Now is a great time to plant garlic in your garden, or anytime from four to six weeks before the ground freezes. For growing great garlic and using it in your kitchen, keep these tips in mind.
In the Garden
BUY FIRM HEADS of garlic from nurseries, mail-order catalogs, farmers’ markets or garlic festivals. Most garlic sold at supermarkets has been treated with sprout inhibitors.
Remember, BIG BULBS GROW FROM BIG CLOVES. Buy or save the biggest and best bulbs, then plant only the large outer cloves of the heads. (Cook with the rest.)
BE CAREFUL when separating the bulb. A nick can let in disease, especially in wet soil.
Set the clove’s top from 1/2 TO 2 INCHES DEEP in mild-winter areas, and up to 4 inches deep in cold winter climates.
PLANT ONLY unblemished, solid and firm cloves.
HARVEST GARLIC in summer after approximately half of the leaves have turned yellow and withered.
In the Kitchen
ALWAYS STORE GARLIC in a cool, dry location with good ventilation. Garlic can last from six to nine months.
DISPOSE OF BULBS that show mold or rot, as rot breeds more rot.
NEVER STORE GARLIC in the refrigerator as it can quickly spoil in those conditions.
FOR A MELLOW garlic flavor that doesn’t overpower your taste buds, try sautéing instead. But cook only briefly as garlic can quickly burn, resulting in a slightly bitter taste.
For a wonderfully mellow NUTTY SWEETNESS, roast or bake your garlic. Spread on fresh home-baked bread drizzled with olive oil and then topped with chopped fresh tomatoes and basil for a deliciously healthy appetizer.
Contributing Editor Kris Wetherbee tends her herbs in western Oregon.