It’s garlic time! Garlic is an unusual plant in that it is planted and harvested at the same time of the year. Many communities have garlic festivals in the early fall. They are festive events where you can learn about garlic growing, braiding, storage and use. Garlic festivals provide terrific opportunities to experience wonderful foods featuring garlic and to learn about using garlic for health.
Garlic Growing Basics
Fall is the best time to plant garlic. There are three main types of garlic: elephant, soft-necked, and hard-necked varieties. If you plan to grow garlic for winter storage next year, select a hard-necked variety. Each kind of garlic has its own flavor and benefits. All may be grown following the instructions below.
Plant garlic now and it will be ready for harvesting next summer and fall. Garlic may be grown in most climates. If you live in a frost-free area, chill the garlic for a few weeks prior to planting it.
Soil, Sun, and Water Needs of Garlic
Garlic grows best in rich soil. Raised beds are ideal. Add compost or manure to the garden or pot that you want to put your garlic in. If you are growing in containers, any of the organic soil blends sold at garden centers for growing vegetables is sufficient. I recommend mixing approximately one-third composted cow manure with two-thirds potting mix for growing garlic in containers. Garlic likes plenty of sunshine and water.
How to Plant, Grow and Harvest Your Garlic
Select large bulbs of garlic. Separate the cloves. Do not peel the cloves. Only use the largest cloves for planting. Use the rest for culinary or medicinal use. Plant each clove two inches deep, with the pointed end facing upwards. Space each clove six inches apart — except for elephant garlic, which should be spaced eight inches apart. Water the plants well. If you live in an area where the ground freezes over the winter, mulch the plants heavily after the first frost.
Uncover the plants in the spring, after the ground has thawed. Begin watering and feeding the garlic on a regular basis. By late summer and fall, the garlic tops will turn yellow. Check to see if you have large bulbs of garlic. When you do, dig them up, and allow them to cure by laying them in the sun for a few days. The garlic is ready for winter storage. Many people like to braid garlic for decorative and storage purposes.
Cooking with Garlic
Recipes abound for using garlic. If sautéing it, only brown it lightly to ensure the best flavor. Include garlic in your diet regularly. It is rich in minerals, low in calories, inexpensive, and adds great flavor. Some of garlic’s healing compounds are destroyed with cooking, so be sure to include raw garlic in you diet for maximum benefits. Consuming one to two raw or lightly sautéed cloves daily is recommended to enhance wellbeing.
Garlic for Health
Garlic is effective for a wide array of internal and external infections. It enhances the health of the cardiac, respiratory and immune systems. Garlic promotes longevity.
Healing Ear Infections with Garlic
One of the most effective herbal remedies that I use is garlic, mullein and lavender ear oil. It stops ear infections and relieves the pain that they cause almost instantly. Ear oils and drops must not be used if the ear drum is perforated, however.
External Application of Garlic
Garlic is readily absorbed through the skin. The through-the-skin, transdermal route is an excellent method for getting the healing benefits of garlic into children and adults who do not like garlic’s pungent flavor. Some people experience stomach distress when eating raw garlic. External methods of administration generally don’t cause stomach irritation.
To administer garlic externally, apply a clove of garlic directly to a wound, or have the person wear a clove of crushed garlic in an old sock for several minutes. The garlic will be absorbed readily.
You can check this by seeing if the individual gets garlic breath. This usually occurs within minutes of using the sock method of administration. Do not leave the garlic in the sock for too long as it may be irritating. A garlic clove locally applied is very effective for the treatment of external infections; however, some people find that it stings when initially applied.
Garlic and the Circulatory System
Garlic lowers unhealthy levels of LDL cholesterol. It relaxes blood vessels, and has blood-thinning properties. These actions result in improved health of the blood vessels and heart, as well as reduced blood pressure.
The Garlic Medicine Chest
Garlic is especially beneficial for the prevention and treatment of respiratory tract infections. I use it to relieve urinary tract infections as well.
Garlic supplements are available. I think that garlic oil capsules are better than garlic tablets; however, I strongly believe that fresh garlic is vastly superior to all of the commercial products available. It is an essential ingredient in cough syrups and immunity-enhancing tinctures.
Try planting some garlic. It is easy. You will have good food and good medicine at your fingertips year-round.