One thing it isn't worth getting on the cheap is garlic. Around 2007-2008 I noticed garlic was coming in neat net bags and looking very clean and white and it was dirt cheap. The next thing I noticed was that I was using it by the whole head. The third thing I picked up on was that it was from CHINA! Then one of my local gardening friends chided me for being foolish enough to risk my health eating "two-year-old" Chinese garlic. So, I went and bought $7 worth of local fresh garlic. Now I'm back to using it one or two cloves at a time and everything tastes WAY YUMMIER! So, if you want all these recipes to be as tasty as possible, seek out home grown garlic at your local farmers market.

In fall 2009 I planted about 70 cloves and covered them with a deep pile of leaves and a sheet of chicken wire. The scapes were good, but the cloves were very small. One friend who grew 9 varieties said it might just be the variety I planted. Last fall I planted the 6 cloves of a really big bulb she gave me. So maybe next year I'll have 36 cloves to plant.

Instead of making cabbage soup in June, with an imported cabbage, I made a batch of creamy soup with a cup of my garlic plants' scapes. 4 1/2 cups of diced potatoes, 1 cup of diced scapes, 6 cups boiling water, 2 veggie bouillon cubes. Simmer 45 minutes and buzz with the immersion blender.  

Paul and Mary Lou Pospisil are our local garlic gurus. They publish The Garlic News. (Subscription form to download here.)

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Paul has provided us two articles.


Any Gardener Can Grow Great Garlic
By: Paul Pospisil, Master Gardener Emeritus

Garlic is a fascinating plant with its hundreds of cultivars and varieties, its unique growing cycle, the folklore surrounding it and its real and mystical powers. It has been cultivated in every civilization for thousands of years. Any gardener can grow great garlic. It’s not difficult to grow, just different than most other vegetables.

In our northern climate, garlic is planted in October, sets roots, rests over the winter, resumes growth in April and is harvested in July or August depending on variety.  

Grow it organically.  Don’t contaminate this health-giving plant with toxic chemicals. Prepare a planting site of well-drained, rich and fertile soil in a location in full sun and near a water supply for irrigation.  A soil pH of 6.0- 7.5 is acceptable. 

Just before planting, crack bulbs carefully into cloves, planting only healthy, undamaged ones. Plant cloves 4-5 inches deep in either trenches or holes made with a dibble. Planting in raised beds is advisable. Cover cloves with soil.   Wait until the ground is frozen, and then mulch with 4-6 inches of clean straw or seed-free hay to insulate it against mid-winter thaws that result in winterkill.

Watch for emergence in early spring, even before the snow is gone. Carefully move the mulch back a little to speed up growth. If there is little or no rain, water it regularly, about an inch weekly during the growing season. Inspect for pests or diseases and hand pull any weeds that push through the mulch.
Remove the scapes that appear on hardneck varieties near the end of June. In July, watch for the leaves dying and start lifting bulbs before too many are dried out. A good rule is 2/3 still green, bottom 1/3 dying. In clay soils, wash off the dirt with a water spray and hang or rack the garlic to cure. In sandy soils, the soil can simply be brushed off. Handle bulbs gently to avoid damage. Cure the garlic in an airy, dry location for about two weeks to prepare it for winter storage. Save enough bulbs from your harvest for replanting.

A clove of garlic a day, on average, is a suitable amount to include in a healthy diet. That’s about 50-60 bulbs per person per year so allow enough space in your garden for garlic!

                                                                                                                            Condensed version 2010 


The Wild Leek, a spring woodland delicacy
By: Paul Pospisil, Master Gardener Emeritus

Every spring in eastern Canada, avid harvesters of edible wild plants head for the woods in search of wild garlic. The plant they are looking for is actually a wild leek, wrongly called wild garlic. Local farmers' markets, roadside stands and specialty produce shops feature it every spring and pickled “wild garlic” can be found year-round.

It is a perennial plant that grows in clusters or patches, often in maple bushes. The plant has two or three elongated, broad leaves somewhat like lily of the valley with an onion scent (don’t confuse them as lily of the valley is toxic). The underground bulbs are also elongated, similar to a shallot or a over-mature scallion. In late April or early May, the wild leek sprouts its leaves, and for five to six weeks, grows to store nutrients in the bulb. In July, following flowering, the leaves die back.  In the fall, the bulbs divide, the large, older ones being more likely to reproduce, with each bulb usually dividing into three parts.
It can be propagated from seed but produces few fertile seeds and only after 7-10 years. Seeds take up to 18 months to germinate. Usual reproduction is by bulb division.
Careless harvesters collect either the largest bulbs, thus removing the most productive plants, or dig up entire clumps. Because it grows so slowly, the wild leek is not able to recover. The plants are dug up faster than they can reproduce, threatening the very survival of the species.
The wild leek grows only in eastern North America, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Quebec, Ontario and much of Eastern U.S.A.  It formerly grew in Manitoba as well but disappeared around 1923. Commerce in “wild garlic” was banned in Quebec in 1995 and only small harvests for personal use are authorized. Three other Canadian provinces and four American states now recognize wild garlic as an endangered or threatened species. Despite restrictions, overharvesting continues as the main cause of the disappearance of wild leek stands.

Restraint and conservation with respect to the wild leek is encouraged. The leaves and bulb of this native plant are both delicious to use, so, a caution to enthusiasts, pick only the leaves, not the bulbs. You still enjoy the flavour. If you feel you must have bulbs, dig only 10 % of any clump. Leave the largest plants for reproduction. Don't go back to the same clump for several years. Don’t use the bulbs for pickling. Pickled garlic and wild leeks taste very similar and garlic is more abundant.

Enjoy this native plant as a spring delicacy but help to preserve it for the enjoyment of future generations. For garlic collectors, consider starting a small patch in the woods near your garden to propagate the species.
 
Recipe Tips
The leaves of the wild leek provide lavish greens for any salad.  Their flavour surpasses even that of scallions or chives. Chop them into salsa in place of garlic or make a salad dressing or dipping oil by finely shredding them into olive oil.  Like chives, they can be chopped and dried, then used as an herb seasoning.


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