Garlic is rich in antioxidants, minerals and vitamins

September 6, 2017

It is home to the first mail-order business (Montgomery Ward & Co.), the first skyscraper, the first blood bank, and even the original Ferris wheel built for the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition. Chicago may be the windy city, but is it actually the garlic city? It is said that Chicago got its name from the American Indian word for the wild garlic growing around Lake Michigan - "chicagaoua." 

Whether or not you are in Chicago, fall is the ideal time to plant garlic. Each bulb is made up of individual cloves or sections, and each clove will grow into a a full new bulb. The larger the cloves you plant, the larger the bulbs will be next year. 

Plant garlic in rich, well-drained soil that has a lot of organic matter. Garlic grows great in raised beds and even large pots. Set each clove flat end down with the pointed end up. Bury cloves about two inches deep, six to eight inches apart. You can cover the newly planted garlic with up to six inches of light mulch. In four to six weeks after planting, the garlic will shoot up and grow right through the mulch. 

Don't worry, the plants will stop growing as soon as winter hits but start growing again in early spring, often while there is snow still on the ground. 

Carefully pull the mulch back around the plants in the spring to let the soil warm up. Replace the mulch to keep soil moisture in and weeds out. Garlic really needs to be in a weed-free bed for best results. If spring is dry, water garlic with an inch of water every week while it is actively growing. Stop watering in early June to let the bulbs firm up. 

It is early summer when garlic sprouts the flower stalks or scapes. Cut them off so the garlic sends it energy to forming bulbs. The scapes will add a mild garlic flavor to soups and stir fries. Once most of the leaves turn yellow in midsummer, you can begin harvesting. Use a garden fork to gently lift the bulbs. 

To dry or cure garlic bulbs, tie them into bundles or put them in a loose mesh bag and hang them up in an unheated garage or dry basement out of the sun. After drying thoroughly, cut off the roots and trim the stalks to about two inches long. 

Garlic (Allium sativum) is rich in antioxidants, minerals and vitamins, with high levels of potassium, calcium, iron, magnesium, manganese, zinc, selenium and Vitamin C. 

Once it is cut open, raw garlic's thiosulfinate compounds change into allicin, with strong antibiotic and antifungal properties.

No wonder the ancient Egyptians had 22 different medicinal uses for garlic. It is believed that allicin helps lower cholesterol levels and combats heart disease. It also aids the body in releasing nitric oxide in the blood vessels, relaxing the blood vessels and lowering blood pressure. 

You can remove the smell of garlic from your hands by running cold water over your hands while rubbing a stainless steel.

So plant garlic now for next year's harvest, and enjoy garlic in soups, stews, omelets and even garlic ice cream - perhaps while riding a Ferris wheel.

  • Paul Barbano writes about gardening from his home in Rehoboth Beach. Contact him by writing to P. O. Box 213, Lewes, DE 19958.

Subscribe to the Daily Newsletter