Growing garlic

by Lila Das Gupta

Hampton Court Palace Flower Show is always a good place to look for new 'grow your own' ideas. [...] my highlights for 2010 were garlic and blueberries.

Garlic display at Hampton Court Palace Flower Show 2010Hampton Court Palace Flower Show is always a good place to look for new 'grow your own' ideas.  The Growing Tastes Marquee this year was better than ever: my highlights for 2010 were garlic and blueberries.

I could smell The Garlic Farm's beautiful display way before I could see it! The company is based on the Isle of Wight and has become something of a leader in developing varieties which suit the British climate.

The Garlic Farm Cookbook is an informative new collection of recipes  which also contains a lot of useful cultural information. There are two different kinds of garlic.

Hard necks: these varieties are hardier than soft necks. They produce a flower stalk which should be chopped off so that the plant's energy goes into making a larger bulb.

Soft necks: These keep less well than hard necks and are sometimes eaten 'green'. They have many culinary uses but are particularly good raw in salad dressings.

The cookbook has a very useful guide to the garlic year, which I've abbreviated here:

September: Plant elephant garlic, early varieties: 'Early Purple Wight', 'Early Wight'.  Apply general purpose fertilizer to the soil, or some well-rotted manure, well worked in.

October: Plant autumn soft necks: 'Iberian', 'Albigensian', 'Mediterranean', 'Provence'.  Plant in November too.

November: Plant autumn hard necks: 'Purple Moldovan', 'Chesnok'.

December: 'Lautrec' can be planted now.

January: Plant spring types: 'Solent Wight', 'Tuscan Wight', 'Picardy Wight'.

February: Continue planting spring types. When bulb shoots 10cm high, apply sulphate of potash at 100g per square metre.

March: Continue weeding and hoeing but take care not to damage bulbs. Planting may continue though bulbs will be smaller.

April: Keep up regular watering in dry weather. Use a fungicide against rust.

May: Rust protection may be needed every 10 days, continue watering and weeding.

June: Remove flowering shoots on hard neck types and elephant garlic.  Lift spring or soft neck types when 10% or more of the plant has flopped over. Allow to dry in the sun for a few days.

July: Harvest remaining softneck types and leave to dry.  Harvest hard neck types planted in spring as stems flop over.

August: Try plaiting or tying garlic into bunches (grapping).

One fact I learned from Colin Boswell, who runs this family business, is that garlic's therapeutic qualities (it's good for just about every part of the body) diminish with cooking. "If you want to reap the health benefits of garlic, it's best eaten raw" says Colin.  He also points out that it's important to chop it up too:

"There are three components of garlic which affect its taste and therapeutic qualities: allicin, alliin, and allinase. Strangely there is no allicin present in a whole clove. So when you chop, crush or bite into garlic, a fantastic chemical reaction is taking place creating allicin".

So, now we have the science bit out of the way, this broad bean and pea hummous is a great way to use three seasonal ingredients. Taken and adapted from The Garlic Farm Cookbook.

Broad bean and pea hoummous

300g broad beans (shelled and cooked)

100g peas

4-5 large garlic cloves (crushed)*

100g  crème fraiche

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Handful of mint

Juice of one lemon

Salt and black pepper, freshly ground

Throw all the ingredients, except crème fraiche, in a blender and blend until smooth. Add the crème fraiche, stirring not too rapidly or it will go runny. Garnish with a couple of mint leaves.

(*I may be a wimp, but I found 1 -2  large garlic cloves quite enough.)


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Gardeners' World Web User 10/07/2010 at 23:45

Gardening on the Edge. What was the piece of classical music used during the Lamorran House feature? It's not listed on the website. Please... does anybody know?

Gardeners' World Web User 16/07/2010 at 11:45

The garlic i grew this year came out better than last summer.

Gardeners' World Web User 12/08/2010 at 09:22

i allways let my garlic be frosted becose i was told that if you dont let it get frosted it stays a clove but if it gets frosted it will become a bunch of garlic and it done that this year for me i got 39 bunches out forty two cloves thats not bad is it joey northwood kirky allotments liverpool

Gardeners' World Web User 15/08/2011 at 15:16

Grew Garlic this year for the first time as there is competition in my small garden with the flowers so grew it among my flowers - had wonderful harvest. Well pleased with the result.

Gardeners' World Web User 28/11/2011 at 18:41

last year we grew garlic,couldn't stop laughing when the harvest produced minute perfect bulbs, just about the size of a small finger nail. this year we have managed the one that looks like an over sized spring onion but rather delish, maybe next year we will get it right.good at most every thing else.