi and yeast such as athlete’s foot.

Garlic can be grown from seed but the normal method is to separate the bulb into cloves and plant these. Use the plumpest bulbs from your previous year’s crop or bulbs bought from the greengrocer. Garden centres also sell garlic but will more expensive, though you may find this necessary if you’ve been using your own cloves for several seasons since there’s a risk of degradation of quality.

Plant in autumn choosing a sunny position in soil that is light and ideally contains plenty of organic material for good drainage. Avoid ground that may become water logged. Spring planting is also feasible in warmer areas.

Carefully break each bulb into its individual cloves and plant with pointed end upwards so the clove tip is just below the surface of the soil. They should be in rows with six inches between each clove, twelve inches between each row.

There’s very little else to do… just keep them weed free!

Lift the garlic in summer when the foliage dies down, normally when about four of the leaves have gone brown. Ease the plants out of the ground with a fork to avoid damage. Dry the bulbs thoroughly in the sun and store them in a cool, dry place such as a shed or garage. Put a few of the best bulbs aside for planting next year’s crop.

Common problems
  • Mould or rust may occur during prolonged wet periods. The bulbs need to be thrown away or burnt. During rainy periods give protection with a cloche, but allow ventilation.

  • Onion white rot causes the foliage to go yellow and wilt… check for fluffy white growths to confirm it’s onion white rot. Plants should be thrown away (not composted) and don’t grow garlic or onions in the same area for at least 8 years.

  • Leaf blight appears as white spots surrounded by light green on the leaves. Under moist conditions the fungi spread and the leaves will die and become dry. Spacing plants about a foot apart to allow for good airflow, and crop rotation, help control the disease.

  • Downy Mildew gives the leaves slightly lighter patches in the early stages that turn to brown as the disease gets worse. Parts affected will eventually fold over and die. When the stalks are affected they weaken and fall over. Use crop rotation and proper drainage to avoid.
  • Neck Rot shows as water-soaked spots in the neck area, turning yellow. Gray mould appears between bulb scales and the bulb deteriorates. Usually appears just before harvest. Allow tops to mature well before harvest, avoid injury to bulbs at harvest and dry before placing in storage.

My garlic cloves spaced out ready for planting.

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous2:20 pm

    I love garlic. Didn't realise it was quite so good for you though. Great research.


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