Garlic must not be missing in cooking. We show tips and tricks around the cultivation in your own garden, suitable varieties, and harvesting and storage.
Anyone who likes to cook can hardly do without garlic (Allium sativum). While supermarket goods sometimes travel tremendous distances until the bulb finally ends up in our kitchen, the plant can be grown in the garden without any problems. Garlic is also considered very healthy and has already been voted medicinal plant of the year.
Originally native to Central Asia and Persia, garlic spread quickly and is now grown in many countries around the world. Cultivated for centuries, feral garlic plants already exist in quite a few countries.
Growing Garlic In The Garden
In your own garden, garlic can be grown without any problems. If there is no space in the bed, it can also be grown in larger flower pots. Garlic gets along very well with tomatoes and can be cultivated together with them in the pots, preferably in advance via garlic mixed cultures. Garlic feels most comfortable in a sunny location with loose soil that is slightly moist. Waterlogging should be avoided at all costs.
Preferably in the fall, otherwise in the spring, a few cloves of garlic are planted at a distance of 6-8 inches at a depth of 1-1.5 inches. The distance between rows should be about 12 inches. Even though garlic grows slowly at first, fertilization must be balanced: Nitrogen applications boost the yield but dilute the flavor. In our experience, good basic fertilization with compost has proven to be very effective. If garlic is overfertilized, it is difficult to store and starts rotting early. On dry summer days, garlic needs some watering. Regular watering is otherwise not necessary.
Detailed instructions can be found here: Plant, Care, And Harvest Garlic.
Garlic Varieties: A Manageable Selection
Although there are countless varieties of garlic for commercial cultivation, only a few have made it onto the shelves of seed or bulb suppliers: Arno, Rosa, and Vivalto are three examples. Generally, a distinction is made between normal garlic and cut garlic. In the latter, the green is harvested and processed.
- Arno: Good growing garlic variety with good yield and white outer skin.
- Fat Leaf: With this variety, you don’t harvest the bulbs, but the leafy greens. This type of garlic is consequently called cut garlic.
- Neko: Vigorous cut garlic with a good aroma; less intense garlic flavor.
- Rosa: High-yielding variety with an intensely colored outer skin.
- Vivalto: High-yielding garlic variety with a slightly pink-colored outer skin; easy and robust to grow.
Harvesting, Drying, And Storage Of Garlic
Harvesting garlic and storing it properly is not always easy. These tips and tricks will help dry, store, and pickled garlic.
For cultivation to be successful, proper harvesting and storage are important to preserve the popular “bulb”. Especially with garlic, it, therefore, requires the right procedure to keep the garlic cloves fresh and preserve the aroma. The following instructions will help to do everything right when harvesting and storing garlic.
Planting garlic is usually done in the fall and/or spring. Therefore, the harvesting times are also different: When planting garlic in the fall, it can be harvested as early as July. When staking in spring, it takes a few weeks longer and the harvest time is in late summer to fall. In addition to the earlier harvest, planting garlic cloves in the fall also offers another advantage: due to the longer growing season, the yield is higher than when planting in the spring.
Fortunately, the plant’s foliage shows when it is time to harvest: it can be harvested as soon as the top third of the plant wilts. However, you should not wait too long, otherwise, the “bulb” will split into individual garlic cloves. This makes it impossible to hang it up to dry afterward. To harvest the garlic, the plants are pulled out of the ground as carefully as possible as a whole. Damage to the garlic bulb will reduce its shelf life.
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Drying garlic is very important as a first step to preserve the cloves for a longer period of time. After harvesting, the freshly grown plants together with the bulb are placed on the bed to dry for a few days – provided, of course, that the weather is dry. After that, it is a good idea to hang the garlic. You can preserve it very well by braiding the greens of several garlic plants into a braid and hanging it in a cool and dark place. When choosing a place for drying, it is important to make sure that there is good ventilation, otherwise, mold may form. For example, for drying the garlic braids are suitable garage or roofing with good ventilation. The garlic should not be washed after harvesting because of mold!
After one to a maximum of two months, the garlic is usually sufficiently dried. This can be recognized by the wrinkled skin and the papery consistency of the foliage.
These tips should be followed when drying garlic:
- Dry on the bed after harvesting.
- Braid the greens, along with the bulb, into braids
- Hang in a well-ventilated, shaded, and cool place
- Do not wash garlic after harvesting!
Storing garlic: pickling, freezing, or at room temperature?
After the garlic has been successfully dried, the next step is to store the aromatic “bulbs” properly. After drying on the braid, a bulb of garlic can be conveniently cut off from the bundle. It should first remove the root hairs, as well as several layers of skin. There are a variety of methods to properly store garlic and extend its shelf life. The following methods work well for storage.
Storage at room temperature
Garlic stores very well at room temperature for several weeks to months. A basket or an airy bag is suitable for this purpose. Direct sunlight should be avoided, as it increases premature sprouting of the garlic cloves. It is also important to keep the garlic well ventilated during storage, so it should never be stored in a closed container. Otherwise, there is a risk of mold growth. The same applies to storage in the refrigerator: due to the humidity, the garlic cloves spoil quickly and should therefore not be stored there under any circumstances. In addition, the garlic loses its aroma.
The following instructions should be observed when storing at room temperature:
- Airy storage (e.g. basket or open bag).
- No direct sunlight
- Do not store in a closed container or refrigerator!
Freezing garlic: Opinions differ
Another method of preserving food is freezing. This method of storage is also possible with garlic. To do this, wrap the garlic bulbs either whole or the cloves chopped in plastic wrap, and place them in the freezer. The disadvantage of this technique is that the garlic loses flavor, just as it does when stored in the refrigerator. Still, freezing is great for people who don’t use a lot of garlic in their cooking.
A popular method for preserving garlic is to pickle it in oil. Olive oil is the best flavor for this. To pickle, first, peel the cloves and then put them in a clean jar with the oil. The cloves should be completely covered with oil. Alternatively, the cloves can be heated in the oil at 90 °C for a few minutes beforehand. The jar is then tightly sealed and placed in the refrigerator or freezer.
But be careful: keeping them in a cool environment is very important because at room temperature the bacterium Clostridium botulinum is formed. Bacteria of this type lead to food poisoning, so it is imperative to ensure the necessary refrigeration!
With these tips, pickling garlic is a breeze:
- Peel garlic cloves
- Fill into a glass jar together with olive oil and seal.
- It is essential to store in the refrigerator or freezer, otherwise, there is a risk of poisoning!
Ingredients And Use In The Kitchen
Especially the sulfur-containing secondary plant substances such as alliin are responsible for the typical garlic odor. However, exactly these substances are also attributed to an antibacterial effect. Potassium and phosphates are two of the minerals contained. Regarding the effects attributed to garlic, research is not unanimous. Some studies show a positive effect on blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and blood fat, but there are also studies that contradict these results.
Nevertheless, garlic is very tasty and should not be missing, especially in Mediterranean and Asian dishes. When sautéing, however, you should be careful that the temperatures are not too high and the garlic becomes too dark. Because then it tastes bitter.
Diseases And Pests In Garlic Cultivation
Garlic is one of the few plants that grow without problems in the garden. Once planted, with the exception of watering in mid-summer, you can relax and wait for the harvest. In very rainy years, the tubers can rot already in the bed. The same occurs at locations with waterlogging. In commercial cultivation, garlic rust occurs from time to time, which is why farmers should also meticulously observe crop rotation.