How To Grow Garlic from the Grocery Store, Farmers Market or Certified Seed
The key is to use ORGANIC garlic because it has not been sprayed with a growth inhibitor chemical. That’s correct. Regular garlic has been treated so that it doesn’t sprout in the grocery store. If your grocery store carries organic produce look in that section for garlic. It may also be located near the non-organic garlic. I found organic garlic in Walmart next to the non-organic bulbs. Don’t be fooled by the word, “natural”. The word “natural” does not guarantee the garlic is free from chemicals. If you can’t find organic garlic and the other sources below won’t work, try garlic with these labels: “minimally processed” and “all natural”.
Other options include farmers markets. As the grower if they spray the garlic with a chemical to prevent it from sprouting. Ideally, you want certified organic garlic.
We have a specialty market in Fort Worth, Texas and the produce is extremely expensive. Still, if I buy organic produce to grow more produce I usually come out ahead.
GARDEN CENTER OR ONLINE
You can also purchase garlic seed from a garden center or online. The advantage to an online outlet is that you usually have access to many different varieties and the seed is often certified disease free.
Grow Your Own Garlic
Growing garlic is easy, you just need a little patience because it takes months to harvest. If you can wait, you’ll be rewarded with aromatic cloves that WOW you and garlic scapes that make soups and grilling delectable! See simple recipes and ideas for using the scapes below.
The kind of garlic you get at the store is most usually the softneck type (leafy, soft stalk). It’s white with silvery skin and keeps a long time in storage. (Grocery stores need produce to last and so that is why you see this type of garlic more often. If you like the flavor of this garlic then why not plant some!
Hardneck garlic has a sturdy stalk and larger cloves. You’ll tend to find these at farmers markets or online. There are pretty varieties with purple stripes and others with interesting names such as “Killarney Red”. It’s fun to research the options and experiment.
WHEN TO PLANT GARLIC
Fall is the optimum time to plant garlic, right after the first frost. This might mean September for many of us and October for others in milder parts of the country. I’ve planted in November!
Separate the garlic head into cloves and select the largest, healthiest cloves to plant. Plant cloves with the pointy end facing up (flat end down) and cover with 2″ of soil (seed starting soil is great if you have some or regular soil works too). You can plant directly in the ground or in containers. Space the cloves at least at least 3″ apart. It should take less than 3 weeks to start seeing shoots and they will last through winter.
TIME TO HARVEST GARLIC
July and August are the most likely months you’ll harvest your home grown garlic! The plants are ready when the stalks start drying up. Once the tips start turning brown, stop watering and start dreaming of all the ways you’ll use your garlic! Wait about two weeks and harvest your garlic by carefully digging up the bulb with a spade. This reminds me of growing potatoes. Once potato plants start drying up, we wait 2 weeks and harvest.
- SOAK ‘EM: Separate the cloves from the bulb and soak the cloves overnight in diluted seaweed extract, kelp or worm castings. Use 1/4 teaspoon of kelp powder or liquid seaweed extract or 1 tablespoon of worm castings per quart of water.
- MULCH: After planting, add 3-4 inches of mulch (I use straw). Use 4-5″ if you live in a cold climate.
- WATER CONSISTENTLY: Water until the weather stops you and start up again in spring after the snow melts.
- WEED: Keep the weeds down. Garlic doesn’t like to be crowded or compete for nutrients. When I grow garlic in containers I usually do not plant anything else with it.
- WARM IT UP: In spring, remove some of the mulch if you added several inches.
- EAT ALL OF IT: The stalks that grow up from the ground are called scapes and these should be trimmed in late spring or summer when they start curling over and growing toward the ground. Trimming the scapes will make your garlic bulbs bigger because the plant can direct its energy down. Just trim the top off so it stands straight up or break off at the base much like people break off asparagus. If you bend the scape at the base, there should be a tender point where it breaks off easily. This is the natural trim point. You can cook and eat the scapes!
GARLIC SCAPE RECIPES AND IDEAS
Scapes taste like a cross between a scallion and garlic. The tip of the scape will have a bulb, an immature flower or flower. The bulb or flower is edible, tougher than the scape and probably much stronger in flavor. Suggest separating the bulb or flower from the stalk to use in recipes to make sure you can predict the outcome. See my other post on growing garlic sprouts.
- RAW: Used raw, chop them up and add to a salad. Taste test a piece first to see how much makes sense for your salad. The flavor can be strong and long-lasting!
- SOUPS: Add chopped scapes to your soups.
- GRILL: Place long pieces of scape in a bowl and toss in olive oil. Sprinkle pepper and kosher or sea salt and toss again. Grill on medium for 10 minutes or until tender and not burned.
- SCAPE PESTO: In a food processor, add 10 garlic scapes, 1/4 cup olive oil, 1 tablespoon lemon juice, 2 tablespoons walnuts and 1/4 cup grated or shredded Parmesan cheese. Add a teaspoon of kosher or sea salt. Puree and adjust salt as needed.
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