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Glorious Garlic

Unless you're a vampire, there's no excuse not to discover the joys of the "stinking rose."


Garlic is the honored herb of the national association, the Order of the Stinking Rose—not exactly the most complimentary name, but it shows just how popular this plant is. There is even a book called The Stinking Cookbook: The Layman's Guide to Garlic Eating, Drinking and Stinking by Jerry Dal Bozzo. And one must not forget the Gilroy Garlic Festival, which celebrated its 28th year in Gilroy, Calif. Over 3 million people from all over the planet have attended the festival over the years and it just keeps growing.

Why all the fuss over such a simple plant? Historically, garlic has a long and varied past, dating back to at least 2000 BC when ancient herbalists used it to treat respiratory problems. The Egyptians recommended garlic for headaches, worms and heart ailments. It was also thought to have magical properties, which explains the swags used in every vampire movie filmed. And perhaps one of the most famous uses was called Four Thieves Vinegar during an 18th century plague in France: Four criminals were forced to bury the dead and it was believed that because they drank crushed garlic and wine vinegar, they never became ill.

Like all herbs, garlic has seen some strange uses. Here are a few you may find interesting:

Today research has proven that garlic does indeed have properties that are powerful healing and antibacterial agents. It is frequently used in remedies for several ailments including staph, strep and viral infections.

But the main reason garlic is such a popular plant is because it is one of the most commonly used cooking ingredients in many cultures.

Cultivating garlic is a simple process. You will need a sunny patch of garden, where the soil is a little dry, has excellent drainage and some good nutrients. You can plant cloves two inches deep and about six inches apart. The best time for planting is either early spring or fall after the temperatures cool considerably. When the flower stalks appear, cut them back so the energy goes into the bulb. Eventually the tops will turn brown and begin to tip over. Once they die back, the bulbs are ready to harvest.

Garlic should be stored just like onions are, in a cool dark dry place or by hanging away from direct sunlight to dry. You may even want to braid some cloves together for decorative kitchen swag.

Softneck varieties do best in our area. Here are some you may wish to try:

Inchellium Red—Large bulbs and vigorous, mild garlic taste.

Creole Red—An exquisite burgundy Silverskin with a unique clove pattern and "a taste that is full but almost devoid of heat." Other Silverskins, Artichokes (the standard garlic variety in most supermarkets) and some of the marbled Purple Stripes (particularly Metechi) also do well where winters are mild.

Susanville—Stores well; large size in mild climates,

Spanish Roja—A northwest US selection that's highly recommended and should do well in northern New Mexico, also. Good taste and yield.

Asian Tempest—Not quite as productive as German Red; usually four to eight large cloves per bulb. Flower stalks do not curl. Bulbs are much larger than those produced on German Red or other hardneck varieties.

Elephant garlic is not a true garlic, but is actually a type of leek, Allium ampeloprasum. It can grow much larger than true garlic with each bulb of five to six cloves weighing as much as one pound. The taste of elephant garlic is much milder than true garlic. Visit www.garlicfarm.ca for a comprehensive guide to garlic varieties.


There are some basic chef tips I'd like to share with you when cooking with garlic:

Here's how to measure garlic equivalents:

1 head or bulb of garlic = 7-10 cloves

1 small garlic clove = 1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
   = 1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
   = 1/4 teaspoon garlic juice
   = 1/2 teaspoon garlic salt

1 small garlic clove yields 1/2 teaspoon minced garlic

1 medium garlic clove yields 1 teaspoon minced garlic

1 large garlic clove yields 2 teaspoons minced garlic


Oven Roasted Garlic

One of the most delicious ways to enjoy garlic is to roast the bulbs whole in the oven.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place garlic bulbs upright on a cookie sheet or in a clay garlic roaster. Drizzle olive oil over bulbs and sprinkle fresh herbs on the tops. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until soft. Squeeze the cloves onto Crostini or crackers and serve with pimiento or olive tapenade. Serves 4-6.


Pickled Garlic

Put all of the ingredients except the garlic into a nonreactive saucepan. Bring the contents to a boil and gently boil for 5 minutes. Add the garlic. Return the contents to a boil, then cover the pan and remove it from the heat. Let it stand at room temperature for 24 hours.

Bring the contents of the saucepan to a boil again, then transfer them to a half-pint glass jar. Let the jar cool and cover it tightly with a nonreactive [nonmetal] cap.

Store the jar in the refrigerator. The garlic will be ready to eat in about a week.


Enjoy the end-of-summer garlic harvest!


The Kitchen Gardener can now be found in the new Silver Confectionary, in the historic Silco Theater Building on Bullard Street in downtown Silver City. For information call 538-5317 or email alicepauser@msn.com.


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