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The goddess of the edible garden By Dave Hanson


Garlic


sophisticated bit of phytochemistry, loaded with heaps of pleasure inducing flavonoids that not only taste amazing but also confer a wide array of health benefits (e.g. blood pressure reduction, cholesterol reduction). The pungent oils are also associated with everything from discouraging vampires (which may or may not actually work...) to serving as a versatile garden-mate in companion planting strategies. Garlic is a herb to love and definitely one to grow. Hardneck vs softneck


F In northern regions, the go-to garlic for home planting is


called “hardneck”, a reference to the sturdy structure known as a scape that shoots up through the middle of the plant each summer, ending in a flower-like structure full of baby bulbs (bulbils). Hardneck garlic is from the sub-species Allium sativum var. ophioscorodon and, it is worth noting, that chefs and garlic connoisseurs the world over consider hardnecks to be the most flavourful garlics on the planet. Hardneck garlic thrives where winters are cold and cannot easily be grown where there is too much warmth. We live in an ideal climate to grow the best garlic in the world. By contrast, the last grocery store garlic bulb you


purchased was likely a “softneck” garlic, which hails from warmer climates and lacks particular charm. Softneck garlic has good storage qualities, and tends to have easy peel,


10 • Beautiful Gardens 2015


ew ingredients can be as ubiquitous, raunchy and intense, yet all the while delicate, complex and heroic as garlic. The cloves of Allium sativum are indeed a


plump bulbs which have made softneck the market champi- on in Canada since the 1990’s (actually mostly due to cheap production outside of Canada. Garlic farms in Canada dropped from 4,500 acres to less than 300 acres between 2000 and 2002). But there is no comparing the flavour of softneck to hardneck garlics – and great garlic is making a spirited come back. To find the very best garlic look for the trifecta of hardneck, organic and heirloom. How to grow it


Garlic is grown from bulbs, commonly referred to as


“seed garlic”, which is a little confusing since garlic almost never produces true seeds. Just as with potatoes, there are many benefits to planting garlic from professionally grown stock. Seed garlic growers’ work hard to produce quality propagation material and this is reflected in the price when compared to table garlic, but the benefits of ideally sized, disease-free and true-to-name bulbs are well worth the cost. Once a hardneck crop is established, home gardeners can also use home-harvested bulbils for replanting. Although garlic will sprout if planted in spring, the only


way to get a fully mature bulb in our region is by planting it in fall. Timing is actually very important, since prairie weather has a bad habit of going from gorgeous to ghastly in a hurry. The first task of a freshly planted garlic bulb is to set out a strong root system, and avoid shooting above ground at all cost (fall shoots are a big vulnerability that generally leads to winter kill). Start planting around the first


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