Garlic is considered a vegetable because it belongs to the onion family. However, in culinary circles, it is used more as a spice or herb to heighten flavor in whatever dish you add it to. There is a difference in taste, however, between store bought garlic and home-grown garlic. Garlic you grow will have a spicy, more pungent flavor that store bought garlic lacks. Garlic needs 30-60 days exposed to temperatures of 33-50 degrees Fahrenheit.
There are two types of garlic bulbs: soft neck and hard neck, and one pseudo garlic, called Elephant Garlic (more closely related to leeks). The two garlics vary in the number of cloves per head, how easy they are to peel, and flavor. Soft neck garlic is what you will most likely find in the supermarket. The cloves are smaller, as many as a dozen per head, and are clustered around a central clove. Hardneck garlic has fewer cloves but they may be twice the size of softneck cloves and grow around a central stem.
Gardeners in cold climates usually grow hardneck types such as German Red, Maiskij, Music, and Ajo Rojo. These varieties produce tight heads with as many as a dozen cloves around a central stalk and produce strange looking stalks with bulbs on the tip called scapes. Scapes are good to eat, so when they mature, you can harvest them and saute in some butter. Hardneck garlic needs
Softneck garlic grows best in climates with hot summers and mild winters. Varieties such as Nootka Rose, Viola Francese, and Inchelium Red are known to produce up to 40 cloves per bulb and keep for months. Some say that garlic will adapt to the climate it’s planted in, so you might try both kinds.
Like all vegetables that grow underground, garlic likes loose, friable soil that does not hold water. The best place to plant garlic cloves is in a raised bed or an area that drains very well. Garlic doesn’t like clay that may hold too much moisture. You will want to avoid planting them in any bed that has grown other onion family vegetables like
It’s best to buy your garlic bulbs for planting from a nursery, garden center, or trusted mail order catalog. These will produce better for you than garlic grown for grocery stores. They are generally planted in the fall, and harvested the following year when the foliage starts to turn brown.
Garlic can be planted anytime between September and December, if ground isn’t frozen. Prior to planting, separate the inner cloves, leaving their papery covering intact. Leave the smaller inner cloves for the kitchen. Plant with the pointy end up and about six inches apart and 3 inches deep. Cover the cloves and mulch the bed with straw.
Next summer, when plants have turned 50% yellow, pull out the heads and hang them upside down in a cool, well-ventilated location to cure for two weeks. Cut off the stems and store the heads in a dark, well-ventilated location between 50 and 60 degrees.
Here are some web sites for more information:
Southern Garlic Grower’s Guide –
What a Garlic Scape Looks Like
Growing Garlic – Tips and Cheats