This has been a very good year for growing garlic in the North Okanagan – enough moisture but not too much, and a warm spring that encouraged the growth of large bulbs. It’s easy to grow – plant early to mid-October (separate bulbs into cloves), 5 cm. deep and 15 to 20 cm. apart, mulch and let the bulbs do their work, building up a strong root structure before it emerges in March. Those first green shoots are such a wonderful sight. A couple of months later scapes (the long curly top-knots) develop, and when the scapes straighten out, it’s ready to harvest (or that’s what my friend Iris says). Pull up the whole plant, let dry for a week or two and then trim. Store at room temperature. Refrigerating the bulbs encourages them to start sprouting and you don’t want that!
Why is BC Garlic So Damn Good says that the short growing season for garlic in northern climates makes large hot, spicy, oily garlic with very large cloves – the opposite of the small bland cloves found in commercial garlic mostly grown in China.
Nutritionally, garlic has manganese, tryptophan, selenium, calcium, phosphorus, copper, protein and vitamins B6, C and B1. According to the Canadian Encyclopedia, garlic’s power lies in its essential oil containing an amino acid called alliin and an enzyme, allinase. Cutting or crushing the clove forms allicin , the compound that gives garlic its taste and smell and its medicinal properties
Historically, garlic has been around since early Greek times. It was mentioned in a Chinese manuscript in 510 A.D. Its early uses were medicinal – it was purported to help prevent atherosclerosis, high cholesterol, high blood pressure and cancer, and regulate blood sugar. However Consumer Reports warns that extensive use of garlic as a heart supplement can have serious interactions with channel blockers and blood thinners.
Here is a recipe idea – roast a whole bulb of garlic – first you peel off the thin paper, next, cut off the top, wrap the bulb in foil, add olive oil, salt and pepper and an herb of choice – then bake in a medium oven for 45 minutes. Serve with bread or fold into mashed potatoes.
BC has at least four garlic festivals coming up in August and September:
Grindrod Garlic Festival Aug. 21 – Grindrod
Metro Vancouver Garlic Festival Aug. 21 – Terra Nova Farm, Richmond
South Cariboo Garlic Festival – Aug. 27/28 Lac la Hache
New Denver – Sept. 11