Recently I wrote about homemade cold remedy, and homemade chicken broth. Here is the details on another great herb. Garlic.
Garlic is closely related to onion, shallot, leek, chives and rakkyo and has been used by humans for some 7,000 years. Originally from Asia, it has spread all around the world and is used in both culinary and medical applications.
Garlic today is available in many forms, including fresh, frozen, dried, fermented, (black garlic) freeze dried, and shelf stable products (in tubes or jars). Personally fresh garlic, or home dried is the best option.
Garlic is easy to grow and will grow in most areas of the US. While it can reproduce naturally using pollination from a male and female plant, most grown garlic is used by planting a clove from the bulb. One bulb can plant 10-20 new garlic plants. Garlic is typically planted in fall about six weeks before the first frost and deep enough to not go through many freeze thaw cycles as it will develop mold and rot. It is then harvested in the spring. Garlic doesn’t have too many enemies in the pest world, and is actually great to plant near other plants which are more susceptible. We planted garlic around the roses this year and have noticed a significant decrease in pests. You can also do this around more susceptible plants in your vegetable garden. Garlic can be places fairly close together as long as there is enough room for the bulbs to mature. It likes loose, dry, well drained soils in sunny areas. The best USDA zones for planting are 4-9 but don’t let that stop you from trying if you are outside that zone. If I am close to the zone boundary of a plant I will at least give it a try. There are many techniques using permaculture that can elevate your current zone 2-3 zones higher. Example you can get an extra zone using rocks around the base of a tree to increase 1 zone going from 5 to 6. Or a hoop house can get you as many as 3 zones. From 5 to 8.
You can not only eat the bulbs or cloves, but you can also eat the leaves and flowers. Both have milder flavor than the bulbs, but is still usable in many dishes. Garlic has so many uses in the kitchen they are almost endless. You can eat it raw, sautéed, roasted, infused in oils, toppings and that is just a few. My favorite (although my family hates it when I do this) is to roast it in a terracotta roaster. Take a bulb or elephant garlic, cut the top, and roast it. Drizzle with a little extra virgin olive oil, and eat right out of the peels. The reason my family hates it, is I already eat a lot of garlic. From adding to my scrambled eggs, with a little goat cheese and herbs, to minced raw garlic topping on my salad, to garlic herb butter on my steak. Eating roasted puts me over the edge. I start to ooze garlic out my pores. I smell like walking garlic for a few days until it works out of my system. Apparently can smell from a few feet away. I never notice.
As I said in an earlier post garlic is a component in the cold remedy. Garlic has been known to repel parasites, aid in digestion, antimicrobial, antibacterial, improve respiratory problems, and improve low energy. It has been shown to improve cardiovascular and cholesterol related issues. It has shown in some studies to increase good cholesterol and decrease bad cholesterol. Some studies have shown that regular use of garlic in the diet can reduce high blood pressure and even regulate blood sugar levels. During World War II it was used as an antiseptic. Garlic has been used to treat infections, and administered for treatment of chest colds, digestive disorders, and fungal infections such as thrush. Garlic has also been successful in China in treating AIDS patients with certain types of infections and ailments.
The sticky juice of the garlic has been used to glue glass and porcelain together, and even as an insecticide in organic gardening with diluted and sprayed over plants.
If you are looking to add garlic to your gardens, whether it is vegetable or ornamental gardens, fall is the time to buy. A little bit of garlic can go a long way. 1lb of garlic bulbs can yield 10 lbs of garlic next spring. If not wanting to plant garlic to eat, perhaps just plant as insect and pest control. It is also good against molds, and bacteria and viruses that attack ornamental plants. The less people spray they better off we will all be. While I think of garlic as a wonder plant/herb my family is not so keen on the herb. As my wife says “Everything in moderation, and honey…you over did the garlic again… you are banned until you stop stinking.” Yet I don’t get sick very often, and can eat all kinds of food not good for me (mmm fried foods). My cholesterol is low, and I have really low blood pressure for someone my age, weight, and dietary intake. Now there is an idea. Combine my favorite. Fried garlic in some way? Off to the kitchen to experiment…while the wife is still at work.