It’s Time for Garlic

By ERIN TURNER

If you were to ask me what my favorite smell in the whole world is, it would be a tie between the smell of pine needles in the hot summer sun and garlic being sautéed in butter. The pine needles take me back to summertime hikes with my family and summers spent as a camp counselor on Salmon Lake,  while the smell of garlic doesn’t take me back in time, it creates an empty canvas of creativity in the pan.  Garlic is truly the basis for delectable meals and turns simple, bland meals into something very special!

You can spend a lot of money on garlic in the grocery store.  If you want high quality, organic garlic then you will spend even more.  But did you know that if you take a little time this month to plant some garlic, next summer you’ll be enjoying fresh, homegrown garlic at a fraction of the cost?

Garlic 3

Nothing beats the smell of garlic being sautéed inbutter.

Yup, this is the time to be thinking about planting. Sounds funny, doesn’t it?  As we are waking up to frosty mornings and starting to pull out the sweaters and jackets, it doesn’t seem right to be planting anything in the garden.  But that is the magic of garlic!

While most people think tulips are the heralds of springtime, those who grow garlic know that the tiny, tender green shoots of garlic which appear in late March or April are in fact the true heralds of spring.  At our house, when this tender shoots appear we let out a deep sigh of relief…the garlic survived the winter and spring is nearly here.

In the next couple of weeks, we will start planting our garlic crop.  We typically put in around 2500-3000 cloves.  But for an average person who just wants a nice crop of their own, you can plan to plant around 10-12 cloves.  This amount won’t take up a lot of space and in fact you can even plant them in pots.

garlic bed

At the Turner Family Farm, we plant 2500-3000 cloves eachyear.

When planting garlic you first need to acquire your garlic.  If you have a bulb or two hanging around, you definitely can use them.  Otherwise, all the nurseries in town have garlic “seed” right now.  You’ll get a whole bulb so you’ll want to break it up into individual cloves.   To get the biggest bulbs next year, you’ll want to select the biggest cloves to plant.

In loosened soil, dig a 3 inch hole and place the clove with the pointy end facing up.  Gently cover with soil.  Plant the rest of the cloves 6-8 inches apart and 3 inches in depth.  Once you are done with planting, then be sure to put a good layer of mulch over your garlic bed.  We use straw and put about 6 inches of it over the freshly planted garlic.  We also water it with an organic fish emulsion to help give it a good start.

Garlic

Growing garlic is smart for the frugalcook.

Once you planted and mulched it, then go and enjoy your winter. That’s all you have to do!  In spring, you will begin to see the green shoots arising from the ground.  All you have to do from spring until harvest is weed your garlic bed. In early summer, you will want to snip the garlic scapes that may appear (if you planted a hard-neck variety).  These are the flower of the plant and by cutting them off, you are putting more energy into the bulb thus helping it grow bigger.  We use the scapes just like garlic in our cooking!  They are so delicate and delicious!  Plus, we are getting extra bang for our buck by harvesting a second usable crop.

Garlic hates weeds so it’s critical to keep the weeds at bay.  In June, we boost the amount of water our garlic is getting and then in the middle of July, we shut off all the water to the garlic.  This helps it channel its energy again into the bulb.

Harvest time is usually in August, although we’ve done it early in September depending on the year.  To harvest, you will simply pull the bulbs out of the ground.  You might need to use a fork or a spade to loosen the dirt.  Once you’ve dug them, you’ll want to let them cure in the sun for a couple of days.  Then we snip the roots and the leaves.  The cured bulbs then can be placed in a dark, cool place until you are ready to use them.

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There’s no comparison when it comes to the taste of freshly grown garlic versus store boughtgarlic.

Growing garlic is an easy thing for anyone to do.  It doesn’t take a lot of time, it’s low maintenance to grow and it will save you money.  Plus, the taste of fresh, homegrown garlic doesn’t even compare to store bought garlic!  Garlic has numerous health benefits as well.

As fall descends upon us and the leaves are changing color, shift your thinking and consider planting garlic before the ground freezes. Garlic is a friend of the frugal cook…well, it’s the friend of anyone who enjoys good and flavorful food, that is unless you’re a vampire!

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 Erin’s got tons of tips for saving money, couponing, sticking to a budget, and living sustainably in her blog archive.

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Erin Eisenman-Turner is proud to be a native Missoulian. Along with her husband and three sons, they raise chickens, pigs, rabbits, and vegetables at Turner Family Farms in the Orchard Homes area. When the farm chores are done, the coupons clipped, and the blog written, you can find Erin exploring Montana, collecting antiques, and trying to maintain a well-run, happy, and organized home for her family.

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