My plan for this year was to post my herb / spice post on a Wednesday – but this week I was so busy I pushed through a post I had ready to go in my draft folder. Not wanting to miss out a week, here is the post!
Garlic is divided into two groups: softnecks which contain all the common varieties; and hardnecks which contain the remarkable serpent variety. It produces tall, sinuously looping stems with a head of bulbis mixed with miniature plants. Below ground it forms a bulb of 4 to 14 cloves. The ramsons variety is an intensely scented species and both the leaves and bulbs are used. Russian plants develop a large basal bulb comprising several huge cloves. Wild plants have garlic flavoured foliage, small garlic flavoured bulbs and nodding umbels of attractive starry white flowers. In the area where I live, we have a lot of snakes and I have planted the wild variety to dissuade them from visiting my garden.
The plants requires a well tilled and weed free soil, good drainage and a sunny position. Propagate by planting cloves vertically, with the pointed tip covered with about 2.5cm of soil. Regular weeding is essential, particularly in the earlier stages of growth. Do not over water and do not use chemicals. Companion plant together with orange marigolds.
Use the foliage fresh. Choose a sunny day to pull the bulbs and then leave them for a few days to dry out. Store in a dry, well ventilated area.
All varieties compliments almost any savoury dish and goes well with most culinary herbs and spices. It is an essential ingredient in many cuisines, especially Asian, Mexican, Mediterranean, Middle Eastern and Caribbean. Try out this simple recipe for a pickled version. Choose firm bulbs that are not sprouting and that are tightly encased in their husks. Peeled garlic should be creamy white. Remove any areas of discolouration before using, as these will impart a rank taste to the dish. When peeled, then sliced or chopped, the enzymes within a clove of garlic react on exposure to air to produce a strong, lingering, sulphurous aroma. The flavour of garlic is similarly strong and sharp, and gives the impression of heat on the palate. The more finely it is crushed or chopped, the stronger the garlic’s aroma becomes. When cooked properly, the flavour is mellow and sweet. Try baking a whole head in foil and then squeeze out the contents of the cloves. This mellow, creamy paste is delicious spread on bread or cooked meats or stirred through mashed vegetables. Take care when cooking garlic – if it is cooked over too high a heat it will burn, becoming bitter and taste unpleasant. Even a tiny amount of burnt garlic will permeate and spoil a whole dish.
Garlic is used raw in aïoli and tapenade. Crushed garlic mashed into butter is a delicious and simple sauce for cooked meats, or it can be spread on sliced bread, wrapped in foil and baked in a medium hot oven for 10 minutes to make garlic bread. Push slivers of garlic into slits in a joint of lamb or pork or put a few cloves inside the cavity of a chicken before roasting.
information sourced from The Complete Book of Herbs