Five reasons to love garlic

100_3177We’re approaching the best time to pick garlic to maximize its storage life. When the lower leaves turn brown but there are still five or so green leaves on top, it’s time to dig up the bulbs, cure them and store them.

I had never grown garlic before this year. Now that I can see how easy and beneficial this amazing plant is, I’m going to expand its production. In fact, I may use most of the 12 bulbs that I planted as cloves last October to quadruple the amount of garlic in next year’s garden!

Here are five reasons why garlic deserves a place in every home garden:

1) It’s simple. You can just plant the cloves in October and forget about them for nine months. They aren’t particular about the soil they grow in and don’t get attacked by insects. Every single clove I planted grew into a garlic plant. The hardest part is figuring out when to harvest them.

2) It’s delicious. Garlic adds a unique piquancy to foods. I like to put it in most dishes that include tomatoes. I didn’t know until this year that you can increase garlic’s culinary impact by letting it sit for a while after mincing.

3) It’s healthful. Garlic boosts the immune system, helping you fight colds. It’s a powerful antioxidant, making it an ally in avoiding cancer and other diseases. It benefits the respiratory and circulation systems and fights inflammation.

4) It repels bugs. Mosquitoes don’t like to bite people who have eaten garlic. Planted on the perimeter of a garden bed, garlic deters insects from invading. This year I made a spray that included garlic, cayenne pepper, onion, water and dish detergent, and it was strong enough to repel me as well as insects. See https://adventuresinthegoodlife.wordpress.com/2014/06/01/for-the-bugs-garlic-and-pepper/.

5) It’s a good neighbor. I’ve planted it near the tomato beds, but it’s also a good companion for cabbage, peppers, eggplant, potatoes, broccoli, kale and carrots. The only plants that don’t seem to like it nearby are peas and beans. In addition, some people believe that garlic protects plants from disease.

The best time to dig up garlic in the Northeast is late July and early August, depending on when you planted and the heat of the summer. I’ll be watching the plants over the next week to see when the time is right, and then I’ll loosen the soil around them to get at the bulbs, avoiding the temptation to just yank them up. I’ll brush the soil off, get them out of the sun immediately, and cure them for two weeks before storing them in a cool, dry place.

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