In Focus: Beloved Garlic

February 27, 2013 at 10:15 AM Leave a comment

John Scheepers Kitchen Garden Seeds
In Focus: Beloved Garlic
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What’s better than being enveloped in a seductive, sweet-pungent aromatic cloud of sautéed Garlic when entering a friend’s home for dinner? You know something fantastic will be served~a slow-cooked, sumptuous meal, bursting with luscious savory goodness.

Garlic, or Allium sativum, is related to Onions, Shallots, Chives and Leeks, the other essential flavor-makers. Most experts agree that Garlic comes from Central Asia, where it migrated east toward the Orient, and west toward Europe. The first “hunter gathers” probably dug wild Garlic and used it as a simple edible bulb. Over the millennium, Garlic has become a fundamental culinary favorite around the globe, much loved for its robust, spicy and rich flavor.

So Easy to Grow Your Own Garlic
The greatest, most true Garlic taste comes from the best varieties that can only be grown in your own garden. Both Hardneck and Softneck Garlic are prized for their culinary and medicinal attributes. Softneck Early Italian Purple and Inchelium Red Garlic may be planted in either the spring or fall. Hardneck German Red Rocambole and Spanish Rojo Garlic are only available for fall planting. (In colder areas, it should be planted about the time of your first fall frost; in more temperate areas, it may be planted from mid-October through early December.) They are each vigorous growers, producing plump, large cloves with complex flavors and tastes unlike anything you can get in a supermarket or grocery store~the highest, most coveted level of intoxicating Garlic experience.

Start by preparing its bed: turn under or till in compost or well-rotted manure if necessary. Separate the Garlic cloves and plant each individual clove, root end down, 1” deep and 4” to 6” apart in 18” spaced rows. Basically, you need to plant them just deep enough so that the tip lies level with the soil surface. Remember, Garlic loves water and food, but they must have good drainage or they will rot. Keep the bulbs well-watered and weeded; they grow best with at least 1” of water per week. Green shoots will emerge within several weeks of planting. Generally, when Garlic is planted in the early spring, it takes about three and a half months until harvest (it stops growing in summer’s high heat, particularly when there is little rainfall.) When planted in the fall, Garlic is ready for harvest at the same time in late summer the following year. (Since it has more time to grow, the heads and cloves are larger.)

To focus Garlic’s energy into the production of edible cloves, remove any seed stalks that form. A few weeks before harvest, stop any supplemental watering. An approximate indicator of when to harvest is when the leaves begin to die~when the lower leaves are 50% to 75% brown, or when the entire plant is 40% brown/60% green. Gently dig them out, and brush off as much surface soil as possible. Do not leave them in the sun to cure, as they might get sunburned and rot. Cure the heads in mesh bags (like onion sacks) in a cool, dry spot at 35° to 45°F for about a month. Once cured, you may remove any remaining soil from the outer papery sheaths. Hardneck Garlic may be stored for just two to three months~Softneck Garlic can be stored for up to 10 months.

Garlic Craving
Some nights, it doesn’t matter what the delectable dish is, as long as it allows the beguiling fragrance of Garlic to waft through the house. Garlic elevates pasta, sauces, olive oils, soups, stir-fries, slow-cooked casseroles and roasted meats to the lofty realm of complex flavors and soul-satisfying feasts.

It is amazing how the simple preparation of Garlic can change its presentation and taste. Very finely slivered Garlic melts into a sweet ambrosial pool when slowly warmed in olive oil. Quick minced Garlic introduces a more zesty presence in sauces, pesto, crostini toppings and ground meats. Slowly roasted heads of Garlic lightly slathered with olive oil yield a sweet nutty goodness unequaled on crusty bread (with barely a hint of biting zinginess). Pickled Garlic lobs its most bold flavor and crunch to only the most intrepid culinary adventurers. Pots of thick, sweet Onion and Garlic jam transform simple sandwiches into special treats. Warm or toasted bread barely rubbed with the cut side of a single clove of fresh Garlic easily imparts Garlic’s rich flavor into every day sandwiches.

Similarly, the cut side of a single Garlic clove rubbed all over the inside surface of a sauce or fondue pot effortlessly bequeaths understated Garlic gusto. One of our favorite ways to incorporate Garlic into week night meals is to make Pesto and Compound Butters of all sorts. We freeze them in individual airtight bags and break off pieces for quick, easy use. And, if you like preparing Asian dishes, you can mix together equal parts of minced Garlic and grated ginger root, freeze it in ice cube trays and, once frozen, transfer them into freezer bags. It makes impromptu stir-fries and marinades so easy. These tricks will make you feel like you have a personal sous-chef to do your kitchen prep before you even get home from work.

We share our best-of-the-best recipes so you can feed your family and friends well without feeling frenzied. Take a look at our practical, hands-on horticultural tips to demystify gardening with seeds (it need not be tricky or difficult. Truth be told, it is a bit more like easy magic.) If you need help with anything, our office hours are Monday through Friday from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. You can email us at customerservice@kitchengardenseeds.com or call us at (860) 567-6086. We can help you make your garden more easily tended and productive which in turn will help to keep gardening a happy, essential part of your family’s life. Lance Frazon, our seed specialist, is happy to help you in any way possible. He loves to talk seeds.

-To see our seed collection click: Flowers, gourmet fruits & vegetables and aromatic herbs.

-To request a 2013 Kitchen Garden Seeds catalog, click: Request catalog.

-To look at our yummy recipes, like Crab and Shrimp Gratin, click: Recipes.

-Or, call us at (860) 567-6086: we will help you in any way we can!

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Entry filed under: Good Eating!, Green Information.

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