Growing garlic from seed

How to Grow Garlic

  • • Plant each clove at a depth of 2.5cm and space them about 10-15cm apart. Allow space for the bulbs to swell, so don’t plant them too close to the container edge.
  • • Keep the compost moist, especially during dry spells.
  • You can also grow garlic indoors on a windowsill for its leaves, which have a mild and aromatic flavour and can be added to soups, curries and stir fries. Harvest the leaves as required until the bulb has been exhausted. However, growing garlic indoors isn’t the best method for cultivating good quality bulbs.

    How to care for garlic

    Weed regularly to keep your garlic happy.
    Image: Swellphotography

    Garlic is not very demanding, but it is vulnerable to birds who love to pull freshly-planted sets out of the ground. It’s a good idea to cover the area with netting or horticultural fleece after planting.

    As it doesn’t create much shade, garlic can also get smothered quickly by weeds. Weed regularly to prevent competition for space and nutrients.

    You only need to water your garlic during long dry spells. If you notice flowers forming you can remove them or leave them intact; either way, it should not affect the swelling of the bulb.

    How and when to harvest garlic

    Garlic is usually ready to harvest in early summer.
    Image: yuris

    Autumn-planted garlic will be ready to harvest in June and July and spring-planted garlic will be ready slightly later. Simply wait until the leaves have started to wither and turn yellow, and then loosen the bulbs from the soil with a trowel.

    Be careful not to cut the garlic bulbs with your trowel as this will reduce their storage potential. Also don’t leave the bulbs in the ground too long after the leaves have withered as the bulbs are likely to re-sprout and may rot when stored.

    Before storing them, lay the garlic bulbs out somewhere warm and dry. Any dry soil left on the bulbs can be gently brushed off. In good condition, garlic bulbs can be stored for up to three months.

    Common garlic problems to watch out for

    Garlic is fairly low maintenance, but there are two diseases to look out for
    Image: Andrew Pustiakin

    Garlic is normally trouble-free, but there are two diseases to watch out for: rust and white rot.

    Rust appears as rusty-coloured spots on the leaves. Unfortunately, the only thing you can do is avoid growing garlic in the same place for three years; there’s no cure for rust.

    Garlic can also be affected by white rot, which decays the roots and eventually the bulb. Again there is no cure apart from crop rotation.

    Top tips for growing garlic

    Growing garlic is pretty easy and the results taste unlike anything you’d get in the average supermarket. The main things to remember are:

    • • Buy garlic bulbs from a reputable garden supplier, not a supermarket.
    • • Plant before Christmas, if you can.
    • • Don’t plant in soil that’s recently been used for any allium plants.
    • • Don’t water-log the bulbs.
    • • Weed regularly.

    Watch: How to grow garlic in containers video

    So that’s it in a nutshell, everything you need to know about garlic. Happy growing!

    Do you have any tips for growing garlic? We’d love to hear them – head over to our Facebook page and share with our ‘grow your own’ community.

    Softnecks get their name because the whole green plant dies down, leaving nothing but the bulb and flexible stems that are easy to braid. Hardnecks have a stiff stem in the center that terminates in a beautiful flower — or cluster of little bulbs — and then dries to a rigid stick that makes braiding impossible.

    Softnecks, standard in grocery stores, are the easiest to grow in mild regions. They keep longer than hardnecks, but they’re less hardy and produce small, strong-flavored cloves. Hardnecks do best where there’s a real winter since they’re more vulnerable to splitting — or simply refusing to produce — in warm climates.

    Gardeners in most of the U.S. can try some of both. Specialty sellers will suggest best bets based on your climate and tastes (check out your gardening zones here). It’s also wise to get some seed stock from your local farmer’s’ market. Whatever that garlic is, it’s growing where you are.

    2. Planting Garlic

    Mid-fall, plant garlic bulbs in loose, fertile soil that’s as weed-free as possible. Insert cloves root-side down about 8 inches apart in all directions, burying the tips about 2 inches down. Green shoots will come up; mulch around them with straw. After a hard freeze kills the shoots, draw the mulch over the whole bed.

    In spring, pull the mulch back when the new shoots emerge. Give them a shot of mixed fish emulsion and liquid seaweed. Keep them weeded. Water only if the soil is dry 2 or more inches down, never pouring water into the crowns of the plants.

    3. Cutting Garlic Scapes

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    I spent most of my gardening life cutting off the flowering scapes of hardneck garlic so they wouldn’t draw energy from the bulbs. Then I read a story about a garlic growing guru who said it didn’t matter a whit.

    Well, it isn’t really much bother. Tender young scapes are delicious and older, curly ones look wonderful in the vase. I set up an experiment, allotting 30 spaces each, in two rows, and planting the same variety in both of them. When the garlic were about half-grown, we set about cutting the scapes, but only from one row of the plants. At harvest, after trimming, we got 5 pounds of garlic out of the cut row, 6.5 pounds out of the one we left alone.

    Tips for Cutting Garlic Scapes

    1. There’s no harm in taking a few to eat, but don’t wait until they’re large. Most of the scapes for sale are bigger than the 4 to 6 inches long; they should be that length for best flavor and texture.

    2. You can cut some for a vase too, but don’t take them too soon. If you wait until the tops are well-developed, you might get a head of tiny garlic grains that can be used whole and unpeeled in place of minced garlic. Or you’ll find a clump of small round bulbs, called topsets, that can be stored all winter long and planted close together in early spring, producing the garlic equivalent of scallions.

    4. Harvesting Garlic

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    Garlic varieties are divided into early, midseason, and late, depending on your climate zone and the weather during the growing year. Heat speeds them up, cold slows them down. Although the harvest window is wide if you plan to eat the garlic fresh, it’s narrow if you want to ensure maximum storage life.

    The bulbs are ready when most of the lower leaves have browned. The upper ones will still look green. “Lift the bulbs” usually describes moving things like daffodils, but it’s also a good way to think about harvesting garlic. Those heads are more delicate than they seem.

    Choose an overcast day when the soil is dry. Loosen the soil with a digging fork, inserting it well away from the heads, then lift them out of the row and place them in a flat carrier.

    5. Curing Garlic

    Let the whole plants dry in a single layer out of the sun, where it’s warm but not hot. When the outer skin is papery, brush off as much dirt as possible and clip the roots. Rush this a bit if you’re braiding garlic stems. If you wait until they’re completely dry, they tend to crack and break.

    The finished garlic will still look dirty compared to anything commercial. Leave it that way because further cleanup can shorten storage life. If you can’t bear the way it looks, try removing the outer layer of wrapper.

    6. Storing Garlic

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    The ideal temperature is between 55 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit, with moderate humidity and good air circulation, in the light, but they must be out of the sun. We keep our garlic stored in an unheated, but insulated, closet. Those less-fortunate in the storage department should avoid the refrigerator (excess cold leads to sprouting) and plastic bags, which can cause rot.

    Can You Grow Garlic From Seed

    Once in awhile someone wonders how to grow garlic from seed. While growing garlic is easy, there’s no sure way to do so using garlic seed. Garlic is typically grown from cloves, or occasionally bulbils.

    About Garlic Seed Propagation

    Although you may see or hear it referred to as seed, seed garlic or even seed stock, the truth is garlic doesn’t usually set true seed, and on those rare occasions when it does, garlic seed resembles the small, black seeds of onions. The flowers of garlic plants usually fade long before producing any seed. Of course, plants produced using garlic seed propagation are not likely to grow anyway and those few that do will take years to produce any garlic.

    Occasionally, topsets (or flower stalks) can be removed and used to increase seed stock, as some varieties may stimulate seed production. But for the most part, garlic is reproduced and grown from cloves.

    Garlic seed propagation depends mainly on the variety used and the climate where

    it is grown.

    • Hardneck varieties such as Purple Stripe produce flower stalks and are usually well adapted to cooler climates. Hardneck garlic has a slightly shorter shelf life, from five to seven months, while softneck varieties can be stored for up to nine months.
    • Softneck garlic, like artichoke, don’t normally produce flower stalks; however, climate can be a factor as to whether or not this actually happens. Although some types of softneck garlic are suitable for cool climates, most do better in warmer environments. Your best chance for garlic seed propagation to be successful is to grow several varieties.

    How to Grow Seed Garlic

    Garlic can be grown easily, and again, it is typically grown from cloves, not garlic seed. In the rare instances you do get those true black seeds, they should be planted much like you would with onion seeds.

    Garlic grows best in loose, well-drained soil that’s been amended with organic matter.

    Like many bulbs, “seed” garlic requires a cold period for healthy growth. You can plant garlic cloves anytime in autumn, provided it’s early enough for them to build strong roots systems and the soil is still manageable. Separate the cloves just prior to planting and locate a sunny area to grow them in. Plant the cloves with the point facing upward about 2 to 3 inches deep and spacing about 6 inches.

    Apply a generous amount of mulch to help protect their shallow roots over winter. This can be removed in early spring once the new growth is ready to emerge and the threat of freezing has ceased. During its growing season, garlic requires frequent watering and occasional fertilizing.

    The plants can be harvested in late summer. Dig up the garlic plants and bundle them together (about six to eight plants) for drying. Hang them in a well-ventilated area for about three to four weeks.

    How to Grow Garlic From Bulbils

    Why should you try growing garlic bulbils?

    1) Some growers believe that growing your own garlic from garlic ‘seeds’ (which are actually small bulbs) can help the garlic adapt to your climate. Growing from bulbils may produce more robust garlic.

    Picture: Mature Bogatyr garlic scape. The round purple ‘seeds’ emerging from the scape or umbel are really small bulbs!

    2) Growing from bulbils can also be an economical way to propagate garlic. A garlic scape can contain from 5-200 small bulbs depending on the variety of garlic. Bulbs and garlic ‘seedheads’ are similar in price (normally $3.50 – $4.00 per ‘seedhead’ or garlic bulb). However, bulbils multiple faster:

    Start With: 1st year 2nd year 3rd year 4th year
    Bulb (5 cloves) 5 bulbs 25 bulbs 125 bulbs 625 bulbs (125 lbs)
    Small Bulbils (100) 100 rounds 100 small bulbs 500 mixed size bulbs 2500 bulbs (500 lbs)
    Large Bulbils (40) 40 large rounds and/or small bulbs 40-100 small-medium bulbs 200-500 larger bulbs 1000-2500 bulbs (200-500 lbs)

    3) Garlic bulbils likely do not carry soilborne diseases so they are ideal for those worried about introducing disease problems.

    4) When they begin to grow you may want to use the small garlic bulbils in gourmet cooking. Small garlic bulbils look like a miniature onion greens or chives as they grow and have a delicate garlic taste. They are wonderful in salads and as toppings for baked potatoes.

    Who should grow garlic bulbils?

    Only those with the patience to grow a garlic up from a tiny chive like stalk or those who want to eat the garlic chives. There is definitely delayed gratification with this method of growing garlic! It is not for those who open their birthday presents early.

    Year 1:

    • Prepare a well drained, compost enriched seedbed. Raised beds work well for the small bulbils or you can plant them directly in the soil. Make sure you will be able to tell where you planted in the spring. The new garlic will look like chives (try not to plant where you will have to distinguish it from grass in the spring).
    • Separate out the bulbils from the umbel (false seedhead). It normally falls apart easily when cured.
    • Picture: Romanian Red, a Porcelain garlic, has numerous small bulbils the size of rice grains. The bulbils are enclosed by the light green umbel.
    • You can plant bulbils in spring or fall. I have tried both and gotten good results. Some people recommend planting in very early spring (as soon as the soil can be worked) to avoid winter kill. I have noticed that some bulbil varieties seem to be susceptible to winterkill. Other people prefer planting in the fall.
    • Make rows 6″ apart in your bed. Form a shallow tench 1-2 inches deep.
    • Sprinkle the garlic bulbils in the trench. At this size it doesn’t matter if they are upside down. If you have very small garlic bulbils that look like rice grains (such as from a Porcelain garlic ‘seedhead’) plant about 1/2 inch apart. Medium bulbils (such as from Marble Purple Stripes) need to be around 1 inch across. The largest garlic bulbils that resemble marbles (such as those from Rocambole or Asiatic garlic) should be planted about 2-4 inches apart. Gently cover the small bulbs with 1-2 inches of soil and water well.
    • Water and weed garlic. It will look like chive shoots when it comes up. Keep well weeded; small garlic doesn’t compete well with weeds.
    • You can also thin and eat the garlic at this stage!
    • Harvest when garlic is mostly brown and starting to dry. Most of the garlic will grow a single small bulb called a round. Other garlic may grow a very small bulb. Cure the small bulbs or rounds in a well ventilated area with no direct sunlight. Replant garlic that same fall. Space the rounds 3-4 inches apart and care for them like you would any other garlic.

    Picture: 1) Bulbils in garlic ‘seedhead’ or umbel. 2) Tiny brown first year bulb grown from a bulbil. Bulbils can also grow rounds. 3) In the second year, small cloves produce small bulbs. 4) In the third year, medium bulbs are produced.

    Year 2:

    The rounds will usually form small bulbs and/or larger rounds by the second year. WARNING: if you do not take care of these little garlics they will not increase much in bulb size. Good care is essential to get larger garlic. Many plants also form scapes. The garlic bulbs are normally smaller than bulbs grown from cloves.

    Picture: Three garlic rounds and an umbel. Phillips bulbils from the umbel or seedhead produce garlic rounds the first year. Rounds can be in a range of sizes and can look wrinkly or textured.

    Harvest this small garlic, cure and plant cloves that fall.

    Year 3:

    Most garlic varieties will produce a small or medium normal bulb by the 3rd year. Depending on your care and the weather some varieties may need an extra year.

    Estimation of number of bulbils in a umbel/scape:

    • Porcelain: 50-200 bulbils the size of a grain of rice; 3-5 years to maturity
    • Rocambole: 10-35 large pea sized bulbils: 2 years to maturity
    • Glazed Purple Stripe: 50-150 small bulbils; 3-5 years to maturity
    • Purple Stripe: 50-150 small bulbils; 3-5 years to maturity
    • Marbled Purple Stripe: 25-60 medium sized bulbils; 2-3 years to maturity
    • Asiatic: 5-30 large pea to blueberry sized bulbils; 1-2 years to maturity
    • Turban: 30-60 medium bulbils; 2-4 years to maturity
    • Creole: 50-100 small bulbils; 3-4 years to maturity
    • Artichoke: if this garlic develops a scape it normally has between 5-15 large pea to marble sized bulbils; 1-2 years to maturity

    Growing Garlic

    Garlic growing is easy in the home garden.

    Maintaining top quality requires care and attention. Weeding is important as garlic does not like competition. Watering and not watering, harvesting on time and curing properly are all important for producing bulbs with good keeping qualities.

    The information on this web page and the Curing Garlic web page has been summarized on three printer friendly pages.

    Soil Preparation

    Garlic will grow under a wide variety of soil conditions. It is said to prefer free draining loam with lots of organic matter. Building up your soil with green manure cover crops as part of your normal crop rotation is good practice. We like to get most of our amendments into the soil before planting. Compost and composted manure are popular choices. We have used a number of different amendments permitted under the Canadian Organic Regime.

    Selecting Your Seed

    We selected our own seed first so that each year our average production was improving. We chose bulbs with a nice shape and plump cloves. In general, clove size is more important than bulb size as a determinant of future bulb size.

    Tip for Commercial Growers
    As a precaution we always plant new seed stock in an isolation patch, away from our main garlic patches, so that if there are any problems they are contained.

    New Seed

    It takes new seed stock several years to adapt to your growing conditions. For this reason we recommend that growers invest in modest quantities of excellent seed stock and multiply it up in their own fields.

    We have had good success growing garlic up from bulbils. For details see our page on growing from bulbils.

    When to Plant Garlic

    In Canada most varieties of garlic, under most conditions, do best when planted in the fall. The timing of fall planting should be such that the roots have a chance to develop and the tops do not break the surface before winter, about three weeks before the ground freezes. In some regions spring planting is traditional. Although we have planted in the spring with good results our short growing season means that the garlic is not ready for harvest in time to ship for planting. Spring planted garlic matures later than fall planted. We make an exception for the Creole garlics as Henry has found that they do much better for him when they are planted in the spring.

    Tip – In Warmer Climates Store Your Hardneck Garlic in a Cool Spot Before Planting
    Hardneck garlics need to go through a cold period to trigger sprouting. If your soil temperatures stay warm, store the garlic in a cool, dry place, 7 – 10°C (45 – 50°F), for about three weeks before planting.

    Preparing Cloves for Planting

    Shortly before planting break the bulbs apart into cloves. This is called ‘cracking’. The cloves are attached to the basal plate, the plate that the roots grow from. When you crack the bulb each clove should break away cleanly, leaving an image of a ‘footprint’ on the basal plate. With true hardneck garlics you can crack them by giving the woody stem a sharp rap on a hard surface. The root nodules begin growing from edge of the foot of the clove. If the basal plate stays attached to the clove you may be able to flick it off. Be careful not to damage the foot of the clove. It is more important to keep the clove intact than to remove the basal plate.

    Set aside the very small cloves to eat soon, to make into pickles, to dry, or to plant tightly together for eating in the spring, like green onions. Each larger clove will produce a good sized bulb by the end of the growing season. The smallest cloves require just as much space, care and attention in the garden and produce significantly smaller bulbs.

    Tip – Separate the Cloves just before Planting
    If you separate the garlic cloves as close to planting time as possible, preferably within 24 hours, the root nodules won’t dry out and the garlic will be able to set roots quickly. This is ideal, not essential.

    Planting Garlic

    You can plant garlic in single or double rows or in wide beds of four to six plants across with four to eight inches between plants. Tighter spacing in the beds will produce a greater number of smaller bulbs for a higher total yield in terms of pounds of garlic per square foot of garden. We have lots of land and planted garlic in well-tilled beds of five or six rows, with about eight inch spacing between rows and between plants. In retirement we are planting in four row beds as these are easier to reach. Choose a bed size that is comfortable for hand planting. Henry originally devised a roller that two people pulled over the bed to poke holes at regular intervals. Now we use one he built to tow behind the tractor.

    It is important to plant hard neck garlic with the top (pointed end) of the clove up, at least two inches below the surface.

    When you have planted the garlic you can cover it with a layer of mulch if you wish.

    Mulching

    To mulch or not to mulch: we considered mulch primarily to be an insurance against winter kill. However, we have experienced occasional severe losses with and without mulch and now we are no longer mulching. We are finding weeding easier without mulch as we were not able to leave enough mulch on for weed suppression.

    Mulching conserves moisture, moderates soil temperatures and inhibits weeds. It also shelters rodents and attracts deer and elk. All these factors need to be considered in deciding whether or not to mulch.

    Mulching can even out the soil moisture between rains and irrigation cycles. It is not recommended in wetter climates where excess water can be a problem for garlic.

    Moderating soil temperature is helpful where there are extremes of heat and cold. Garlic does not like repeated freezing and thawing. Frost heaves can tear the young roots from the cloves. A thick layer of winter mulch is considered insurance against winter kill. Garlic does not like extreme heat either and mulch will moderate the daily fluctuations in summer soil temperatures.

    Chopped leaves, swamp grass, reeds and alfalfa hay are among the preferred mulch materials. Grain straw is not recommended because it can host wheat curl mite which will attack garlic. Grass hay is fine if you don’t mind lots of grass seed in your soil.

    In the spring you may need to pull off some of the mulch to allow the plants to push through. In the years when we were mulching for winter protection and the summers were cold and wet we removed all of the mulch in the spring.

    Labelling the Garlic Beds

    It is very easy to lose track of which garlic is which. By using a combination of maps and markers we can always identify the garlic in the ground. Detailed maps show how much of each garlic is planted and where. UV resistant markers are used to write labels on sticks for each end of a bed or section of a bed. We leave space between cultivars.

    Tip for Tracking Garlic Varieties and Strains or Cultivars
    If you have a large number of varieties build in safeguards against mix-ups. For example, we put two Tyvek tags with the garlic identification on it in each harvest basket, one in the bottom and one where it can be seen. These tags stay with the garlic on the hanging strings and then in the horticulture boxes.

    Scapes and Bulbils

    Hardneck varieties produce a central stalk which goes straight up and then usually makes one or two loops. The garlic top is called a scape, garlic flower or top set, and contains a bulge, the umbel, where bulbils form.

    The standard wisdom has been that if you want all the plant’s energy to go into producing a large bulb, you snip the scape off after it has made one or two loops. However, in 2011 we discovered that not all varieties take kindly to this procedure. In particular, the Turban Variety of weakly bolting hardneck does much better if the scape is left on until it is time to harvest the bulb. Not only were the bulbs bigger, they were in better shape. Our practice now is to leave the scapes on all our true hardneck varieties at least until they have made two loops and to leave the scapes on most of the weakly bolting hardnecks even longer. We are balancing the shock to the garlic of having the scapes removed against the increased bulb size.

    If you want to use the bulbils to propagate more garlic, leave the plants in the ground later than your normal harvest and leave the bulbils in place until they are pushing their capsules open. Harvest and cure the bulbs and bulbils separately if you want to avoid getting soil on the bulbils. Visit our page on Growing Garlic from Bulbils for further information.

    Tip – Steam or Stir Fry Garlic Tops
    The garlic tops, called flowers or garlic scapes, are a gourmet delight! Steam them whole and serve with melted butter like asparagus. Cut them into short lengths to add to a stir fry. They have a delicate garlic flavour which gives a subtly different and delicious flavour to the sauce.

    Watering Garlic

    Garlic requires fairly even soil moisture during the growing season with no additional moisture during the last few weeks. Mulch is one way of maintaining an even moisture regime. Not enough moisture means that garlic does not develop a full sized bulb. Over-watering results in garlic with poor keeping qualities – poor wrappers, burst skins and mold. Also, it is harder to cure garlic that has been over-watered.

    One of the arts of garlic growing is knowing when and how much to water. We leave a couple of early scapes on each bed and when they stand up straight that is usually one of our signals to stop watering. We stop watering two to three weeks after cutting scapes.

    Tip – Do Not Over Water
    If you want to keep your garlic through the winter, it is safer to stop watering too soon than to try to get the last bit of size to the bulbs since over watering shortens the life of bulbs.

    Harvesting Garlic

    A few weeks before harvesting stop watering the garlic. Different growers have different rules of thumb regarding the best time to harvest. The dying back of the leaves is only an approximate indicator.

    To determine whether the garlic is ready to harvest inspect a few bulbs in the ground by carefully scraping away the dirt. You can feel the bumps of the cloves through the wrappers of a mature bulb.

    Lift the garlic from the ground when the bulb has reached a good size and before the wrappers begin to deteriorate or the bulbs begin to split open. If a bulb is not well-wrapped, and the skins on the cloves are not intact, the garlic will not keep well. Learning exactly when to stop watering and when to harvest is a matter of judgment that comes with experience.

    We have a late spring in our location in the mountains; we begin harvesting our earliest varieties in mid to late July. The main harvest continues into August, with the late varieties and spring planted beds being harvested in late August.

    We use a flat, narrow-bladed shovel to loosen the ground beside the garlic – we pierce fewer bulbs with it than we did with a fork – and lift the plants by hand. Be careful as garlic bruises easily.

    The last few years of growing garlic to sell we used an undercutter, which was an immense help. It took us until then to find machinery that would work well in our rocky soil.

    Garlic can get sunburned and some varieties of garlic change flavour when left in the sun and so we take each load of baskets of garlic into the curing barn as soon as it is harvested.

    For information on preparing garlic for sale or storage go to our Curing Garlic page.

    Tip for Harvesting Commercial Beds
    Undercutters save a lot of the hard work of harvesting garlic. We have rocky soil and most undercutters would not work. In 2017 we found a mulch lifter designed for rocky soil and we were very pleased with how well it undercut our garlic beds.

    Managing Garlic Beds for Pests and Disease

    There are a number of practices that minimize the risk of pests or disease. The ones we consider the most important are:

    • Use only clean, sound cloves from disease-free stock.
    • Carefully clean and sanitize all equipment for soil preparation, weeding, harvesting, handling and storing garlic.
    • Allow at least two years, and preferably longer, between successive crops in the allium family (garlic, onions, leeks, chives, elephant garlic).
    • During the growing season remove (rogue) plants that are not doing well and send suspicious plants to the dump. Sanitize your shovel after removing a suspicious plant.
    • Do not put your allium waste in the compost.

    Tips for Commercial Growers

    Do not share equipment with operations at risk for soil borne pests and diseases. Clean and sanitize equipment when moving from high risk areas to low risk areas.

    We recommend using a four or five year rotation if you can, with three or four years in non-allium crops.

    Burn the garlic waste, or bury it away from future garlic growing areas.

    Cookbook:Garlic

    Cookbook | Recipes | Ingredients | Vegetable | Herbs and Spices

    Garlic

    Garlic is a pungently odoriferous member of the allium family (like onions and leeks). Garlic is generally used as a spice or a seasoning rather than as a vegetable due to its extremely strong flavour.

    Garlic grows in large papery heads. A novice mistake is to massively overgarlic things by following instructions incorrectly. Remember that the large bulb of garlic you buy is NOT one ‘clove.’ The whole garlic is called a ‘head’ or ‘knob.’ Each small, individual segment of a garlic head is a clove.

    Storing Garlic

    Fresh garlic heads will keep for a long time as long as they are stored in a cool dark place. Do not keep them in the fridge or they will start to sprout and become bitter. They can be frozen without ill-effect, or simply stored in a dark cupboard away from moisture. Garlic braids should be hung to prevent crushing any of the cloves.

    If you want to store the cloves individually and ready for use, the garlic must be either dried or processed. One good way to freeze prepared garlic is to crush or mince it in a food processor and mix it with a little water, then freeze it in ice cube trays so you can get cubes out as needed. Otherwise it can be frozen in olive oil, or frozen whole.

    Never EVER store garlic in olive oil at room temperature or leave garlic in oil to sit on the counter. Because garlic is grown in the ground it is frequently contaminated with botulism spores, which are almost impossible to remove. These are harmless in their normal state, but because they are an anaerobic bacteria they will grow if the conditions are ‘right’ – i.e. submersed in oil and stored at room temperature. The spores can not grow in the cold, so freeze or refrigerate it, or better yet, store the garlic in vodka, wine or vinegar rather than oil.

    Preparing Garlic

    As a rule, the finer you chop or especially crush fresh garlic, the stronger the flavour will be. This is because the flavour compounds are released by breaking cell walls. It is usually crushed with the side of a knife (which also aids in peeling) or finely minced and used to season other dishes, especially Italian and French recipes. You can also use a garlic press, or bash it in a pestle and mortar with a bit of salt added to help reduce the garlic to a smooth paste. But it can also be used in slivers or as whole cloves, with a much milder result. Whole cloves are often roasted, and as they cook their flavour changes dramatically to become sweeter and less pungent.

    One way to avoid the problem of how much garlic to use in a recipe and how to prepare it without ruining a chopping board and smelling up the kitchen is to buy it precrushed or prechopped in a jar. This type of preprepared garlic keeps basically forever in the fridge or freezer, and the garlic odour can not penetrate the glass. It is milder and often sweeter than fresh garlic because the ‘garliciness’ declines slightly with time. Rubbing your hands underwater on any stainless steel utensil will remove garlic odor from them.

    Measurements

    For cooking purposes, garlic is often measured in “cloves”. A word of caution though: Depending on where you are in the world, an average clove can vary from 1 g to 6 g, not to mention the variations in taste. One should also consider the origin of the recipe.

    North American manufacturers of pre-packaged minced garlic consider 2.5 g per clove, although one clove of fresh garlic can easily go up to 6 g in stores. One teaspoon of minced garlic would contain the equivalent of 2 cloves.

    Recipes featuring garlic

    Many recipes use garlic, but those listed below feature garlic as a major contributor to the recipe. For more recipes using garlic, click the “What links here” link on the sidebar.

    • How to Roast Garlic
    • Le Tourin
    • Pesto
    • Tahini Goddess Dressing
    • Garlic Bread
    • Aioli

    Links

    Wikipedia has related information at Garlic

    For information about growing Garlic, see the chapter on Garlic in the Horticulture book.

    Benefits of Garlic

    Baked garlic and shallots with fino

    This is perfect for the spring, when the new season’s garlic arrives. Its soft cloves – encased in sweet papery casings – are gentle in flavour, and the heads can be roasted and eaten whole. They go beautifully with roasted shallots. Serve on grilled bread, with a spoonful or two of goat’s curd, or as an accompaniment to a simple roast chicken.

    Serves 4

    4 garlic bulbs
    8 banana shallots
    5 lemon thyme sprigs (or ordinary thyme)
    4 bay leaves
    600ml fresh chicken stock
    180ml fino sherry
    50g unsalted butter, in pieces
    50g parmesan, freshly grated
    Salt and black pepper

    1 Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/gas mark 4. Slice the garlic bulbs in half horizontally and place in a roasting tray. Halve the shallots, slip off their outer skins and add to the garlic. Season with salt and pepper, then scatter over the lemon thyme and bay leaves.

    2 Bring the chicken stock to the boil in a small pan, then pour over the garlic and shallots. Drizzle over the sherry.

    3 Cover the tray tightly with foil and roast in the oven for 40 minutes. Remove the foil and return to the oven for a further 15 minutes, until the shallots and garlic are golden brown and the stock has reduced down and thickened. Add the butter and parmesan and stir to combine. Taste, adjust the seasoning, and then serve.

    My Favourite Ingredients by Skye Gyngell (Quadrille). Order a copy for £11.99 with free UK p&p (save £3) from guardianbookshop.co.uk or call 0330 333 6846.

    Mellow garlic puree

    The longer you cook garlic, the mellower the flavour. If you want more of a punchy puree, only cook for 7 minutes. You can serve this puree with seared pigeon breasts, lamb’s kidneys or a sliver of salted anchovies on toast, or with lamb instead of mint sauce.

    Serves 4

    3 garlic bulbs, peeled
    About 200ml milk
    1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
    A few drops of sherry vinegar (optional)
    Salt and black pepper

    1 Place the peeled garlic in a small saucepan, and cover with the milk. Simmer the garlic for 10 minutes, until it is just soft. Add olive oil and salt and pepper.

    2 Strain and reserve the milk. Now, with a handheld blender, puree the garlic with the 6tbsp of milk. When smooth, add the sherry vinegar (if using) and check the seasoning.

    Adapted from Moro the Cookbook, by Sam and Sam Clark (Ebury Press)

    Quince aioli

    This fruity variation of aioli goes especially well with pork and lamb. It’s best to use a food processor or mixing bowl when you’re dealing with something as dense as membrillo, but if you’re just using a pestle and mortar, melt the membrillo down first with a tiny bit of water over a low heat. This will make it easier to incorporate the oil.

    Serves 4

    1 garlic clove
    250g membrillo (quince paste)
    150ml oil (equal parts extra virgin olive oil and sunflower oil)
    Lemon juice to taste
    Salt and black pepper

    1 Crush the garlic with a little salt in the pestle and mortar.

    2 Transfer to a food processor or bowl, and add the membrillo. Blend, and slowly add the oil in a thin stream, resting occasionally, until all the oil is incorporated. Add more salt, pepper and lemon juice to taste.

    Moro the Cookbook, by Sam and Sam Clark (Ebury Press)

    Caramelised garlic tart with an almond flour base

    Photograph: Yuki Sugiura for the Guardian

    Sweet caramelised garlic and butternut squash combine with creamy goat’s cheese and the aniseed flavours of tarragon to make a delicious, uniquely flavoured tart with a twist – we use ground almonds to make a nutritious and gluten-free crust.

    Serves 4-5

    For the pastry
    375g ground almonds
    1 tsp sea salt
    ½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
    ½ tbsp maple syrup
    30g butter, softened
    2 eggs

    For the filling
    250g butternut squash, skin on, deseeded
    3 medium bulbs garlic, cloves peeled
    30g butter
    1 tbsp maple syrup
    1 tbsp cider vinegar
    2 eggs
    7 tbsp full-fat yoghurt
    60g mature cheddar, grated
    70g goat’s cheese
    3 tsp chopped tarragon
    Salt and black pepper

    1 Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/gas mark 4 and roast the butternut squash in the oven for 40-50 minutes, cut-side up, until cooked through and tender.

    2 Mix the pastry ingredients together and roll into a 3mm-thick disc between two pieces of parchment paper. Line a 24cm ceramic tart dish with the almond pastry, trimming away the excess. Line with greaseproof paper, fill with baking beans and put into the fridge for 20 minutes.

    3 Bake for 10 minutes, remove the beans and bake for 10 minutes more. Set aside.

    4 Meanwhile, put the garlic in a small pan with a few tbsp of water. Simmer for a few minutes until almost tender. Add the butter, increase the heat and cook until the water has evaporated and the garlic is starting to brown.

    5 Add the maple syrup, cider vinegar and a pinch of sea salt and simmer for 10 minutes, until most of the liquid has evaporated and the cloves are coated in dark syrup.

    6 Peel the skin from the squash, chop into 2cm pieces and arrange in the tart base. Whisk the eggs, yoghurt and grated cheddar together with a pinch of salt and a few good grinds of black pepper and pour over the squash.

    7 Scatter pieces of goat’s cheese and caramelised garlic over the tart, drizzle over the syrup and sprinkle with the tarragon.

    8 Reduce heat to 170C/325F/gas mark 3 and bake the tart for 30 minutes, until it sets and the top goes golden brown. Eat warm or at room temperature with a crisp seasonal salad.

    Recipe supplied by Hemsley and Hemsley

    Tofu steak

    Cooked with a combination of garlic and leeks and dressed with banno soy sauce, this dish has the most amazing aroma.

    Serves 4

    For the banno soy sauce
    100ml mirin
    300ml soy sauce
    10cm-piece konbu seaweed, wiped of any salty deposits

    For the tofu steaks
    600g soft/silken tofu
    8 garlic cloves, finely chopped
    4-5 tbsp plain flour
    3-4 tbsp sunflower or vegetable oil
    Salt and black pepper

    To serve
    25g fresh ginger, finely grated
    50g spring onion, finely sliced
    A small handful of katsuobushi (dried fish flakes – optional)

    1 To make the banno soy sauce, bring the mirin to the boil in a small saucepan, then reduce the heat to low and cook for a further 2-3 minutes to burn off the alcohol. Remove from the heat and add the soy sauce and konbu. Leave to cool, then refrigerate.

    2 Drain the tofu and cut into four pieces, wiping off any water with a paper towel.

    3 Season the tofu on both sides with salt and pepper, then cover with the garlic.

    4 Lightly coat the tofu pieces in flour.

    5 Heat the oil in a frying pan and, when hot, add the tofu, cooking until it is crispy and browned on both sides.

    6 Garnish with ginger and spring onions and top with a sprinkling of katsuobushi, if using. Dress with the banno soy sauce to taste. Any soy sauce that’s left over will keep in the fridge in an airtight container for up to 3 weeks.

    Everyday Harumi by Harumi Kurihara (Conran Octopus). Order a copy for £16 with free UK p&p (save £4) from guardianbookshop.co.uk or call 0330 333 6846.

    Roasted garlic and butternut squash hummus with goat’s cheese

    The base of this hummus is made of butternut squash, which creates a sweet, light dip that is complemented by two sweet and aromatic roasted garlic bulbs.

    Serves 4-6

    A small/medium butternut squash (700-900g)
    4 tbsp olive oil, plus extra to rub on the squash and garlic and to serve
    2 garlic bulbs – about 25-30 cloves
    Lemon zest from ½ lemon and a generous squeeze of juice
    2 tbsp tahini
    10 sprigs of fresh thyme, leaves torn from stems
    A handful of flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
    50g creamy goat’s cheese
    Salt and black pepper

    1 Preheat oven to 200C/400F/gas mark 6. Cut the butternut squash in half and remove the seeds. Rub it with olive oil and a pinch of salt and pepper. Bake in the oven for 45-60 minutes, depending on size.

    2 Split the garlic into individual cloves but keep the peel on. Rub them with a little olive oil and bake for around 20-25 minutes beside the squash. Keep an eye on the garlic cloves – they should be tender and golden, not hard and burned.

    3 When everything is done, scoop out the flesh of the butternut squash and peel the garlic cloves. Place both in a blender and add the lemon zest and juice and tahini. Pulse until the garlic and squash are well combined. Transfer to a bowl.

    4 Add half the chopped parsley and season to taste with salt and pepper.

    5 Serve with crumbled goat’s cheese, a splash of olive oil and the rest of the fresh herbs scattered on top.

    Recipe supplied by Josephine Malene Kofod, atastylovestory.com

    Indonesian garlic fried chicken

    Photograph: Yuki Sugiura for the Guardian

    Of the many versions of ayam goreng (fried chicken) in Indonesia, this is the most delicious – crispy and toffee-brown on the outside, sweet and succulent on the inside – thanks to its unusual pre-frying marinade of garlic and palm vinegar.

    Serves 4

    1 whole chicken (1.4-1.6kg) cut into 10 pieces or 1.4kg chicken wings, thighs and/or drumsticks
    8 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
    250ml palm cider or rice vinegar
    1½ tsp sea salt
    Peanut oil, for frying

    1 Rinse the chicken under cold water, drain well and pat dry with a paper towel. Set aside.

    2 In a large bowl, combine the garlic, vinegar and salt. Add the chicken and combine well. Cover in clingfilm and leave to marinate in the fridge for 1-2 hours, stirring once or twice to ensure the marinade coats every piece.

    3 Remove the chicken pieces from the marinade and pat them thoroughly dry with a paper towel, gently squeezing each piece to remove excess liquid. Set aside.

    4 Add oil to a depth of 2½cm in a 30cm frying pan and place over a medium-high heat until hot but not smoking. Gently slide as many of the chicken pieces into the oil as will fit without touching (you’ll probably need to fry the chicken in two batches). After about 10 minutes, when the chicken has turned deep golden brown and crispy, turn it over and continue to fry – it should take 20-25 minutes in total. Test by poking a fork into the thickest portion and pressing down on it – the juices should run clear, not pink.

    5 Remove the chicken pieces and let them drain on a wire rack or paper towels for a few minutes before transferring to a serving platter. Serve immediately.

    Cradle of Flavor by James Oseland (WW Norton & Co)

    Korean pickled garlic

    Maneul jangajji is a traditional side dish in Korea. The garlic cloves are first soaked in a vinegar brine for a few days, before being pickled in a soy brine. Through this two-step process, the garlic loses much of its pungent bite and becomes slightly sweet and tangy.

    Makes 1 large jar

    500g fresh garlic (about 8–9 whole heads)

    For the vinegar brine
    150ml vinegar
    1 tbsp sea salt
    400ml water

    For the soy brine
    150ml soy sauce
    60ml vinegar
    3 tbsp sugar
    400ml water

    1 Separate the garlic cloves. Soak in hot water for 30 minutes or longer, which will help the skins come off easily. Peel and remove the root ends with a small knife. Rinse and drain. Add to a large sterilised pickling jar.

    2 Stir the vinegar brine ingredients together until the salt has dissolved and pour enough over the garlic cloves to submerge them. Secure the lid and leave to stand at room temperature for 5-7 days.

    3 Bring the soy brine ingredients to a boil, and gently boil for 5 minutes over a medium heat. Allow to cool completely.

    4 Drain the vinegar brine from the jar. Pour the cooled soy brine over the garlic cloves. Make sure all the garlic cloves are submerged. Close the lid tightly and leave to stand at room temperature for 2 weeks. The garlic can be eaten at this point, but it will taste better as it matures. Refrigerate after opening. The garlic cloves will keep for a few months.

    Recipe supplied by Hyosun Ro, koreanbapsang.com

    Sopa de Ajo

    Photograph: Yuki Sugiura for the Guardian

    This is a noble and sustaining soup found throughout Spain, especially in Castilla-La Mancha. Despite regional variations, the main ingredients of this soup are always the same: garlic, eggs, bread and paprika.

    Serves 4

    4 tbsp olive oil
    4-5 large garlic bulbs, broken into cloves with skin kept on
    100g cooking chorizo, cut into little pieces
    1 tsp fresh thyme leaves
    ½ tsp sweet smoked Spanish paprika
    1 litre chicken stock
    4 eggs
    8 slices ciabatta or sourdough bread, toasted and torn into rough pieces
    Salt and black pepper

    1 Heat the oil in a saucepan over a low heat. Add the garlic and fry gently for 15-20 minutes, stirring often, until the skins are golden brown and the flesh is soft. Remove with a slotted spoon.

    2 When slightly cool, squeeze out the sweet garlic flesh by hand (discarding the skins), puree and set aside.

    3 Meanwhile, add the chorizo to the pan and fry until crisp and caramelised.

    4 Add the thyme, fry for a few seconds, then add the pureed garlic. Stir well, add the paprika and pour on the chicken stock. Bring to a gentle simmer and season to taste.

    5 About 2 minutes before serving, poach the eggs in the soup and add the toasted bread. Taste once more and serve immediately.

    Moro the Cookbook, by Sam and Sam Clark (Ebury Press)

    Green garlic and scapes risotto

    If you live in a green-garlic and scape-less society you can use a bulb of normal garlic and a leek instead of the scapes (stems).

    Serves 2

    40g butter
    1 tbsp olive oil
    1 shallot, finely chopped
    4 rashers pancetta, thinly sliced
    1 bulb of new, young garlic, cloves peeled and halved lengthways
    100g arborio rice
    500ml chicken stock
    Half a head of romaine lettuce, chopped
    1 bunch garlic scapes (or 1 leek), finely chopped
    Juice of ½ a lime
    75g frozen green peas
    4 tbsp parmesan, grated

    1 In a saucepan melt two-thirds of the butter with the olive oil. Add the shallot, pancetta and green garlic cloves. Cook for about 5 minutes without allowing them to colour.

    2 Add the rice and stir thoroughly for a minute or so. Now add the warm stock, a ladleful at a time, stirring in between and allowing a few minutes for the rice to cook before adding the next ladleful. After about 10 minutes add the chopped lettuce and stir.

    3 Once the lettuce has wilted, add the chopped scapes or leek.

    4 Add the lime juice and stir in the peas. Check the rice and add a little more water if needed. Cook for a few minutes more, stirring continuously, until the peas are hot and the rice is tender.

    5 Add the cheese and the remaining knob of butter and serve immediately.

    Recipe supplied by Marie Viljoen, 66squarefeetfood.blogspot.co.uk

    Photo: Penny Woodward

    In most states you have another couple of weeks to get your garlic into the ground. Make sure the garlic you want to plant comes from an organic supplier or market gardener, as supermarket garlic is often sprayed with sprout inhibitors to prolong storage life. Unfortunately this means that cloves don’t spout at the right time and this often results in them rotting in the soil.

    Garlic likes well-drained soil with lots of organic matter but not too much nitrogen. If your soil is acidic then add some lime and make sure your garlic patch is in full sun.

    When you are ready to plant, crack the garlic bulbs into the individual cloves and plant the biggest cloves. If you are planting a softneck with lots of small internal cloves, don’t bother planting these cloves as you will probably end up with rounds instead of bulbs. A round is one single solid bulb, instead of one being made up of cloves. Rounds are still delicious to eat, or can be replanted the following year and will then produce and bulb with cloves. You may also get rounds if you plant too late in the season, which is why you need to get your garlic in now!

    Plant your cloves about 2cm deep. If you are in a really cold climate go a little deeper. If you are going to mulch you can plant just under the soil. Make sure the base plate points down and the pointy growing tip points up. Space the cloves 15–20cm apart in both directions. Cover the cloves with soil, sprinkle some blood and bone or other slow-release organic fertiliser over the top and water well. Don’t water again until the cloves have sprouted.

    I always mulch my garlic, adding about 5cm of open mulch either just after I have planted and watered, or waiting until the green shoots appear and then mulching. If it looks like a wet autumn then I wait and mulch once the cloves have sprouted. The rain can cause the mulch to matt, making it more difficult for the shoots to push through. Mulching not only helps to retain moisture in the soil, but more importantly keeps weeds under control. Garlic hates having to compete with weeds.

    Once this is done, just sit back and watch your garlic grow. Top dress again with a bit of blood and bone in late winter, and water with seaweed extract every couple of weeks from mid-winter onwards, alternating with dilute fish emulsion every other fortnight. In seven months start checking your garlic and looking to see if it’s ready to harvest and cure. This leaves you with plenty of time to contemplate eating your own spicy fragrant garlic.

    If you are fascinated by garlic, or are thinking of growing garlic for sale (you don’t need much space to grow a commercial crop), you might want to come along to the Australian Garlic Industry Association (AGIA) seminar from 4–6 August in Albury. Here you can not only learn from experts how to identify, grow and market garlic, but also chat to other growers and enthusiasts over dinner or a cuppa. To find out more go to the AGIA website and click on the link on the home page.

    By: Penny Woodward

    First published: April 2014

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