Yes. I adore garlic. I’m not at all ashamed to admit it. What would pizza be without the love affair garlic has with tomato and sausage and all herb-dom? How would Aunt Charlotte’s Dill Pickles be so sublime without the garlic cloves in the bottom to fight for when the last pickles in the jar are inhaled? (Seriously, these pickles are so good, they arent nibbled, crunched, or toyed with. They are inhaled- vacuumed into the mouth. So good.) Spaghetti sauce and vegetables soups would be pale and anemic tasting without the deep savor of that stinky bulb. Do you have any idea of how many chinese recipes call for “a clove of garlic, finely minced”?
I’ve been growing garlic in my own garden for the last…oh…7 years or so. I started with a variety called Music. Lovely name, streaks on the wrapper when its fresh. It stores fairly well and the flavor is smooth with little bite to it. On a whim, I bought a bulb of elephant garlic from the store. It isnt really related to regular garlic. I’m told its actually related to Leeks. Doesnt matter, really. It grows the same, harvests about the same time, and is used the same way.
Garlic is super easy to grow. If you are fortunate enough to live in USDA zone 6 or above, you can grown soft neck garlic reliably. Thats the kind you can braid. Hardneck garlic grows better where the winters are colder. Softnecks store longer, but tend to heave out of the ground where I live. Decide what kind you want and ORDER SOON! These nuggets of goodness get planted from October to January, depending on where you live, so you need to get your garlic on order.
I couldnt find any of my garden twine, so this part of the fresh garlic harvest laid on the porch until the leaves were dry. With the heat, it took about 3 days. I took another couple of days..or three days…or so…. after that to get it clipped, sorted, and put into baskets to cure further. Yeah, its been one of those weeks. But, Garlic!
I used some last night. The broccoli side shoots are coming thick and fast right now. I sauteed some minced garlic in olive oil until it started to brown, added the broccoli and about about a half a cup of vegetable broth, stirred it well and then covered it to allow the broccoli to steam. Before serving it got a dash of toasted sesame oil and a sprinkle of toasted sesame seeds.
I cant mention Aunt Charlotte’s Dill Pickles and leave you hanging. Here is what is arguably the best tasting Dill Pickle in the world. (drumroll, please)
Aunt Charlotte’s Dill Pickles
Have your water boiling in the pressure canner.
Fill sterile wide mouth jars in this order: full head of dill and a clove of garlic, pack the jars tightly with clean, washed cukes. They can be whole or sliced, just get it really full. Top it with another head of dill and another garlic.
(Stop right here. This recipes needs more garlic. We never had enough garlic in these jars when we were growing up. Six kids fighting for only two cloves? My poor Mom. The mother in me shudders. Add more! Dont let this happen to you! Add two- add THREE each to the top and bottom. You will be glad you did.) Okay, back to the recipe. Really. You’ll thank me. More garlic.)
Bring to a boil 2 cups vinegar, 4 cups water, and 1/4 cup canning salt. ( Non- iodized salt)
Pour hot vinegar mix over each full jar, leaving a half inch of headroom. Wipe the lip of the jar, put on the lids and rings and put them into the boiling water in the pressure canner. Lid on, 10 lbs of pressure on the gauge. High heat and remove from heat as soon as it start chuffing. Remove the canner from heat and put it in front of a fan to cool it off quick.
The finished product should set 6 weeks in your pantry or closet before you eat them. They are a little soft at room temp, but not yucky. They do crisp of beautifully when they are refrigerated.
Thank you, Aunt Charlotte!
I have one more reason that I adore garlic. It looks like this:
This is a garlic flower. An Elephant garlic flower, that is. It lasts a very long time in a vase with a light sweet, non garlic fragrance. It also draws and feeds an amazing number of beneficial insects. I saw honey bees, mason bees, carpenter bees, thread waisted wasps, a half a dozen small bee types I couldnt identify, and even a cicada killer, which looks as if it could puncture you right to your liver. It was nearly 2″ long and completely ignored me. I like those guys. They are non aggressive and only want to lay their eggs on a nice fat cicada. They are one of the good guys. I’m glad I can provide them something to eat.
To sum up: Why in the world should you be growing garlic? What , you need more reasons that great taste, ease of growth, feeding beneficial insects, as well as being flat out beautiful when it grows? Of course you dont! Grow it! and you will adore your own garlic.
Can I plant the garlic from the store?
Sure you can. But be aware that bulb is used to growing in or around Gilroy California, probably. Unless it grew overseas somewhere. Who knows? It will probably take two years for the garlic to acclimatize around here and you get the full size on the bulbs and cloves you would get the first year if you bought cloves from someone in your growing zone.
Aren’t garlic bulbs expensive? Seems like a lot to shell out every year!
You are correct. They are pricey, but there is good news: You do NOT have to buy new garlic bulbs every year. If you save the best and biggest cloves from your harvest, you can plant those every year. You can plant as much or as few as you want. I started with 2 bulbs of Music ( about 12 cloves, if I remember correctly). I just harvested 4-6’rows, and I actually downsized this year.
Where do I order garlic from?
Ahhh…theres a good question. I love Seed Savers Exchange ….and their catalog is beautiful, too. I also have ordered from Territorial Seed Company and received nice, healthy garlic. I just recently found Filaree Garlic Farm ….as soon as my budget allows, they are getting an order!
Why in the heck didnt you tell me how to plant the garlic?
well….I plan on it. All for you.