Locally grown garlic is available, in some form, at every point in the year, and we use it almost daily in the kitchen at Seasons Pharmacy and Culinaria. Garlic is planted in the fall, opposite to most plants, and Sudbury is a great place to grow garlic! Once October hits, and everything else is harvested, it is time to prepare the garden bed. Pull out all the weeds and leftover material from the growing season and rake it flat. Separate the garlic bulbs into separate cloves. You will see a pointy side and a root side. Pointy side goes up and the root goes down, and you need to push it into the ground so that it is quite deep, at least 3 times its length. Use a stick to make a hole in the ground, or simply push it down into the earth. Space them out so they have room to grow and cover with dirt. You can mulch on top if you want, but this is not necessary.
Come spring, tiny tips of green will begin to show through the mulch. Very soon, you will be able to eat “green garlic” which are basically the long green stems that resemble green onions, only they taste like garlic. Green garlic can be used as a garnish or turned into a lovely green pesto. As the garlic continues to grow, in early summer, it begins to produce a seed head, called a garlic scape. If you want very large bulbs, it is a good idea to remove these. The photos shows the difference is size between the bulbs when the scapes are removed.
The good news is that these are also quite edible and taste like garlic. My favourite way to use garlic scapes are in omellettes. During garlic scapes season, it is usually pretty easy to find fresh basil leaves, which are the key ingredients to garlic scape pesto. This pesto is great on pasta, pizza or on toast with sliced tomatoes.
Another method for planting garlic comes from planting the small bulbils that form as the scapes mature. The advantage of planting bulbils is that you can rapidly multiply the number of bulbs you will ultimately get. The disadvantage is that after the first year, only one small clove will be produced and then you will need to replant it again in the fall, or just leave it in the ground for a second year before you get a whole, large garlic bulb with many cloves. This requires some pretty meticulous weeding so that this smaller garlic doesn’t get lost and smothered.
When the bottom leaves start turning yellow, sometime at the end of July or early August, this is the time to harvest the garlic bulbs. If you wait too long before pulling them from the ground, the bulbs will start to split open around the central stem, and these will not store well. At the time of harvest, you choose which ones to replant and which ones to store. The largest bulbs, as well as any bulbs that have started to spread open would be the best ones for replanting in October. Save the tight bulbs for winter storage.
Once pulled from the ground, and the dirt removed, it is best to let the garlic cure by putting it in a shaded but well-ventilated area for a few days, and then it can be stored for the winter in a cool dry place in baskets with lots of air flow or braided and hung. Later when pulled out of storage for cooking, if you notice that your garlic starts to have a green shoot growing in the centre, it is best to remove this before cooking with it, as it can impart a bitter taste to the dish. Uncooked garlic has a much stronger flavour and has greater medicinal value than cooked garlic. There is evidence to support that garlic has immune boosting effects and can reduce blood pressure as well as circulating levels of lipids and cholesterol. We recommend it because it makes just about everything taste better.
Garlic stores very well, and we have many farmers in the region that supply us with garlic most of the year; Adlerhorst Farm in Lively, Hidden Valley Farm in Walford, and from Three Forks Farm, Manitoulin Island.