Garlic has received a lot of good press over the years, and I’m not talking about its reputation for repelling vampires.
The internet is littered with lists of the amazing things garlic can do for you. It can treat hair loss, acne, cold sores and Athlete’s foot — and it’s a great fishing lure, according to one 13-item list of “surprising benefits” by Reader’s Digest.
“A town in Iowa used donated garlic salt to remove ice from roadways,” the story says. Crews dumped 9 tons of garlic salt on the roads in a Des Moines suburb, causing a bit of a stink, according to NPR.
Researchers have substantiated some of the plethora of positive health claims about garlic. It has been shown to improve cardiovascular health by reducing blood pressure and preventing atherolsclerosis. But I suspect a lot of people eat it simply because it adds wonderful flavor to food.
It’s easy to grow — and fall is the time to plant it, says Debbie Courson Smith, a University of Idaho advanced master gardener. You can also plant it in the spring but the bulbs won’t be near as big at harvest time.
In this week’s Dig In garden video, Debbie advises gardeners to always buy certified seed garlic from nurseries and garden stores. Planting a clove from the grocery store in your backyard is not just illegal in much of Idaho, it could have ramifications that last for decades.
“Idaho has quarantines in many counties, including Ada County, to protect against white rot, which can spread to onion fields,” Debbie said. “White rot is a really bad fungus. There’s no treatment for it, and once it gets in the soil it’s there for at least 30 years.”
If you want to know more, Idaho code 02.06.07 covers laws governing white rot disease.
One big advantage to growing your own garlic is you can plant several different varieties to suit different tastes. This year, Debbie is growing: Early Italian, Spanish Roja and Musik.
There are two types of garlic: hardneck (also called top-setting) and softneck. Hardnecks produce a center flower stalk, and they offer a varied flavor palette.
“Some of these hardnecks have fruity overtones, and some are super hot and spicy,” Debbie said. Spanish Roja and Musik are both hardnecks.
Early Italian is a softneck garlic — the type of garlic you should grow if you want if you want to make garlic braids, Debbie said. This variety matures faster than others, and it stores well.
Debbie’s tips for planting:
▪ Plant seed garlic about 2 inches deep in soil. They should be spaced 4 to 6 inches apart. Add some 10-10-10 fertilizer to the soil to boost growth.
▪ It’s important to plant the clove with the pointy end up, blunt side (root side) down.
▪ Add a layer of mulch, such as leaves, on top of the garlic to protect it from frost.
▪ Keep the soil moist in the fall. Pull weeds, as they are competing with your garlic.
▪ Green shoots may come in the fall. They will die back. New growth will appear in the spring.
▪ Harvest time is early to late summer. Don’t worry if the plants flop over, and the bottom part of the stalk and leaves look brown. Those are signs it’s time to harvest.