By Betty Jo Cahill, Colorado Master GardenerSM, Colorado State University Cooperative Extension, Denver County
The culturally diverse diet of Americans today has made garlic an increasingly popular crop in the home garden.
Garlic hails from Central Asia and was cultivated in Mediterranean countries over 5000 years ago. Greeks and Romans delighted in its flavor and powers of strength. It was reported that gladiators consumed it before battle, while Egyptian slaves ate it to give them strength to build pyramids.
Biologist Louis Pasteur tested garlic on a petri dish full of garlic. He was surprised to learn that the garlic killed troublesome microorganisms. In the 1950s, Dr. Albert Schweitzer used garlic to treat typhus, dysentery and cholera while working as a missionary in Africa. Garlic was also used in World War I and II as a disinfectant (before the availability of antibiotics) on wounds. The Soviet army used it so much that it became known as "Russian Penicillin."
Nutritionally, garlic is a great source of Vitamins A and C, potassium, phosphorous, selenium, and a number of amino acids. Research continues on garlics ability to maintain healthy cholesterol levels.
Types of Garlic
Garlic is one of 700 species of Allium or onion. There are three kinds of garlic:
Although garlic is considered a perennial it is usually grown as an annual. It grows 1 to 3 feet in height. The recommended planting time for colder regions is fall, 4 to 6 weeks before the first frost date. This allows the root to develop over the winter. The soil should be well amended and free draining. Work in a 5-10-10 fertilizer prior to planting. Garlic prefers full sun, but will tolerate light shade.
Separate bulbs into cloves. Use the largest cloves for planting, as smaller cloves produce smaller bulbs. Push the cloves with the root end down, 1 to 2 inches into the soil, about 6 inches apart. Mulch the cloves to prevent heaving during the winter months.
Some top growth may be experienced when first planted, which is fine, new leaves will appear in the spring. Be sure to pinch the coiled scapes on hardneck varieties to produce larger bulbs.
Harvesting and Storing
Garlic is ready for harvesting mid-summer. Wait for the foliage to die off and turn brown. Be careful not to cut into the bulb when lifting the bulbs for harvest. Use a pitchfork and bring up the entire bulb.
Dry garlic in a dry, warm, dark, airy place for a few weeks. Cut the stalks about an inch above the bulb and store in open mesh bags at room temperature. Save a few of your largest bulbs for next years planting.
Garlic is a wonderful addition for stews, sauces, dips, pasta dishes, salad dressings and stir-fries. Garlic leaves may also be used fresh, just snip and add to your favorite dish. Roast unpeeled cloves in the oven at 350 degrees for 15 minutes, then peel and eat or mash into potatoes or butter and enjoy!
Photos: Judy Sedbrook
© CSU/Denver County Extension Master Gardener 2010
888 E. Iliff Avenue, Denver, CO 80210
Date last revised: 01/05/2010