Being a key ingredient in just about every cuisine around the world, garlic is one of the most beneficial and diversely useful onion-family vegetables. Ancient cultures (including but not limited to Babylonians, Egyptians, Greeks, Chinese, and Indians) have been foraging and growing garlic for over 5,000 years as one of the oldest medicinal and culinary crops in the world. In modern times many popular Italian, Mediterranean and Asian dishes would be sorely lacking flavor without the zesty, pungent, and spicy aroma of garlic.
Americans just can’t get enough garlic! In fact, average American eats about 3 pounds of garlic every year. With 400 million pounds annual production, California is the lead producer in the US, and Gilroy, California is known as the garlic capital of America. Yet, much of what you see in stores comes from China, South America, and Mexico.
Garlic (Allium sativum) is a remarkably cold-hardy, drought-tolerant, heat-tolerant, and resilient perennial bulbous flowering plant grown all over the world. In the USA, garlic grows in the USDA growing zones 0 to 10 (Southern Cali is in zone 8; and yes, even gardeners in some parts of Alaska can grow garlic as long as there’s no permafrost).
Growing garlic in your own garden is very easy and rewarding for beginners. By growing your own garlic, you get to try unique varieties and savor the buttery garlic scapes (young pre-flowering stalks; almost never available in stores).
It is easy to propagate and maintain. Technically you only have to buy seed garlic once. Choose a reputable seed company with disease-free certified organic garlic for the best results. After your first successful crop, you can save the biggest best cloves to replant the following year. Over time, you select plants that are specifically adapted to your garden and your preferences; varieties of red, purple, porcelain, and silverskin, to name a few.
As Southern Cali has very mild winter climate, you need to stimulate the chilling period by placing the bulbs in a plastic bag in the fridge at around 40°F for 1-2 months (simulation of vernalization -chilling- of bulbs in December and January) before planting them late January. Soak your cloves 8-12 hours before planting in the garden. Soaking seed garlic gives your garden a jumpstart by preventing disease and offering a boost of nutrients for rapid growth.
Generally, hardnecks are best for areas with cold winters because they need that chill (vernalization period) to create full bulbs. On the other hand, softneck types are ideal for more mild or warmer regions and are the most commonly grown commercial garlic.
Garlic is flavorful, aromatic, and rich in sulfurous compounds that have earned it “superfood” and even medicinal status in a variety of global cultures. Its cousins are onions, scallions, leeks, shallots, and chives.
Please read this excellent article by Logan Hailey to learn more details on this topic at "How to Plant, Grow, and Care For Garlic in Your Garden" !
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