If you’re one of those cooks who sees “2 cloves garlic” in a recipe and then adds 5, you need to be growing your own. A gardenful of garlic will ensure that you no longer have to shell out at the grocery store, plus it’s easy to plant, grow, and harvest. Garlic, which is known botanically as Allium sativum, is a vegetable that grows in bulbs. It’s a member of the allium family, which is home to the ornamental blooming alliums that are its close relatives.
Fall is prime time for planting garlic if you live in an area with mild winters. The Southern Living Garden Book instructs, “In mild-winter areas, plant in fall for early summer harvest; where winters are cold, plant in early spring.” To plant, you should begin by pulling the largest cloves from a bulb of garlic. Into a prepared plot, plant the cloves, ensuring that the pointy ends are pointing up so that the green shoots that will soon emerge are directed up. Garlic grows best in rich, well-draining soil; the Garden Book recommends planting the cloves “1 in. deep, 3-6 in. apart, in rows 15 in. apart. Harvest when leafy tops fall over; lift out with garden fork rather than pulling.”
If you’re wondering if you can plant the cloves you buy at the grocery store, the answer is yes. The Garden Book explains, “Seed stores and some mail-order seed houses sell disease-free mother bulbs (“sets”) for planting—and some gardeners have had good luck planting bulbs from grocery stores.” Once you have your first garlic harvest, you can start all over again by growing new bulbs from new cloves. Plant garlic this season, and both your garden and your kitchen will thank you later.
Once you have fresh garlic at the ready, cook with it. Try our favorite garlicky recipes, including Grilled Garlic Bread and Buttery Garlic Shrimp. Then brush up on 5 mistakes you might be making when cooking with garlic.
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Do you grow garlic? What vegetables, herbs, and spices do you have growing in your garden this season?