It may come as a surprise for you to learn that the garlic you buy at the market is only one of many varieties of this tasty and versatile edible bulb. If you are a gardener and a cook, knowing how to plant garlic and how to use it in a variety of cuisines will bring your respect for this culinary must-have to a new height.
Wild garlic was originally native to countries as diverse as China, Egypt and India. But is so adaptable that it now grows in many countries including the U.S. Learning how to plant garlic will let you expand your culinary skills with fresh ingredients from your own garden.
What Is Garlic?
The scientific name for garlic is Allium sativum. The member of the onion or Allium genus, like onions, leeks and shallots, garlic is actually a member of the lily family. Garlic’s main use, however, is not decorative but culinary. It began as serving to flavor ethnic dishes across the globe. So, learning how to plant garlic of different types is both enjoyable and rewarding. Plus, you can imagine how your food will be if you start a garden with fresh vegetables or herbs, such as thyme and cucumbers.
It is flavorful and extremely easy to grow. Therefore, in milder climates garlic can be grown year round. Meanwhile, in harsher climes you can plant garlic in autumn and harvest it in spring. Of course, you need to bury the bulbs deep enough to avoid freezing and thawing themselves. This is because this can cause them to develop mold.
Main Varieties of Garlic
There are two types of garlic that you can grow, use, and cook. However, learning how to plant garlic of either type either is not difficult. The type known as softneck is the one most commonly found in the produce section. It produces more cloves than the hardneck garlic. It is also faster to mature and you can braid it into decorative hangings for your kitchen.
Some of the familiar varieties of softneck garlic include:
- Artichoke garlic: Milder flavor and large cloves, you can store it for up to eight months;
- Silverskin garlic: Strong flavor, easy to grow, can be stored for up to a year;
- Creole garlic: In the silverskin group, this garlic has a beautiful rosy color.
Hardneck garlics are hardier, more colorful plants with fewer but larger and more intensely flavored cloves. Hardnecks are also prized for their edible flower stalks or scapes as well as for their bulbs. They do well in the northern states, the Midwest and other places with cold winters and dry, warm summers. They include:
- Rocamboles: Peels easily and will keep for up to six months;
- Porcelains: Extremely large cloves and will keep for about eight months;
- Purple Stripes: Known for its bright purple streaks, this hardneck makes wonderful baked garlic and can keep for up to six months.
How to Grow Garlic in Your Garden
Knowing how to plant garlic and how to care for the plants is important to your success with this culinary plant.
- It is grown simply by planting individual cloves into the ground. You can also place them in containers which are deep enough to bury the cloves six inches beneath the surface.
- Garlic can thrive year round in milder climates. Other than being aware of which garlic should be planted in the colder climates in the fall, and which can be grown year round in milder climates, there is nothing very demanding about growing garlic.
- Garlic is hardy in USDA climate zones 4-9, and prefers to be planted in a sunny location and in loose, well-drained soils with a high organic material content.
- It is a good idea to start new garlic plants from large cloves in order to assure large bulb size on the new plants. As the plants send out stalks or scapes, these should be removed in order to send more of the plant energy into the growth of the new bulbs. The scapes themselves are edible and can be eaten either raw or cooked.
- Both softenck and hardneck garlic is typically planted in the fall and harvested the next summer.
- There are no special watering needs as long as they are not planted in drought conditions.
Refreshing the Food
It’s clear that the lowly garlic plant is anything but lowly. Since these plants have very few problems or restrictions, once you learn how to plant garlic bulbs and harvest them, the real fun begins.
Choose among a wide variety of international cuisines to discover how the different flavors of garlic. These range from subtle to strong, and can join you on a wonderful culinary adventure.
The images are from pixabay.com.