Updated: Nov 10, 2022
A must-have ingredient, worth growing in the backyard and never leaving behind!
I love growing my own garlic for many reasons. I might not always have success with every type of fruit or veggie in the garden but these alliums easily do very well each season. As a must-have ingredient in the kitchen, I make sure I plant enough of them to enjoy the harvest all year. Reading that most imported garlic from the supermarket is grown with harmful chemicals and who knows what type of fertiliser, I really appreciate having the opportunity to consume organically grown varieties. Garlic contains many health benefits and helps boost the immune system. And yes, we need it! Garlic brings a distinct flavour to meals, and countries around the world use it in many ways. While the "Black Summer" (2019-20) was just beginning, I pulled out the most beautiful big garlic heads I’ve ever grown. Just when I finished brushing them all, the holiday season went smoky as a result of the bushfires happening in the region. When we evacuated from the threat, we just took with us the most important things: passports, personal belongings, hard drives, cameras, a cat, a baby chook… and my pretty garlic bunches! Yes… I was glad to have them as they made something nice to give to our lovely hosts giving us shelter. We finally got back home, all safe and sound and I made this garlic photo session with what I had left, and here they are. I bet they have been our lucky charms!
Shooting the "survivor" garlic • Photography © Bottle and Brush Studio 2020
GROWING & COOKING TIPS
In the garden, I’ve experimented with different cultivars and the hard neck type seems to do better in our cool climate zone. My winning variety has some purple on the peel and has a lovely strong taste. I never had pest or disease problems with them, and they themselves can repel unwanted bugs, like how the famed garlic breath does. As sown in some good rich draining soil in late autumn (May here), the winter rain does most of the job so there is nothing to do except mulching and weeding (garlic hate competition). Later in the season, the “spears” or “scapes” (which is the flower stem of the hard neck varieties) start to shoot and when long enough they can be cut as needed for cooking. Removing the scapes is also good as the growth will concentrate on the bulb. When the plants start to die out, that is time to pull out the garlic heads. In early December, all my bunches are hanging to dry under the roof of my terrace… no vampires will come and bother us until Xmas time! Then I brush them to remove any remaining dirt, cut the leaves and hairy roots, and store them at room temperature in a cool, dry, ventilated and dark place. They can keep for 5-6 months before sprouting if well stored. I don’t need to give any cooking tips here as it is such a universal ingredient but I use garlic in many recipes like this delicious Garlic and Herbs Roast Chicken. Growing your own or finding some locally grown garlic at a farmer’s market near you is surely good for yourself, the environment and for supporting local and smaller-scale farming.
Cooking with the backyard garlic • Photography © Bottle and Brush Studio 2019-22
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