garlic, sort-of

I got permission from the coordinator of our community garden to plant garlic this year. Permission is required because they usually rototill the entire garden in spring, but garlic needs to overwinter and be harvested in the spring.  Thus, it needs to be in a spot that won't be rototilled.

I wanted to do a soft-neck garlic, so I can make braids and hang them, but I was drooling over the various hard neck varieties at SSE as well.  But then, as I plotted and ployed, I read a notification on SSE that midwestern garlics had been effected by a blight and that, while there would be heads of garlic for sale, their number would be greatly reduced.  There is also no guarantee that the garlic you bought wouldn't be infected without showing symptoms.

My imagination concocted the following scenario: I beat back five-foot tall weeds, till a small area in the corner of the garden, lovingly plant various species of heirloom garlic, and protect them with a substantial layer of compost.  They sprout their fall shoots, and everything's going well.  Then, in spring, they sprout and whither as expected.  After much anticipation, I dig them up to find decaying heads of garlic unfit for consumption or replanting in the fall, resulting in about an hour of crying.

New Plan!  I've ordered only elephant garlic this year.  It's technically a kind of leek, so it wasn't effected by the blight.  As far as I can tell, they have soft necks, so they're braidable. If all goes well, I can replant from the harvested heads and will never need to buy garlic again!  (Hint: "all goes well" never happens.)  I'm hoping that I'll at least have enough left over to replant some of them, and then I can buy species of real garlic as my skills, time, and access to land permit.

Edit: After looking into it a little bit more, my hunch is that elephant garlic is not braidable. And it's probably for the best: they're huge.  One clove can be as big as a whole head of regular garlic.  Huge.


mom said...

I was told by a cook I trust today that elephant garlic is not nearly as strong (as in potent) as regular garlic and that using more doesn't usually make up for it. I'll be interested to know if you agree.

ajbc said...

Yeah, I realize it won't be a culinary replacement for garlic. But it will teach me how to grow garlic, since botanically they're very similar, and their care is almost identical.

As for actually using them, I'm sure I can find some good niches: pairing them with mild flavors that would otherwise be overpowered by true garlic, like shitake mushrooms, white fish, roasted root veggies, etc. I also plan to use it raw in places where I would cook true garlic to mellow it, like in salads. With any luck, there will be lots of experimentation!