By: PAUL McKAY
MORE THAN almost any other vegetable, garlic can be regarded as one of nature’s wonders. It is said to be able to inhibit and kill bacteria, lower blood pressure, protect the liver, boost the immune system and generally maintain good health.
It has the ability to stimulate the lymphatic system, is considered an antioxidant and protects cells against free radical damage. Current research suggests garlic may help prevent some forms of cancer, heart disease, strokes and viral infections.
As if all that wasn’t enough, garlic tastes delicious. It is said to be an acquired taste; well believe me, once acquired there is no looking back.
Many Portuguese recipes call for the use of garlic, often in huge quantities. Although inexpensive to buy, it is worth growing, nonetheless. Home grown garlic can be eaten fresh as well as dried and often has a stronger, fresher flavour than that bought in the supermarkets. Growing garlic is simple, straightforward and stress free.
Garlic is grown from the cloves of previously grown garlic. Buy a small bunch of garlic, preferably from a market so you can be sure it had not been irradiated or treated in some way to stop it sprouting. Separate the bulbs into individual cloves and they are ready for planting. Each clove will produce a new garlic globe.
Prepare a bed for the garlic, fairly rich, sandy soil, free of stones.
Plant each clove about 5cm deep and about 10cm apart from its neighbour anytime from now until early November.
Keep the bed moist, not waterlogged.
The green shoots emerge within two to four weeks. In early Spring, the leaves begin to die back, turning yellow. Stop watering at this point.
After a further two weeks, carefully dig under the new garlic globes, carefully lifting them out with plenty of soil. Shake them loosely and leave them laying on the soil to dry in the sun for a day or two.
Gently wipe off (do not wash) the remaining soil then dry in the sun either on netting or tied into roes or braids.
If hung in a cool dry room you should be eating your own garlic until you are ready to begin all over again next year.
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