Allium Group I

The vegetables in this group (elephant garlic, garlic, and shallots) reproduce by making an underground head of cloves. Garlic and elephant garlic are 2 different species, but they are much alike in their cultivation and use.

The Garlic Press is a quarterly newsletter ($15/yr) published by the Garlic Seed Foundation. It covers tours, festivals, and research. David Stern, foundation director, maintains their garlic library and bibliography and networks with growers and researchers worldwide. He also answers specific questions: 315-587-9787; Rose Valley Farm, PO Box 149, Rose, NY 14542-0149.

elephant Garlic: Elephant garlic (Allium scorodopra-sum or Allium ampeloprasum) is a different species from regular garlic. Elephant garlic is significantly hardier than regular and can be grown as a perennial in most places. The plants are larger and require more garden space. The heads and cloves are much larger and are so mild that they can be used raw in salads or substituted in any onion recipe; they taste like a garlic-flavored onion. Other than that, grow and use like regular garlic.

garlic: Allium sativum has flat, grasslike leaves that grow 1-2 feet tall. Garlic is a hardy perennial (though usually grown like an annual), the strongest member of the onion family in its sulfide of allyl content—that good stuff that acts as'wormer, disinfectant, etc. Shallots, its closest relative, are basically a mild-flavored garlic variety. Like shallots, garlic blooms (pink flowers), but it may or may not make seed depending on the variety and circumstances.

Instead garlic is usually propagated by garlic bulbs or "heads" that grow underground (roots go as deep as 2 feet). Each head is made up of a cluster of smaller ones, each called a "clove." Garlic is a type of onion, a semihardy perennial that, since it's not damaged by frost or light freezing, can be left in the garden over winter in the Pacific climate—or can be dug up and stored like onions. It's grown both for the kitchen garden and for commercial sale (it yields a good profit from a very small acreage). Store-bought garlic is usually too dry to plant. Buy a cluster of garlic cloves from a plant nursery or mail-order source.

There's more info in Growing Great Garlic: The Definitive Guide for Organic Gardeners and Small Farmers, by Ron L. Engeland (1991); 509-422-6940; [email protected] net; www.filareefarm.com. Ron also sells organic seed garlic. Irish Eyes-Garden City Seeds offers 40 kinds of garlic, including Red German garlic, favored for fine flavor, ease of peeling, and specialization where winters are cold; or Spanish Roja garlic, whose bulb wrappers have a light purple streaking; or Sicilian garlic, which is basically nonbolting. Other sources of seed garlic are The Montana Garlic Farm (406-932-4828; PO Box 1283, Big Timber, MT 59011) and Jim Baiar (406-892-4409; 490 Halfmoon Rd., Columbia Falls, MT 59912; [email protected]). Planting and Growing. For either garlic or elephant garlic: Plant in well-drained soil, pH 5.5 to 6.8. Garlic plants need full sun; fertile, moist soil; and a loose, even sandy or highhumus soil so the bulbs can easily spread out and grow. The best time of year to plant is late August to mid-October because garlic grows best during cool weather; during the fall and spring it will store energy with which it will ultimately make the cloves. If you want to plant in spring, do it as soon as the ground is no longer frozen (probably early

March). Plant where you want it to grow; garlic doesn't transplant. Garlic can thrive in a window box; a pot is too small for it.

In general, use 2 lb. of cloves (about 150 cloves to the pound) for each 50-foot row you want to plant. Plant individual cloves, or plant 2-3 cloves per site to compensate for nongrowers. Plant with their points up! And have those points sticking out of the ground just a bit, or else very, very shallowly covered with soil. Roots will grow from the bottom end of the clove. Plant each 2-3 inches deep and 3 inches apart in a row, bed, or wide row. Plant very shallow if you're planting on the late side of spring, but garlic needs cool temperatures while it's getting started (and heat while it's making bulbs). Or you can plant in the fall for a very northern garden (Canada) or for an earlier-maturing, larger-bulbed crop. Two pounds averages 300 cloves, which would plant about a 100-foot row. One planted clove will yield an average head of 15 cloves. Garlic is a good thing in your garden: It repels many insects and is compatible with most vegetables. For this reason and also because the garlic plant doesn't take up much space, it's often interplanted with vegetables (any kind but legumes, which it inhibits) or flowers (especially roses). Weed and loosen the soil around them with your hoe to help the heads grow and expand. Don't let them get dry. Garlic should be kept free of weeds. Harvesting and Drying. You can cut and use the thin shoots like chives (another onion relative); a leaf or two now and then will do no harm. Once your garlic leaves get a foot high, stop watering. Harvest bulbs as soon as the leaves die and fall over (about August). Like onions, garlic doesn't make cloves until the last minute, the last 45 days of its growing season. To hurry them, knock over the above-ground shoots 90-110 days after planting. Don't cut off the leaves if you want to braid. In a few days you'll be able to loosen the dirt and pull up the whole plant. After digging, wash them well and let them dry in the sun until they are white (about a week).

Saving Bulbs/Seeds. Garlic will sometimes send up a tough stalk that flowers and makes seed. Sometimes the flowers contain little bulbs that look like tree onion top-sets. A better way is to divide and plant the cloves. Bulbs to save for seed should be dried at a day temp of less than 100°F, or in the shade. Garlic bulbs need a period of chill of at least 8 weeks, not below freezing but between 32°F and 50°F, before you plant them. The little skinny center cloves aren't so good for planting.

Storing for Kitchen Use. Dust off, trim off roots, and store in mesh or paper bags. They'll stay good that way at least several months, longer if your humidity is low. Bulbs for winter kitchen use are nice braided together by their dried stems and hung. Commercial garlic is stored at 35-40°F, 60-70 percent humidity, and can last 6-8 months. Cooking with Garlic. Peel off a clove's papery outer layer and use the clove whole, chopped, minced, or crushed in a garlic press. In the kitchen, rub it on meat or add to salad dressing or tomato sauce. If your garlic gets a bitter taste when cooked, you cooked it over too high a heat. Garlic needs less time to cook than onions. Add the garlic after the onions. Garlic's good for you, and you can use more than you may think. A gourmet recipe calls for 2 lb. garlic plus 1 chicken. You can use 10 cloves per 1 qt. soup, 4 cloves per 1 meal-sized batch of spaghetti sauce, 3 in a salad dressing.

Or add to pickle mixtures. For more garlic recipes, read The Great Garlic Cookbook by Barbara Friedlander (Macmillan, 1975). Incidentally, the old-time cure for garlic breath is to chew raw parsley or celery leaves!

<i> GARLIC POWDER Peel cloves; slice or chop, dry (120°F), and then grind or mortar or pound them into a powder. Homemade is usually stronger than store-bought. But dried garlic just isn't as good as fresh. Instead make ...

<i> GARLIC BUTTER/BREAD Mince 3 cloves garlic. Mix with Vi c. melted butter. Add other herbs as desired. Let steep an hour. Spread on sliced French bread, heat under the broiler, and serve hot1

VETERINARIANS' WEDDING ROAST I attended the marriage of 2 vet students. The main course was 2 stuffed, roasted turkeys, each basted and injected numerous times with garlic butter while roasting. One lb. garlic cloves had been whipped small and smooth in a blender. Then they were crushed, strained, and mixed with 2 lb. melted butter. The garlic butter was then injected into the barbecuing meat at various points and times with a regular vet syringe, which had a suitably large hypodermic needle! (The students told me they often do the same with other roasts besides turkey and with other liquids, such as red or white wine.)

<i> GARLIC PRESERVED IN OIL Peel and mince I head of garlic. Mix with vegetable oil. Store in a covered glass jar in fridge. It will stay good for months. A quarter teaspoon of this equals I garlic clove in a recipe.

<i> QUICK GARLIC SOUP Heat 12 cloves crushed garlic for about 8 minutes in 3 c. rich milk

ROAST GARLIC SPREAD Cut the tips off a whole head of garlic (don't peel or separate cloves). Wrap the head in foil; bake at 350°F until cloves get soft and pulpy. Squeeze the mush onto crackers, toast or good fresh bread. From The Good Food Guide, edited by Lane Morgan (Sasquatch Books, 1992).

Garlic as Medicine. Garlic has genuine antibiotic properties. Garlic juice, lemon juice, and some sweetening mixed in a cup of warm water are good for a sore throat. Garlic juice applied to ant bites helps make the pain go away. For a patient with a chest cold, mix garlic juice and a vapor rub ointment. Smooth that on a square of cloth, cover with another cloth, and place on chest. Garlic is also a diuretic that thins blood and lowers blood pressure. To prevent travelers' dysentery, eat a clove per day. It has been used to treat patients (humans and animals) who need worming and has no toxic side effects. To worm a large cat, give one crushed clove each month. So whether you use it for medical or culinary reasons, have at it!

GARLIC GARDEN SPRAY To fight insects and plant blights, blend several garlic cloves with some water and I T. cooking oil or soap emulsion. Strain. Dilute to I qt. and spray on. It works very well but must be done very often if you're in a serious battle situation.

shallots: Shallots are a perennial member of the onion family. Their Latin name is Allium ascalonicum or Allium cepa, Ageratum group, depending on whom you ask. Shallots are a very close relative of garlic, easy to grow and generously productive. They are a hardy, temperate-zone plant. Like garlic, they reproduce by bulb division underground.

The "nest" of 3-10 or more shallot bulbs resembles a head of garlic cloves except that there are fewer cloves and no outer covering, unlike garlic. Shallots are basically a very mild-flavored garlic variety (see "Garlic"). The shoots grow about 8 inches tall and can be harvested and used like a green onion. Shallots do very well in a container. Varieties. All shallots have hollow leaves, grow about a foot and a half tall, and make cloves. But some have purple flowers, some white; the best types don't flower or make seed at all.

Planting. Shallots would be a hardy perennial if you left them in the garden. But they are so easy to harvest and store indoors over winter that people usually grow them like an annual. Planting early—like February—is fine because they will germinate even despite low temperatures and are not harmed by freezing. An early start is advisable because they grow only from planting time until just past midsummer anyway, and they need about 100 days to get to maturity. So plant shallot cloves early in the spring, or else in the fall. Fall planting is best if your area has hot summers; in southern zones, plant them in the fall for a winter crop. Plant them 4 to 6 inches apart, pointed end up, and deep enough to get them at least a little covered. In a container, plant 1-2 bulbs per 6-inch pot, 4 per 12-inch pot. The dirt should be at least 8 inches deep. Place in full sun or a sunny window. The soil should be fertile, well-drained, and of average pH.

Harvesting. What you harvest is the bulbs; 8 to 15 will grow per each shallot you have planted. Wait until leaves die back and turn yellow-brown; then pull up, lifting the nest of bulbs out of the soil, and sun-dry it for 2-3 days. Cut off tops. Store as you would globe onions (in hanging stockings or net bags), braid like garlic, or put in an open-topped basket in a root cellar, where it is dry and cool. They actually keep better than the big onions. You can either leave some in the ground to keep them coming or save some of your harvest to plant next spring. Using. Peel the clove as you would garlic. Use the same way you would an onion bulb to flavor foods, salads, or egg dishes.

NOTE: Unlike regular onions, shallots shouldn't be fried to the point of browning; that makes them develop a bitter taste.

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