Made at Home Vegetables, by Dick Strawbridge and James Strawbridge (Mitchell Beazley, 2012), proves just how productively green you can be all year round. Whether you have a tiny urban plot, a terrace, a community garden allotment or plenty of space in your own garden, growing your own vegetables is one of the easiest ways to transform the way you eat. The following excerpt from the chapter "Summer" teaches you how to grow and harvest garlic.
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Garlic must be one of the most common flavourings in cooking — it may have originated in central Asia, but it has been embraced by cooks all over the world. Most people have garlic in their kitchen, and what better way to ensure a ready supply than to grow it yourself? If you do decide to give it a go, you will also have the opportunity to use it while it’s fresh, or green, and you’ll discover that its mild flavour is a real pleasure to cook with. Garlic is really easy to grow, so give it a try.
There are lots of different types of garlic — some can be as hot as chilli, while others are so mild you could almost eat them like apples. It all comes down to personal choice. There is something very satisfying about growing large, juicy garlic bulbs, not least because there is less peeling required when it comes to cooking.
Buy your seed garlic from a recognized seed merchant to ensure you have a fighting chance of producing the tastiest produce. Some people suggest that any bulb of garlic can be split into cloves and planted; however, there is nothing so frustrating as waiting for 9 months only to have rather disappointing little bulbs.
Plant your garlic in blocks or rows in well-drained soil, which needs to be dug over and weeded in advance. When you split the bulb, take care not to damage the individual cloves. Press each clove into the ground about 15cm (6 inches) apart to have plenty of space for hoeing.
You can overwinter your garlic by planting it from late autumn up to mid winter.
In dry spells, growing garlic will benefit from a little watering, but apart from that it’s just a matter of keeping the weeds down.
Pests & Diseases
Like all members of the allium family, garlic can suffer from ‘rust,’ a fungal disease that leads to powdery orange spots on the leaves. Mild attacks won’t affect the quality of the bulbs, if caught early enough. But in more serious cases, the only answer is to lift out the crop (don’t compost the leaves) and keep the bed free of alliums for at least 3 years.
During the growing season, you can snip off some of the plants’ green leaves to use in salads. When the stalks turn yellow in summer, pull up the mature plants and put them on a rack to dry. Rather than waiting for the garlic to mature, you can harvest it when it is young (known as ‘green’). The bulbs just need to be peeled, sliced and used as you would shallots or the mature garlic.
Garlic bulbs can be plaited or bunched once the stalks have dried out. Store your garlic in a light area with good air circulation, as keeping it in a dark place may encourage it to sprout fresh green shoots. Consume within 6 months.
With garlic, sometimes less can be more: try rubbing the sides of a salad bowl with a peeled clove before putting your ingredients in. Alternatively, you could try roasting the whole bulbs for 30 minutes at 180°C (350°F), Gas Mark 4. Mash the roasted bulbs with a fork, leave the puree to cool, then use it in sauces and salad dressings.
More from Made at Home Vegetables
• Garlic Pizzas Recipe
• Grow Your Own Sweetcorn in the Summer
• Sweetcorn Fritters With Salsa and Lime Mayo Recipe
• How to Grow Fennel
• Roasted Fennel With Blue Cheese and Chestnuts Recipe
• Grow White and Purple Kohlrabi
• Kohlrabi Coleslaw Recipe
Reprinted with permission from Made at Home Vegetables, by Dick Strawbridge and James Strawbridge, and published by Mitchell Beazley, 2012. Buy this book from our store: Made at Home Vegetables.