In this edition of my Grow & Eat series, I’d like to talk about garlic. I love garlic. It’s a joy to grow, an essential in my kitchen and one of the crops that I will always have on my plot.
Garlic actually originates in Central Asia, and has been used for centuries all over the world as food and medicine. There are two different types of garlic; hard-neck and soft-neck.
Hard-neck garlic varieties produce a stronger flavoured garlic. These kind of garlic plants usually have fewer, larger, cloves and you’ll often find flowers on the plants. The harvested bulbs will keep until the winter.
Soft-neck garlic will store for longer than hard-necked varieties and produces more cloves, but they’re smaller.
I sow my garlic in the Autumn, although you can also plant in spring. They like a nice cool period for good early development, which is why I prefer an Autumn start. Each bulb breaks apart and the cloves are sown individually. Make sure you put them the right way up with the flatter part at the bottom and the pointy end on top!
These days, I tend to plant them by eye, but it’s generally 15cm apart, in rows 30 apart. You just need gently push them into the soil, so they’re just under the surface. They tend to start off quite quickly – in the early days, you need to keep an eye on them, as birds do like to pull them up, so they might need covering. If you find any that have been pulled up, they just need gently pushing back in again.
Garlic is quite a good plant for a busy allotment holder, because apart from weeding around them, they don’t need masses of help. My garlic this year is gorgeous, and that’s despite being relatively neglected by me!
Sometimes I get rust on my garlic. It shows as little orange coloured marks on the leaves, which eventually die down. It’s a fungal disease, but unless it’s really bad doesn’t affect the garlic at all. So I’ll admit, I generally ignore it – although I do practice good crop rotation which helps.
One of the best places I buy garlic from is The Garlic Farm on the Isle of Wight. I may be biased because the Island is a family home for me, but it’s just a great place. It’s also the home of the world’s best garlic mayonnaise…As they’re specialist growers, you can get both hard and soft neck varieties from them, as well as elephant garlic. New season bulbs for growing are now coming into season so now is the time to get thinking about placing your order.
I like to put garlic in pretty much everything!
Chicken with 40 cloves of garlic was a great success and less over-powering than you might think. ( I used a Nigella book for mine, but here’s link to her recipe)
This Jamie Oliver garlic bread recipe looks amazing.
Or perhaps you could try making your own garlic butter, by mixing softened butter with minced garlic (one crushed clove to about 100g butter) and then slather it all over BBQ grilled sweetcorn. Heaven…
And if you’re lucky enough to visit the Isle of Wight, not only can you visit The Garlic Farm, walk around the farm and eat in their lovely cafe, you might also be in time for one of my favourite ever things to do on the Island, which is spend the day at The Garlic Festival…which sadly is over for this year, but a bit of forward planning for 2016?
What are you growing and eating this year? I’d love to have guest writers for this series. Do get in touch.