Garlic and salt has been the main stay of the seasoning for the entire world for over two thousand years. But this little onion-like bulb is more than just a seasoning. It can actually make you healthier.
I have used garlic for probably fifty years in some form or other. Most of the time that form was dried flakes from a can. When I could, I raised it in the garden. I have raised Elephant Garlic and regular garlic. When I go to the feed and seed store I always buy garlic bulbs to plant, it did not matter what kind, but my “babies” is the small patch I have planted by the house. The “wild” garlic bulbs were given to me about ten years ago by an old man who my husband met at the farmer’s market. My husband planted them where they could grow and spread… and spread they did. Now my own little garlic patch is a nice little secret where I can go and snitch a few when I want oh so fresh!
If you are really serious about growing a large amount of garlic, there are numerous books and online articles about how to do it. But if you are like me and just want enough to sneak a fresh one every now and then, stick a few bulbs in the flower bed. Pick a place where it can grow undisturbed for at least nine months. Garlic is not finicky about the soil as long as it is not compact, hard clay. A pinch or two of fertilizer will help, so if you are sprinkling a bit on your flowers, give it a sprinkle too.
Ideally, garlic should be planted in the fall. If you are in heavy frost or winter territory, you need to mulch them. In most southern areas you don’t need to do anything, but leave them alone. If you want to wait until spring to plant, store them in the refrigerator for a month or two before planting.
And before I forget, garlic has cloves that need to be separated. You plant the cloves, root-side down, not the whole bulb! Each clove will grow up to be a big bulb. If you are into garlic in a big way, then use the old rule of thumb. For every bulb, eat half and plant half.
If you don’t have the space to grow your own, you can buy garlic bulbs from your local grocery store to use in your kitchen. They will do just as well. Chose clean, blemish-free bulbs and keep them the same way you do your fresh onions. They do not need refrigeration.
When the plant matures, the top leaves will begin to turn brown and yellow and die back. Garlic is ready to harvest when about half the leaves have died back. Only harvest during dry weather. Keep in a cool, dark place. I personally use commercially dried garlic unless I want the fresh taste, which is different. Like onions, I pick only what I plan to use in a day or two. The rest I leave to naturally expand and start over the next year. Where I leave in North Louisiana, the summers are hot and dry and I can do my garlic bed this way. It all depends on where you live. You may need to dig all the bed every summer and replant later.
Medical Uses of Garlic
Since garlic naturally cleans the blood, you would think that as much garlic that I have consumed over the past fifty years, I would have no blood pressure problems. Wrong… but I was almost fifty years old before I had to go on prescription medications, when others in my family were placed on them in their late twenties or early thirties. Other claims about garlic uses are the ability to reduce high cholesterol and help prevent atherosclerosis, as well as clearing intestinal parasites from the blood, but in every case the recommended doses is a lot higher than I was consuming.
By the use of garlic supplements, which should not be used without the supervision of your doctor, Garlic has been used orally as an antioxidant; to reduce cholesterol and triglycerides; to reduce hardening of the arteries and blood clotting; to reduce blood pressure; to prevent cancer; to protect the liver; as an antibiotic, antiviral, and antifungal; to increase the effects of the immune system; to reduce blood sugar levels; and to reduce menstrual pain. Garlic has also been used topically (on the skin) to treat corns, warts, calluses, ear infections, muscle pain, nerve pain, arthritis, and sciatica.
Sounds too good to be true? Maybe. Maybe not, but the amount of garlic you would have to consume may be what kills you! Always check with your doctor before starting a supplement regiment.
Culinary Uses of Garlic
Garlic can be used fresh or dried. Dried garlic is the most available. Dried garlic can be purchased whole or diced, flaked, or powered. Whole dried garlic comes in bulbs of about fifteen cloves. To cook you break the cloves a part and peel the husk; then you finely dice and add to your dish. Garlic can also be roasted whole. Do not use any that are green as they are bitter.
Most recipes call for a teaspoon, more or less, of powered or diced garlic, depending on the dish and amount being prepared. For comparison purposes: one medium garlic clove = one teaspoon minced garlic = one-forth teaspoon garlic powder.
Other Uses for Garlic
The only other use I have found for garlic is as a bug repellent. But I am not so sure about this as the pesky little things seem to love my blood. Maybe it works for vampires, but again, I am not sure it works for them either as we don’t have any of those around where I live… as far as I know… or want to know!
What I like best about Garlic
What I like best about garlic is just using it every day in something I cook. My secret receipt is to mix it with soften butter and allow to seep for several hours before refrigerating again. Kept cold the butter’s flavor will slowly develop and this will become the best butter for using when toasting homemade or even bought French bread.