We can trace the growing of garlic as far back as 6000 years ago. It has long been immersed in Mediterranean, African and Asian cultures as a favourite cooking ingredient and can now be found in China and all over Europe. The secret is out, garlic is good for you!

Garlic is not simply a seasoning, but a bulb (a member of the allium family) that can be classed as a herb or a vegetable. The Egyptians fed it to their workers whilst they built the great pyramids as they believed it boosted strength and stamina. In the Middle Ages, during the bubonic plague, whole bulbs of garlic were consumed regularly for protection. Whilst we now know that garlic would be of no value in that respect, it does nevertheless have significant health benefits.

Nature’s own wonder drug

The nutrients that garlic boasts of are off the scale, containing as it does fibre, copper, and potassium, along with vitamins B6 and C. The humble bulb helps to repel the common cold and aids in rapid recovery by assisting your immune system. It can protect your brain against oxidative damage and it is a positive influence with regard to lowering blood pressure and decreasing bad cholesterol.

With evidence that garlic improves muscles and bones, lowers blood pressure and contains vital nutrients, it comes as no surprise to find that many people use it as part of an organic and natural approach towards enhancing their health and well-being. And of course – you can easily grow it yourself!

Different types of garlic

There are four main garlic varieties to choose from:-

Spanish Roja: very strong flavour; easy to store.

Purple Wight: purple streaked bulbs; best used fresh.

Solent Wight: very well adapted to the British climate; stores well.

Arno: pink cloves; stores well.

Growing garlic in your garden

Garlic growing requires very little space and is easy to grow. It’s best to purchase your initial bulbs from a garden centre or reputable on-line provider, as opposed to purchasing a bulb of garlic in the supermarket. The bulb is broken up into segments, called cloves, and each clove planted will grow until it forms a new bulb. Garlic casts little shadow and is therefore prone to weeds, so it is important to take extra care with weeding the garlic patch. Snip off any flowers that may present themselves with the garlic, and once the bulbs are quite large do not water any more as this may encourage rotting.

How to plant Garlic

Space the cloves approximately 10 cm apart with approximately 30 cm between rows. The clove should be pushed about 5 cm into the soil with the pointed end directed upwards. Choose a space in your garden that has fertile soil, is well drained, and has not been used recently to grow any member of the onion family. It is common for some birds, especially pigeons, to pull out the cloves to eat. This can easily be prevented by covering your cloves with netting or horticultural fleece.

When to plant garlic

Some gardeners plant in spring, but late autumn is the most popular time to plant.

Harvesting and Storage

As soon as the leaves turn yellow you can harvest your precious bulbs. You could use the green leaves, before they turn yellow, to garnish salads. After pulling up with care, spread them out in a well-ventilated space until the tops are completely dry; this will usually take a couple of weeks. Braid the tops together and hang in a cool spot.

Garlic Festivals

So revered is garlic, we now have festivals all over the world. In the UK, the Isle of Wight hosts its next festival on the 18th of August 2018. For an international travel adventure, visit the Oregon Garlic Festival in August, the Gilroy Garlic Festival in California in July or the Hudson Valley Garlic Festival in New York, also in July, to name just a few.

How to incorporate garlic into your food

I am not suggesting eating garlic cloves raw to extract their health benefits, but you can easily incorporate it, chopped, minced or crushed, into stock, stews, soup or salads. There is a multitude of recipes you can find containing garlic, but here is one of my favourites, delicious served with crackers:

Roasted garlic and butternut squash hummus with goat’s cheese

You will need:

1 butternut squash

Olive oil

2 bulbs of garlic (approximately 25 cloves)

Lemon zest and lemon juice

2 tsp tahini

10 sprigs of fresh thyme

Handful of flat leaved parsley

Sea salt and black pepper.

What to do:

Cut the butternut squash in half, remove the seeds, and rub in olive oil, then bake in the oven for 45-60mins at 200C

Split the bulb of garlic into cloves (do not peel) and arrange around the squash with a splash of olive oil, then cook for 30 mins

Scoop out the cooked squash, peel the garlic cloves, and place them in the blender, together with lemon zest and juice and the tahini

Add parsley, thyme, salt and pepper to taste

Serve with crumbled goat cheese and any remaining parsley

In conclusion, we all know that garlic is the enemy of vampires – but that’s fiction. The truth is that garlic is a superfood, easy to grow and overwhelmingly good for your health.

For more information on how to grow garlic in your garden contact North Leeds Garden Design today.