How to Grow Your Own Garlic

Nov 09, 2011 4 Comments by EcoFlirt

Ahhh, garlic, giver of bad breath and deliciousness in equal, generous measure. In our region, it’s time to plant now so that we can enjoy our own garlic next year.

Garlic has a reputation of being a cinch to grow. It requires sun but not much room: you can plant it in your garden, intersperse it around other plants, or even grow it in containers.

Why grow garlic? If you’re not already, be a garlic snob. Don’t be that person buying chopped garlic in a jar. (As Anthony Bourdain says, “Too lazy to peel fresh? You don’t deserve to eat garlic.”) Don’t be that person buying those sad, little garlic heads that shipped in from China. (I find it embarrassing when my food is better traveled than I am.)  Get the good, quality stuff from farmers markets, specialty stores, or your garden. As someone who’s spent an embarrassing amount of money on garlic, I’m opting for the garden this year. So let’s get some serious garlic snob cred by Spring while saving some cash.

How to Grow Garlic

If you can, find premium seed stock to use for your garlic. If not, you’ll be OK, but try to find quality garlic at an all-local market or specialty store. These beauties come from Coldwater Creek Farm (and thanks to Eric from Coldwater for his great garlic advice!).
How to Grow Your Own Garlic
Choose the biggest cloves. The bigger the cloves you plant, the bigger the garlic you’ll grow.  Separate the cloves of garlic, but don’t peel them. The papery layer should remain. Make sure the stem is completely removed from each clove.
Growing your own garlic
In your garden or container, dig holes about 5-6 inches deep, about six inches apart from each other. Fill the lower half of these holes with compost. Garlic won’t hunt for nutrients very far, so put that compost right next to your garlic.
Planting garlic in your garden
Next, insert the garlic into the hole with the pointy side upward, then fill the hole with soil.
Planting garlic
Cover the area with mulch (like pine straw or leaves) to prevent weeds from growing amid your plants. Don’t use hay, which contains seeds which will interfere with your garlic. Garlic, much like my beloved football team, prefers not to compete very hard (*cough*Redskins*cough*).
Planting garlic
In the Spring, you’ll have garlic and the curious-but-delicious garlic scape. (What is a garlic scape?) If that doesn’t give us garlic snob cred, what does?

And as an ode to garlic, a little more from Anthony Bourdain (swoon!):

“Garlic is divine. Few food items can taste so many distinct ways, handled correctly. Misuse of garlic is a crime. Old garlic, burnt garlic, garlic cut too long ago and garlic that has been tragically smashed through one of those abominations, the garlic press, are all disgusting. Please treat your garlic with respect. Sliver it for pasta, like you saw in Goodfellas; don’t burn it. Smash it, with the flat of your knife blade if you like, but don’t put it through a press. I don’t know what that junk is that squeezes out the end of those things, but it ain’t garlic. And try roasting garlic. It gets mellower and sweeter if you roast it whole, still on the clove, to be squeezed out later when it’s soft and brown. Nothing will permeate your food more irrevocably and irreparably than burnt or rancid garlic. Avoid at all costs that vile spew you see rotting in oil in screw-top jars. Too lazy to peel fresh? You don’t deserve to eat garlic.”

—Anthony Bourdain, Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly

Front, Gardening

4 Responses to “How to Grow Your Own Garlic”

  1. Axldebaxar says:

    This is great info! I had no idea you could grow garlic by planting the cloves. Any idea whether it’s possible to grow garlic in harsh climates? :)
    I cook with fresh garlic, but can you explain what’s wrong with using a garlic press? Doesn’t it just result in small pieces of fresh garlic?

  2. Jacquie says:

    Great article on Garlic–informative
    Guilty of sometimes buying it in a jar–I love garlic and I “deserve” to
    enjoy and eat it fresh :-)
    Your pictures and instructions on how to plant your “garlic garden”
    are great.
    Beautiful Hands!!!! :-)

  3. EcoFlirt says:

    Axidebaxar, glad you liked it! As for colder climates, I found people online who successfully grow garlic in Wyoming and Wisconsin (here’s a helpful site on cold-climate garlic: http://www.wegrowgarlic.com/301.html). Give it a shot! If it works, you owe me a homemade garlicky dinner. :)

    As for the garlic press, many people say that it alters the taste of the garlic. Some people insist, however, that it does not. One garlic press user wrote a piece for the Guardian in which he pits pressed, chopped and sliced garlic against each other in several types of recipes (“Is the Garlic Press a Devilish Invention?” http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/wordofmouth/2010/feb/01/garlic-press-chefs-method). Interesting info. It’s enough to make me hungry.

  4. EcoFlirt says:

    I don’t mean to completely judge chopped garlic in a jar. It has its place: in a rush, the jarred stuff can do the trick. But for a nice dinner? Get a gorgeous head of garlic and see how much less of it you’ll need when you cook, how much better it makes the food. And the real payoff? You can make the easiest dinner and seem like an inspired cook. Perhaps I’m not a garlic snob as much as I’m a lazy cook!