When my gardening-guru mom handed me a bagful of garlic and said, “Plant this,” I was thrilled. I love garlic, and use it in almost everything, from mashed potatoes to frittatas. Last October, I planted my first garlic – if you didn’t know (I sure didn’t), you actually plant cloves of garlic. Simply peel a garlic bulb, find a nice-sized clove and put it upright in a little furrow in the soil with the pointed end up, the flatter end down. (Just the way a bulb of garlic would sit when upright.) Plant the garlic cloves about 2 inches apart from each other. Then, cover the cloves with about an inch and a half of dirt.
Soon enough, green shoots were sticking out of the ground – a nice sight to see amongst the browns of November.
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At this point, I asked my mom when the garlic would be ready. I was thinking it would survive winter and be ready for picking in February or March. When she said, “June or July,” I immediately regretted my decision. Had I known it took nine months to mature, I wouldn’t have gone so garlic crazy. Thinking I would harvest the garlic before I planted my raised beds in the spring, I’d given them way too much space in my tiny backyard garden. But in April, I was able to utilize the space by interspersing onion transplants, which are companion plants, amongst the then-massive garlic plants.
Despite their size, the garlic still had a little way to go at that point. In May, each garlic plant got a long shoot in between its green leaves. When those get a seed head at the top, you snap it off – and you can stir-fry the garlic shoot with some veggies. Then, you wait a few more weeks until the green leaves start to turn brown, and the garlic is finally ready to dig up.
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Then, it takes another few weeks for it to dry out. At this point, you chop off the stalk so there are about two or three inches above the garlic bulb. After it dries, it’s finally ready to eat.
Last night, a full nine months since planting the cloves, I enjoyed my first meal with homegrown garlic. I crushed some garlic for a balsamic vinaigrette and sauteed some minced garlic into a marinara sauce to serve with chicken and angel hair pasta.