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Garlic Galore from the Gardens
ISSUE:
Page:
14-15
Garlic Galore from the Gardens

In the autumn of 2004, when garlic was still the International Herb of the Year, ABC staff and interns planted 22 varieties of Allium sativum (see Table 1) that were donated to ABC by Gourmet Garlic Gardens in Bangs, Texas (www.gourmetgarlicgardens.com). [Related article appears in HerbalGram #65.] In the summer of 2005, when all the garlic tops had turned brown except for a few leaves, staff and interns harvested the garlic and recorded how each species performed in ABC's gardens. For the most part, it was a great harvest and it seemed that soil preparation, sunlight, and proper watering were more important than variety planted, and that harvesting at the correct time is imperative.

Of the two subspecies of garlic, the hard-necked type, Allium sativum subsp. ophioscorodon, is the original garlic from which all others have hybridized.1 It usually has a stronger flavor, stores for a shorter period of time, and grows better in colder climates. Soft-necked garlic, Allium sativum subsp. sativum, was developed over centuries from the hard-necked type through a process of selection. It has a milder flavor, stores longer, and grows better in warmer climates. Soft-necked varieties, especially the Artichoke group, are the garlic most often available at grocery stores because they are easy to grow, make large heads with numerous cloves, and store well.1

Austin, Texas, where ABC is located, is in USDA Hardiness Zone 8b where the average minimum winter temperature is between 15ºF and 20ºF. Austin has relatively mild winters most years and it rarely gets below freezing, so we expected the soft-necked varieties to produce much better than the hard-necks; this did not prove true. When harvested, the bulbs were smaller and had fewer cloves than expected. We suspect that there were a couple of reasons for this. First, the culinary and human systems gardens, in which the soft-neck garlic was planted, do not get as much direct sun for as long a period as do some of ABC's other gardens. Also, the soil in these gardens is not as loose and rich in organic matter as some of the other gardens. In preparation for planting garlic in fall 2006, we trimmed the trees and added compost to these gardens.

We planted many more hard-necked varieties of garlic than we did soft-necked (see Table 1). Some were planted in gardens with similar soil and sun conditions as the soft-necked varieties discussed above. Of the varieties planted in ABC's culinary gardens, the Persian Star, Xian, and Sonoran varieties produced best with large firm bulbs, and the Shantung Purple and Chinese Pink were second with medium-sized bulbs.

Garlic production in the ABC vegetable garden supports our theory regarding the importance of soil composition and sunlight. The soil in this garden is very loose as it has been intensively worked by the method of double digging, has been amended multiple times with good compost and manure, and gets close to eight hours of direct sun each day. All four varieties of garlic planted in this garden (Metechi, Siberian, Chesnok Red and Romanian Red) did very well and produced large heads with many cloves. Romanian Red was also planted in the First Aid Garden where the soil has not been worked as intensively and which only gets afternoon sun. It produced very small scallion-like plants with no heads or individual cloves.

One last thing that did not affect the size or number of garlic heads that we harvested, but did affect its storage time, was the time of harvest. Garlic should be harvested when all but a few of the leaves have turned brown. We didn't harvest some of the garlic until all the tops had died down. This resulted in garlic heads with no protective papery husks and dirt between the cloves, which shortens the amount of time that it will store well.

Overall, we were satisfied with our harvest. We had plenty of garlic for staff, volunteers, and interns to have as much as they wanted. We set aside some to plant this fall. We learned some important lessons. If Mother Nature cooperates, next summer should witness an even more bountiful harvest for one of our favorite healthy, flavorful crops.

Reference

Anderson R. A Garlic Overview. Gourmet Garlic Gardens. Available at: www.gourmetgarlicgardens.com. Accessed November 30, 2005.

Table 1. Allium sativum Varieties Planted in ABC Gardens
Subspecies ophioscorodon (Hard-necked)

Purple Stripe varieties

Metechi (Vegetable Garden)

Siberian (Vegetable Garden)

Chesnok Red (Vegetable Garden)

Persian Star (Middle Eastern Culinary Garden)

Purple Glazer (French Culinary Garden)

Vekak (Antioxidant Garden)

Porcelain varieties

Romanian Red (First Aid and Vegetable Gardens)

Georgian Crystal (Circulatory System Garden)

German Extra Hardy (Respiratory System Garden)

Music (Excretory System Garden)

Artichoke varieties (Asiatic and Turban groups)

Shantung Purple (Chinese Culinary Garden)

Xian (Southeast Asian Culinary Garden)

Chinese Pink (Chinese Culinary Garden)

Sonoran (Southeast Asian Culinary Garden)

Silverskin varieties (Creole group)

Burgundy (Antioxidant Garden)

Ajo Rojo (Mexican Culinary Garden)

Creole Red (French Garden)

Spanish Morado (Mediterranean Garden)

Subspecies sativum (Soft-necked)

Artichoke varieties

California Early (Circulatory System Garden)

Inchelium Red (Indian Culinary Garden)

Silverskin varieties

Nootka Rose (Excretory System Garden)

Mother of Pearl (Respiratory System Garden)