The word “garlic”comes from old Middle English. It is made from two words gar, (spear) and leek. It’s origin is fairly uncertain but is believed to be from Southern Siberia, Central Asia and N.E Iran perhaps. Historically, it is first mentioned around 2000 B.C.
It is known that the pyramid builders, in ancient Egypt, ate garlic. The Israelites rubbed in on their bodies before making their escape from Egypt. The Romans took it in the belief it gave them strength in battle. It was the herb of Mars, the Roman god of war.
It has been prescribed medicinally since before biblical times. Some of those old remedies would not be recommended these days. It is the main ingredient of Four Thieves Vinegar, a cure-all remedy sold in France since the early 18th century. Legend claims that four convicts buried plague victims in Marseilles and protected themselves by drinking a concoction of crushed garlic and wine vinegar.
Garlic is also used for dried flower and wreath arrangements and who hasn’t been delighted to see a braided garlic collection hanging from a kitchen wall.
However, garlic’s main use these days is as an ingredient in all sorts of culinary delights. Indeed some dishes would be pretty plain without the addition of this pungent herb. Many people enjoy a young garlic on its own, smothered in olive oil and baked in an oven.
The easiest way of growing garlic is simply to plant the individual cloves two finger knuckles deep into rich, slightly dry soil about 6 inches apart. Many books suggest sowing in the early spring for an autumn (fall) harvest but here in the subtropics I have found they are best sown in late autumn or early winter for a spring harvest.
I always save a bulb, or two, from my own harvest for sowing next year – that way I know they are safely, organically grown and without disease. One strange thing I’ve noticed is that some small cloves grow up the inside of the garlic stems. This never happened when I grew them in the cooler climate of Victoria. Is this common?
Of course the absolute best thing about always having garlic around is that I really cannot remember the last time I saw a vampire!
Happy gardening, TUG