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Friday, October 12th, 2007

Now is the time to plant for future Italian dishes

By Betty Lawrence
While you're working up that ground this fall to plant some of those gorgeous spring flowering bulbs, why not also plant a few garlic bulbs?
Seasoned gardeners say that fall really is the best time to plant those aromatic bulbs, so I think I'll give it a whirl.
There's nothing better than fresh garlic when cooking up your favorite Italian dishes. You apparently also can use it for medicinal purposes and to ward off evil spirits.
According Kathy Anderson, the vegetable growing expert at McGroarty Enterprises of Perry, the bulbs are easy to grow and they may be planted from the first frost up to November.
However, she doesn't recommend planting them next to your spring bulbs because "you don't want to disturb your flower bulbs when harvesting," she says.
She also says that garlic planted in the fall, rather than in the spring, will produce bigger bulbs.
Unfortunately, after checking with area retailers to see if garlic can be purchased locally, it appears I will need to order those bulbs from a seed catalog.
"You also can use the garlic from your grocery stores, but it's usually a common variety. Most varieties of garlic will grow in Ohio, and it's fun to try a different variety," Anderson says.
According to Anderson, there are 150 varieties of garlic, all of which she says will have slightly different tastes and in colors of purple, pink and even some stripes.
There are the soft neck, such as is found in the grocery stores, and hard neck varieties, which have a hard stem with the cloves growing around a central stem.
"With the hard neck varieties, there is less waste and the large cloves peel easier than the soft neck. Plus, over the summer, the garlic produces little flowers on the end of the stem. Like onions, the flower will develop into bulblets that you can eat or plant," Anderson says, noting her favorite is a German Rocambole, a German Red, because of her German heritage.
"It is a good keeper and has good flavor," she says.
To plant garlic, break apart the bulbs into individual cloves and plant approximately 2 inches deep and up to 6 inches apart. The soil should be tilled and well-drained. The edge of a vegetable garden is a popular place for planting garlic, Anderson advises.
It will grow over winter (be sure to mulch) and top growth starts in the spring. It can be harvested in the summer when the bottom half of the leaves begin to turn brown, sometime in July.
Apparently, garlic will pretty much take care of itself after planted. Insects don't like it, Anderson says, and it is not prone to diseases.
Dry the bulbs for up to two weeks, out of direct sunlight, before taking off the stem and roots. Garlic can then be stored at room temperature, up to nine months for the soft neck varieties and up to six months for the hard neck.
The bulbs need to be replanted each fall.
For more information on garlic planting, go to http:://freeplant.com.
According to the Gardens Ablaze Web site, raw garlic, not cooked, has anti-bacterial and anti-viral components. Garlic cough syrup and garlic tea can be made and used to help cure respiratory ailments and a sore throat.
I just want to cook with it. I don't want to use to as a medicine, and I don't want to use it to ward off evil spirits, although if I wore the pungent cloves around my neck, I probably could ward off everything, and everyone, that bugs me. Hmmmmm.
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