Thursday, November 17, 2011

Who Knew Garlic Came With Instructions?


It's IN the garlic's so simple.  The winter is coming and it's already time to plant for the spring, it's kind of like working in the fashion industry,  we're already preparing for next season's new flavors.  Although I haven't had much time to write while being out of the country and off the grid for a few weeks, last time we discussed different techniques for saving heirloom tomato seeds. Similar to tomato seeds, Garlic also has a protective outer coating, but it can be removed by hand, something most of us have done if you've ever eaten garlic.  As I walked into The Captain's office holding a garlic bulb, I heard him discussing the winter's garlic plantings.  I had never planted garlic before and had no idea that the fall was a good time to do it.  Being the novice farmer I am,  I asked him to tell me where the garlic seeds came from, but to my surprise, he told me...

I was holding them.  Garlic cloves are actually used to propagate garlic plants.  He proceeded to slice open a clove where he unlocked the simplicity of a garlic's journey from clove to new bulb.

I figured the cold of winter and lack of sunlight would be less than optimal for plants to grow outdoors, but it turns out garlic enjoy the cold as long as they are protected from too many sudden dramatic drops in temperature, which can be controlled through mulching

Before you even slice them, garlic cloves display a thin protrusion which guides us as to which direction the plant grows upward.  This will be important when laying the cloves in the ground.  

Once inside, everything gets pretty intuitive.  You can clearly see this center growth showing the garlic's journey to a new plant.

When planting the cloves in the ground, it's important to follow the direction of the center growth and burrow them in the soil covering the top with about 1 inch of soil.

This will eventually produce the much bigger garlic scape which is great for making pesto.

Also, interestingly enough, although it is possible to find true garlic seed, it is rare.   Seems that these modern garlic plants have been selected and breeded so specifically that in most cases, the scapes no longer produce true seeds and are referred to as "false flowers."

So if you happen to come across some delicious locally grown garlic during the spring or summer, you can always hold on to a few cloves and plant them right in your own home garden.  Each clove will produce an entire garlic plant with many garlic cloves on it.  The best time to plant these spring garlic is soon after the first frost, which is why November is the perfect month.  Once the spring rolls around and the garlic leaves begin to brown and die the new bulbs will be ready to begin harvesting.  The earlier in the season they are pulled, the smaller the bulbs.


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