Planting, Harvesting and Using Garlic

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Growing your own garlic is a fun project for any garden, and fall is the perfect time to get it in the ground to ensure you’ll have a plentiful harvest the following summer.

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Garlic has myriad uses in the kitchen, and including plentiful amounts of it in your diet is a tasty and healthy practice. Each clove you plant matures into a head, so planting your own can create a supply that could last you all season.

Don’t plant garlic purchased from the supermarket, as it has generally been treated with chemicals. Instead, you should buy “seed garlic” from a local or online gardening source.

Softneck types of garlic do well in warm climates. If you live in an area with cold winters, though, hardneck varieties of garlic will grow best. Hardneck garlic varieties grow a flower stalk (aka garlic scape). These should be snapped off when they curl and they’re great to use in your spring cooking.

Raised beds are ideal for planting garlic because they have good drainage (soil that holds water can cause garlic to rot). Make sure to work plenty of organic matter into your planting area — garlic likes crumbly soil that is rich in nutrients.

Once you’ve determined which kind of garlic to plant and you have a suitable site, choose healthy bulbs and break them into cloves (leave the papery skin on). Plant the cloves 2 inches deep (unless you live in a very cold climate, in which case you can plant them as deep as 4 inches) and about 6 inches apart. If it doesn’t rain much in the weeks after planting, you should water to keep your new garlic bed moist. Add a layer of mulch to help conserve moisture and add more in the spring to help minimize weeds.

You’ll know your garlic is ready when the bottom leaves start to die off, but the top ones are still green. This generally starts to occur in early July. Use a digging fork and take care when harvesting your garlic so you don’t damage the bulbs. Garlic should be cured for a few weeks before you store it for long-term. In addition to Italian and Asian recipes, garlic is also great for sauces and other seasonal favorites.

Here’s another way to use it, though, as a home remedy to soothe sore throats.

Recipe for Garlic Honey Home Remedy

Ingredients:

  • 3 heads of garlic, peeled and separated into cloves (about 24 cloves)
  • Raw honey to fill your glass jar of choice (raw honey is more nutritious than store-bought honey)

Directions:

  1. Fill jar with garlic cloves and then pour the honey over the garlic. Allow mixture to infuse for several days before using, then store in the refrigerator or cupboard where it will keep for a year or more.
  2. At the first sign of illness, start eating a clove every hour or two. Aim for about 6 cloves per day. The honey can be taken on its own by the spoonful as a cough syrup. You could also mix a teaspoon of the honey with some raw apple cider vinegar and hot water and drink this as a tonic when you’re sick; feel free to add a dash of cayenne pepper, too — this is excellent for your sinuses.
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Winnie Abramson writes the organic gardening and food blog Healthy Green Kitchen

Photo Credit: Winnie Abramson

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