Shallots are for babies, onions are for men, garlic is for heroes...Besides the incredible flavour it adds to food, garlic is said to have given strength to the pyramid builders, courage to Roman legions and fighting spirit to English game cocks. I'm not too sure about these magical powers but what is undeniable is garlic's medicinal action. It is a powerful antiseptic and fungicide and has a long and documented history of efficacy when used both externally and internally.
If you take heed of advice from experienced gardeners, Anzac Day is THE day to plant your garlic. The saying goes that you should plant on Anzac Day and harvest on Remembrance Day for the best garlic crop. If you hadn't planned to grow garlic this season, maybe I can convince you otherwise. I mean, this really is one of the easiest edibles to grow and will even suit small spaces and pots.
Garlic is a super companion to plant around the garden. It accumulates sulphur in the soil, a natural fungicide, making it the ideal companion for roses, tomatoes and most fruit trees. On top of this, a whole lot of non beneficial bugs really DO NOT like garlic - aphids, red spider mites, cabbage moths and thrips among others. So it's also a great mate for carrots, beetroots, spinach, lettuces and all brassica crops (broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower and brussel sprouts). The only vegies that don't seem to like it are beans, peas and asparagus. It seems to stunt their growth.
Still not convinced? Okay then...call me a tight a$$ but organic Australian garlic can be really expensive! Last I checked it was up around $45 a kilo. Why pay this for something that grows with such little effort and stores so well? Unless of course it's to plant out your own and never have to buy garlic again.
Garlic will tolerate some shade but prefers full sun and light well drained soil enriched with plenty of organic matter. Source some good quality organic garlic, break up the bulbs into individual cloves and plant them 10cm apart, a thumb length deep - pointy end up. Cover them with a deep layer of mulch (pea straw works well) and water in. Traditionally garlic is planted before winter in temperate regions so if you're attempting this in the tropics, you will still plant in autumn and grow them through winter (your dry season) but you may want to let the cloves languish in your fridge for a few weeks before you plant them out. No need for this down south however. They will sprout and then slow their growth through winter, taking off again as soon as the weather warms up. Foliar feed in spring with a seaweed solution then let them grow and flower. You can usually pick the bulbs once the flowers start to die off (which should be around Remembrance Day).
As soon as you harvest your bulbs, lay or hang them somewhere cool, dark and dry. We have an old roofrack in the shed for this purpose. Old spring bed bases work pretty good too. I lay them out with the leaves still attached because I like to plait them into a thick braid when they're dry but this can be a bit fiddly and doesn't always work so you can just trim the roots and leaves (leave a couple of inches of the stem and leave the most of the papery outer layers on or they don't keep so well) and store them in hessian sacks or jute string bags.
My absolute tops, number one, favourite garlic recipe is THIS mushroom soup. I lucked out with this one after a mushroom kit we were growing went nuts and all of a sudden I had a kilo of mushrooms to deal with pronto. Seriously...if you like mushrooms, you have to try this. After I took this photo, my eldest polished off the whole bowl and declared it the bestest soup ever... and he does NOT like mushrooms. Proof positive that garlic makes everything better.
1 x kilo of roughly chopped mushrooms
6 x cloves of chopped garlic
1 x chopped red onion
1 x big bunch of parsley (yep, you guessed it... chopped)
a whole lot of butter (look, it's really up to you but I use at least 160g, if not more)
1 x litre of stock
Using a nice deep soup pot, saute onions and garlic in the butter then add mushrooms and cook for a few minutes, stirring the butter through and softening up the mushrooms. Add the parsley and stock and allow to simmer for about ten minutes. Zizz with a stick mixer or whatever your tool of choice is for zizzing. Serve with a dollop of cream and try not to eat the whole pot in one sitting.
Enjoy planting or simply eating your garlic this Anzac weekend...
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