Tuesday October 15, 2013 | 11:00 AM

This Japanese garlic is is part of Medomak Valley High School's Heirloom Seed Project in Waldoboro, Maine. Other varieties in the collection include: Asian Tempest, Aunt Louise, Broadleaf Czech, Chesnok Red, Chet's Italian, Chopansky, and French Rose.

Archaeologists have found proof of garlic in Egypt and Mesopotamia dating back to nearly 3000 B.C. It is believed workers and slaves who were building the Great Pyramid of Giza (also known as the Pyramid of Cheops) were fed garlic to aid their health and strength. In the 5th century B.C., Herodotus, an ancient Greek historian wrote about the use of garlic as a valuable medicine. Garlic is even referenced in the Bible (Numbers 11:5) "We remember the fish we ate in Egypt for nothing, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlic." The Vikings (8th to mid-11th centuries) stocked their ships with garlic for medicinal and spiritual purposes.

Perhaps, however, garlic is most famous for it’s role in vampire legends for warding off the fearsome blood drinkers. If you’d like a good tale this Halloween look no further than Fox News year-old account of a village in the Balkans where housewives hung strings of garlic and villagers pocketed cloves of the potent Allium.

Not a true believer, that’s okay, it is unlikely anyone will question your judgment should you stock up or plant garlic this month. Garlic has numerous health benefits. Raw garlic contains 8 % protein, 15% starch, 620 mg of potassium, and 17 mg of vitamin C. For more nutritional information go here or here. Note, heat destroys some of the nutritional benefits.

Garlic grows well in a wide range of climates, but only the hardy varieties adapted to colder winters will do well in Northern New England. Broadwing Farm in Bremen, Maine grows Phillips (mild), Georgian Fire (hot, great in salsa), Georgian Crystal (less hot than Georgian Fire), and Music (spicy, ideal for roasting) garlic.

Broadwing Farm sells Georgian Fire garlic.

Tom Roberts of Snakeroot Farm in Pittsfield, Maine grows 3/8 of an acre (or about 30,000 plants) of primarily Red German (strong garlic flavor known for generally being easy to peel). It is quite hardy and thus an ideal candidate if you want to plant garlic this fall.

Garlic is traditionally planted in the fall between mid to late-October (before the ground freezes) and harvested the following summer (depending on the weather, usually in mid-July). Separate the cloves and discard unhealthy ones. Plant each clove 2 to 3 inches down 6 to 8 inches apart. Be sure to plant where there is full sun. Roberts advises planting the end with the pointed side up and flat/root end down. He said not to worry if you accidentally plant it the other way, that the garlic will adjust it jut has to work harder. The scape will be curled over rather than grow straight if it is planted upside down.

Bulbils are small storage leaves encased by a sheath. Tom Roberts talks about growing garlic with them here

It is advisable considering Maine’s often harsh winters to put down a layer of straw mulch to help insulate it. This can be done two or three weeks after planting.

Margaret Roach describes when garlic is ready to be picked here. “It looks like mini corn plant, each one of those leaves is a wrapper around the bulb,” Roberts said. “As they start to die from the bottom up then your wrappers are starting to disintegrate. That’s why you want five or six green ones left and it’s time to pull them, because that means you have five or six good solid wrappers.”

The garlic you find in a supermarket, and at farmers’ markets in September and October, has been air dried and is papery. Fresh garlic, available in mid to late July is green and still moist and excellent for cooking. The curly, green flowering end of the plant are scapes, are milder tasting.They are ideal for culinary purposes when harvested before they curl down, as they are more tender at that stage. Use them in stir-fry recipes and sauteed in olive oil.

Garlic braids and varieties from Meadowood Farm in Yarmouth, Maine.

Here are a few great recipes for cooking with garlic.

Lori Gingras - Garlic Scape Pesto
1 cup garlic scapes (about 8 or 9 scapes), top flowery part removed, cut into 1⁄4-inch slices
1/3 cup walnuts
3⁄4 cup olive oil
1⁄4-1/2 cup grated parmigiano
1⁄2 teaspoon salt
black pepper to taste

Place scapes and walnuts in the bowl of a food processor and whiz until well combined and somewhat smooth. Slowly drizzle in oil and process until integrated. With a rubber spatula, scoop pesto out of bowl and into a mixing bowl. Add parmigiano to taste; add salt and pepper. Makes about 6 ounces of pesto. Keeps for up to one week in an air-tight container in the refrigerator.
For 1⁄2 pound short pasta such as penne, add about 2 tablespoons of pesto to cooked pasta and stir until pasta is well coated.

Kimberly Mayone recommends this fall favorite: Chicken with Forty Cloves of Garlic from Gluten-Free Slow Cooking. Like that, try this Julia Childs inspired recipe from Gourmet magazine for Chicken Roasted with Garlic Cloves

Jennifer Yu’s Chimichurri pairs well with a good crusty baguette and a few slices of grilled beef.

Corrin Crone Phillips felt a recipe for Lebanese tourn (garlic sauce) is a must. I agree! It’s like mayo without the egg, but better. Phillips said it keeps for weeks refrigerated. Here is a recipe with some background information on the dish. 

Roasted Garlic. It’s a classic! Cut tops off of cloves, place each head in one compartment on a muffin tin, pour 2 tbsp olive oil on top of each head, add fresh cracked pepper and sea salt, cover lightly with aluminum foil, bake for 1 hour at 400°F. Spread on French bread or eat plain.

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About the Author

Sharon Kitchens is a neo-homesteader learning the ins and outs of country living by luck and pluck and a lot of expert advice. She writes about bees for The Huffington Post and stuff she loves on her personal blog, deliciousmusings.com.

When she is not writing, she enjoys edible gardening, reading books on food and/or thinking about food, hanging out by her beehives and patiently tracking down her chickens in the woods behind her old farmhouse.

In her blog, Sharon profiles farm families, reports on farm-based education and internships, conducts Q&A's with master beekeepers, offers tips on picking a CSA, and much more.

Sharon can be contacted at kitchens.sharon@gmail.com or on Twitter @deliciousmusing.

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