วันศุกร์ที่ 30 มกราคม พ.ศ. 2552



by Gayla Trail

How to grow lemongrass from a store-bought stalk.
Lemongrass (Cymbopogon citrates) is fast becoming a fashionable herb best known for putting the lemony zip in Southeast Asian cuisine. Slices of fresh stalks are added to soups, salads and seafood dishes. Dried leaves and bits are also widely used medicinally or as a tea.
But lemongrass is still the new kid in town and hasn't made it into my local garden shops up here in the great white north. Thankfully, despite its exotic reputation, lemongrass is easy to grow and can be started from stalks purchased cheaply in the produce section of most large supermarkets or Asian food stores. I bought a bunch of mature stalks for about a buck and had a pot growing on my windowsill in a few weeks.

Grow Your Own
Choose the freshest, plumpest looking stalks at the store. It will take a divine miracle to revive stems that have become dry and desiccated so pick the choicest stuff possible. Your best bet are stalks that have a bulbous base with traces of root buds visible under the surface. If you find lemongrass with actual, viable roots still intact then you're really rockin'.
At home, trim a few inches off the top of the plant and peel away any dead outer leaves right off from the base. Plop the stalks into a jar of shallow, room temperature water and set the whole kit and caboodle near a sunny window for a few weeks. Make sure to do this as soon as you get home from the store. Lemongrass dries out quick so the faster you can get it revived the better. And of course once your jar is in the window check on it intermittently to be sure it doesn't run out of water-otherwise you'll have to start all over again.

After a week or two has passed you should start to see small roots emerging from the bottom end of the stalk. When the roots have grown an inch or two in length it's time to transfer everything into soil. Fill a pot (with drainage holes in the bottom) with rich, all-purpose container soil and bury the rooted stalks with the base (also called the 'crown') just below the surface.
Place your pot in a warm and sunny spot on your deck or window ledge. Water regularly, keeping the soil moist like a damp sponge, but not soggy. Lemongrass will thrive outdoors during the summer months or year-round in southern climates (at least zone 9). Southerners can super-size their plant by growing their plant in the moist soil around a backyard bog or pond. In climates that experience freezing conditions, plants must be brought indoors for the winter-- which is cool because a pot in the kitchen means easy access to fresh clippings.

How to Use
For a lemony herbal tea, steep fresh clippings of the grassy parts in hot water. Fresh leaves also add a lemony tang to ice cream or salad dressing. Tender, chopped stalks are great in spring rolls, desert cakes and soup or when used to flavor oil or fish dishes. To harvest the stalks, gently yank a stem or two from the pot, roots and all. The remaining stalks will continue to reproduce throughout the growing months. My cat goes wacky for lemongrass so keep yours out of kitty's reach or grow a pot just for her.

Credit and Info By : http://www.yougrowgirl.com

วันศุกร์ที่ 2 มกราคม พ.ศ. 2552

How to Grow Pepper Plants

How to Grow Pepper Plants

Peppers have always been one of the more popular vegetables in the home garden. Growing pepper plants is easy. Bell peppers, and many hot peppers, are native to Central and North America. A wide range of hot pepper varieties are also native to Asia, most notably Thailand and China.

It used to be that any grower who liked peppers, would plant several sweet green bell pepper plants in their garden. Several weeks later, they would harvest some great tasting fruit. No difficult decisions on the variety. And, home grown peppers are not difficult to grow.
Today's gardeners enjoy the opportunity to select between a tremendous array of choices. You can pick sweet or hot. When it comes to hot, there are varying degrees of hot. The debates rage as to who has the hottest pepper. Varieties from Mexico, China and Thailand usually are the hottest.

You also get to select color. There are a wide variety of colors to choose from, versus the "plain old green" ones which were the only choices your parents and grandparents had to choose from. There are a number of yellow, red, and orange colors. There is even a variety with a striking purple color.

After you are done selecting hot/sweet and color, don't forget shape. There are traditional "bell pepper" shapes, long and slender, and of course round or "cherry peppers".

Whatever your preference, seed catalogs and garden stores cater to the high demand and wide variety of peppers. Buy Pepper Seeds now
Did you know?: A sweet green pepper is a pepper that is not yet ripe. Let it grow, and it will turn red. The texture will change markedly, and the flavor will change as well.

By far the most popular pepper remains the sweet green bell pepper.
Banana Peppers with many hot varieties.
Cherry peppers
Did you know? Paprika is a pepper!

Sowing Pepper Seeds:
Peppers are best started indoors, eight to ten weeks or more before the last frost date for your area. Pepper seeds can be a difficult seed germinate, and seedlings grow slowly. Many growers simply visit their local garden store for seedling to transplant. Avid garden hobbiests find pleasure in a new challenge, and start their own pepper plants indoors.
Tip: Provide bottom heat or heat lamps to raise the soil temperature to 80 degrees. This will promote better and quicker germination.

Buy Germination Heating Mats - for an overall healthy start for your seedlings.

Days to Maturity:
70 to 90 days or more, depending upon the variety. Read the package for the specific time for the variety you acquire.

Days to Maturity:
70 to 90 days or more, depending upon the variety. Read the package for the specific time for the variety you acquire.
How to Grow Peppers:
Select a location in your garden that receives full sun. Prepare the garden, adding plenty of compost, manure, and a general fertilizer.
No matter what type of pepper you grow, they like the weather hot. Transplant young seedlings outdoors after the last chance of frost. If the weather is still cool, delay transplanting a few days, and keep them in a coldframe, indoors or next to the house.
Space 18-24 inches apart, in rows 24 to 36 inches apart. This spacing may vary somewhat by variety.

Pepper plants prefer moist soil. Avoid wet soil. Water regularly in the hot, dry summer months.
Add mulch around the peppers to keep down weeds, and to retain moisture. As the peppers develop, switch over to a fertilizer higher in Phosphorous and Potassium. Gardeners often make the mistake of providing too much nitrogen. The result is a great looking bushy, green plant, but few fruit.

Tip: Peppers are self pollinators. Occasionally, they will cross pollinate from pollen carried by bees or other insects. To minimize this possibility, don't plant hot and sweet peppers too close. Don't worry though, as it will not affect the fruit of this year's crop. The cross will show up in the genetics of the seeds, if you save them.

Peppers can be picked as soon as they reach a size which is edible.

Insects and Pests:
Several insects enjoy your pepper plants. Spider mites and aphids are the most common, with an occasional borer. In many areas, it is infrequent. For the infrequent problem, try an organic insecticide or dust.

While many viruses and diseases can affect Peppers, it is somewhat infrequent. Fungal infections can be treated with fungicides. Apply treatment as soon as you see it.

No doubt about it, peppers do not like frost. In the spring, frost will stunt or kill the plants. Cold weather can cause the plant to slow down or stunt it. In the Fall, cover the plants, if frost is expected. Use a hot cap in on cold and frosty spring nights. If they are vented, they can they left on all day.

Tip: For a quick cover-up on cold fall nights, use five gallon buckets. They are the perfect size, and can be quickly placed over the plant.

A little bit about Hot Peppers:
The ingredient in peppers that makes the "hot" sensation is called Capsaicin. A sweet green pepper is devoid of this chemical. The hotter the pepper, the more the level of Capsaicin. It is measured in parts per million (ppm).

Info by : http://www.gardenersnet.com

Overview of Garlic

A Garlic Overview

The Garlic Family Tree and Where Garlic Came fromGarlic isn't just garlic, there are many different kinds of garlic and they're almost all different in size, color, shape, taste, number of cloves per bulb, pungency and storability. Most Americans aren't aware of the many kinds since they seldom see more than one kind in the local supermarket. There are said to be over 600 cultivated sub-varieties of garlic in the world, although most of them may be selections of only a handful of basic types that have been grown widely and developed their own characteristics over the centuries as local growing conditions changed.

Botanists classify all true garlics under the species Allium Sativum. There are two subspecies; Ophioscorodon , or hard-necked garlics (Ophios for short) and Sativum , or soft-necked garlics. The hard-necked garlics were the original garlics and the soft-necked ones were developed or cultivated over the centuries by growers from the original hard-necks through a process of selection.

The latest research (2003) shows that ten fairly distinct varietal groups of garlic have evolved; five very different hardneck varieties called Porcelain, Purple Stripe, Marbled Purple Stripe, Glazed Purple Stripe, and Rocambole; three varieties of Weakly bolting hadnecks that often produce softnecks - Creole,Asiatic and Turban, plus two distinct softneck varietal groups; Artichoke and Silverskin. Our website has evolved to show this new structure (It was previously thought that there were only five groups.)

An earlier study classified garlic into 17 isozyme types, but that didn't work out satisfactorily. Apparently all of the hundreds of sub-varieties (separate cultivars) of garlic grown all over the world came from these ten basic groups or sub-varieties of hardnecks that evolved in the Caucasus Mountains between the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea. Their individual characteristics have been altered over time by careful (or accidental) selection and changing growing conditions, such as soil fertility, rainfall, temperature, altitude, length and severity of winter, etc. as they spread across Asia and Europe and the Asiatics and Turbans developed in the East, while the Creoles developed in Spainand southern France and Artichokes and Silverskins developed Italy and elsewhere in Europe.

This picture of the structure of the garlic family is by no means final as work continues to define it more accurately using a larger number of cultivars and this may lead to the identification of more clusters of sub-varieties.

How Did All These Garlics Get Here?
A few of the kinds of garlic now in America came in with Polish, German and Italian immigrants over the centuries, but most of them came in all at once in 1989. The USDA had been asking the Soviets for permission to go to the Caucasus region to collect garlics but permission had always been refused because there were many missile bases in the area and this was where their spaceport was and is.

Finally, as the Soviet Union was disintegrating in 1989, they suddenly invited the Americans in to collect the garlics. They were under continuous armed guard and were allowed to travel only at night so they wouldn't see anything of military importance. They went from village to village along the old Silk Road buying garlic from local markets and naming the cultivars after the town or village where they were purchased.

When they got back to the US, they realized they had no gardens ready in which to plant the garlic (The USDA plans things years in advance.) so they contracted out the growing to a few private growers on a share-the-garlic basis. After they crop was harvested and the USDA got their share, these growers began to trade with each other and to sell some to friends and other garlic growers and that is how they came to be available now when they were not available 15 or 20 years ago. There was no time for adequate phytosanitary precautions to be made so we don't really know what kinds of "hitchhikers" might have been brought in with them.

The above explanation also shows why these garlics are rare and expensive. Slowly more growers are beginning to grow these cultivars and as more of it is grown and the supply begins to catch up with the very great demand. Garlic lovers take one look at these delightful things and they feel an overwhelming urge to try them. In a few years, these gourmet garlics will be more widely grown and the price will eventually come down somewhat, but not as long as all growers are selling out in a short time.

Purple Stripe Garlics Purple Stripe garlics are ophios (hardnecks) and are usually vividly striped with purplish vertical stripes decorating the bulb wrappers, hence their name. In between the purple stripes, their bulb wrappers are usually very white and thick. Some sub-varieties are even heavily splotched with purple. Coloration is affected by growing conditions, particularly weather and sometimes they are strongly colored and at other times more white than purple.
They tend to be rather rich in flavor, but not overly pungent, though some are milder, and store fairly well. Standard Purple Stripes (Chesnok Red and Persian Star) make the sweetest roasted garlic. They mature about midway through the local harvest season although the larger ones may mature later. In addition to the standard purple stripes, there are two other groups of Purple Stripe varieties, the glazed group and the marbled group.

Both seem to have thicker bulb wrappers and fewer cloves per bulb than the standard group. Purple stripes can be very beautiful garlics that range from the very strong, such as Metechi or Skuri #2 or very mild, such as Siberian. Persian Star and Chesnok Red have a rich medium flavor

Allium Sativum Sativum (Soft-necked garlics) Artichoke Garlics Artichoke garlics (sativums or softnecks) are the kinds of garlics seen most in the supermarkets in our part of the country. California Early and California Late are grown in huge quantities around Gilroy, California and shipped all over the country and are the generic garlic that most people think of when they think of garlic. In fact, most people around our parts weren't even aware that there was more than one kind of garlic. We think artichoke garlics are among the easiest to grow and seem to less fussy about growing conditions than the others. They have lots of cloves, usually somewhere between 12 and 20, with lots of smaller internal cloves.

These are a favorite among people who want to use only a very small amount of garlic in a dish (although I can't imagine why). They appear to feel that if you can taste the garlic in a dish you have used too much and prefer to use the small inner cloves. Artichokes are generally very large, store well and have a wide range of flavors with some, like Simoneti and Red Toch, being very mild and pleasant and others, such as Inchelium Red and Susanville, have greater depth of flavor. Chinese Purple and Purple Cauldron are much stronger and stick around for a while. The Asiatic group of artichoke garlics tend to send up scapes, despite the fact that they're supposed to be softnecks and have a little more color to the bulb wrappers than the main group, which are usually very white.

The Turban group of artichoke garlics tend to be the most colorful artichokes and have fewer cloves per bulb than the others. The turbans also harvest earlier and store less long than the other artichokes and a good bit stronger in taste as well. Artichoke Garlics are the commercial growers favorite because they are easier to grow and produce larger bulbs that most other garlics. Artichokes are often called red garlics or Italian garlics despite the fact that most are neither red nor were ever grown in Italy. Most of the artichokes that have red as part of their name have no red in them, but we retain the word as it helps to describe exactly which cultivar we are discussing.

Silverskin Garlics Silverskin garlics are usually, but not always, the ones that you see in braids. Silverskins are generally the longest storing of all garlics and have a soft pliable neck that lends itself to braiding and holds up over time better than the artichokes whose necks tend to deteriorate earlier than the silverskins. They are usually fairly hot strong garlics with very few cultivars being mild. They are also usually the last ones to come out of the ground. Their bulb wrappers are very white although the clove covers can be strikingly beautiful as in the case of Nootka Rose or Rose du Var. Silverskins have more cloves per bulb, on the average, than the artichokes but are not nearly as large.

the Creole Garlics The Creole garlics are a unique and truly beautiful group of garlics. They are genetically related to Silverskins, but utterly unlike Silverskins in almost evert way. Botanists are having a hard time pinning them down - they are almost certainly a separate group unto themselves, but connected to other groups.

Creoles are downright gorgeous to look at and are one of the easiest eating raw garlics owing to a taste that is rich and full but only very moderate pungency (heat), though Creole Red and Ajo Rojo are noticeably stronger. They retain their flavor well when cooked. They have eight to twelve cloves per bulb arranged in a circular configuration. Both the bulb wrappers and the clove covers have a beautiful vivid rose color and I regard them to be as beautiful as the porcelain garlics even though their configuration is very different. They are easily grown in southern climates and are much more tolerant of adverse weather conditions than most garlics.

Porcelain Garlics - Picture to be Posted Soon. Porcelain garlics (ophios) are among the most beautiful garlics of all and sometimes seem too beautiful to eat. Their bulb wrappers tend to be very thick, luxuriant and parchment-like and tightly cover their few, but large, cloves. The outer bulb wrappers are often very white and tend to some purple striping as you peel away the wrappers. Their appearance tempts one to wonder whether they were sculpted by some great artist rather than something grown in the ground. There are few or no smaller cloves as most cloves are large and fat (typically only five really big cloves per bulb).

Porcelains are generally strong tasting garlics with a few exceptions and can store for up to eight months or more at cool room temperature, if grown well. Bulb wrappers vary from white/ivory (Zemo) to very purplish (Romanian Red). Clove covers have elongated tips and a golden brown color with some having distinctive vertical, purplish streaks.

Porcelains grow better up north than they do down south but still most southern growers can grow them some years.

Rocambole Garlics - Picture to be Posted Soon. Rocambole garlics tend to have thinner bulb wrappers than other ophios and lots of purple striping and splotches. They are not as white as other ophios and seem to have a brownish cast to them, in fact, some of them almost look as though they need a bath. What they lack in beauty, they are said to make up for in taste. Many people (including Ron Engeland-author of "Growing Great Garlic")consider them their favorite garlics. In the spring they send up a scape (stalk) that forms a complete double loop. They have usually six to eight cloves arranged in circular fashion about a central scape and have few or no smaller internal cloves.

Alas, we shall not know as they do not grow well in warmer climates such as ours. They require a colder winter and a cooler spring than we have here in central Texas. We have tried for years to southernize these garlics, but to no avail; they simply die in the ground. If you want to try these alleged culinary delights, we suggest you order them from Filaree Farms in north central Washington. Their primary drawback, other than being fussy about growing conditions, is that they are among the shortest storing garlics of all.

Garlic Which is Not Garlic Not all plants that some people think of as garlic is actually garlic of the species Allium Sativum. Elephant garlic is Allium ampeloprasum. Ramsons garlic is a broad-leaved wild garlic and is of the species allium ursinum. Crow garlic is a narrow-leafed smallish wild garlic of the species allium vineale. Garlic chives is of the species allium tuberosum.
99. Elephant Garlic - All Size Cloves Available Elephant garlic is sold as whole bulbs early in the season and later on it may be as loose individual cloves - $16. per pound. Elephant garlic is not a true garlic; it a leek. All garlic species are botanically classified as Allium Sativum and elephant garlic is Allium Ampeloprasum, formerly Allium Gigantum.

Large elephant garlic is about twice the size of the largest real garlics or larger and has a milder taste but with a sharp onion-like edge to it and a distinctive aftertaste. They average five monstrously large cloves that are somewhat yellowish compared the milky whiteness of true garlic cloves. It also has far less allicin potential than real garlic but grows extremely clean and disease free and does not seem to be bothered by insects. Elephant garlic stores very hard and clean much longer than real garlic, even when separated into individual cloves. Unlike real garlic it produces bottom bulbils called corms that have very hard shells with sharp pointed tops and they store even longer than the bulbs.

The corms are attached to the bottoms of the bulbs but grow up their sides and are often incorporated into the bulb wrappers several layers deep. The bulb wrappers on elephant garlic are extremely white and they cure out to be very thin and flaky and are intact only on freshly harvested bulbs. After a few months they seem to evaporate, leaving bare or almost bare bulbs that have a rather rough look but it does not seem to affect their storability much, only their attractiveness.

The Many Tastes of Garlic Believe it or not, all garlics do not taste the same. Some cultivars are exceedingly mild in taste, such as Chet's Italian Red and Red Toch (both Artichokes). Some are medium flavored like Inchelium Red (another Artichoke) or Burgundy (a Creole ) while others are very hot and strong, such as Metechi (a marbled Purple Stripe) or Chinese Purple (Asiatic). I usually enjoy a milder garlic for eating raw and stronger garlics for cooking or for using as medicine. Each garlic is different in taste, but don't take my word for it, try several kinds to see which tastes appeal to you as each of us has our own likes.
There are several components to garlic taste, but we only measure three of them - flavor (or garlickiness), pungency (whhich is the degree of hotness when eaten raw) and residual or aftertaste, which for some varieties is considerable, and it's not necessarily related to pungency. We measure (subjectively) heat, flavor, and aftertaste on a scale from 1 to 10, each. Raw garlic is hot like a chile pepper, it just doesn't last over a minute, usually and has an aftertaste. Flavor is the intensity of the garlic taste itself, whether it is hot or not; that is, the garlickiness of it. Some have a heavy flavor but mild in heat, whereas others may be light in both or very heavy in both. If you get garlic that scores a ten on all three scales, you have a very potent garlic.
Even among the hot garlics, taste varies. Chinese Purple (Asiatic) for example is instantly hot, whereas Asian Rose, another Asiatic AKA Chinese Sativum, produces a truly beautiful garlic flavor with no hint of heat for about ten seconds then your mouth seems to explode with heat. Some varieties I have taste tested had a delay of almost 30 seconds before the raging one minute inferno set in. Unlike Hot peppers, or chilis as they are properly called, the heat from garlic dissipates quickly, usually in 30 to 45 seconds. Garlic is only hot when eaten raw as cooking removes the heat. This overview is intended to be brief and a detailed discussion of taste will be included in each of the illustrated varietal descriptions of the garlics we have for sale.
The taste of any given garlic changes almost continually. Any garlic is usually milder soon after it is pulled from the ground than it will be after a few months of storage as the chemistry within the garlic evolves during the year. Once pulled from the ground, garlic slowly dehydrates in a natural drying down process that takes months and as it loses its moisture it slowly shrinks in size and the flavor begins to condense and continues to intensify as long as it is stored at room temperature. If at any point during this process you slice and dry it, it will retain whatever flavor it had at that point and will not change any more. Shelf life at room temp and about 50% humidity is from four to ten months or longer, depending on the variety and the health and condition of the garlic.
Also, growing conditions directly affect taste. While each cultivar has its normal flavor, that is, what it tastes like in a normal year, each one varies from year to year based on that years growing conditions. Adverse weather can make normally mild varieties hot and usually hot garlics become mild - but the next year they return to normal. Our varietal description will try to describe the current crop's taste as accurately as possible since we test taste random samples of each cultivar.
All taste tests are done with raw garlic because that is the only way I know of to accurately determine the true taste of a garlic since cooking changes the flavor of any garlic. Please read our section on cooking with garlic for a detailed discussion of how cooking affects the flavor of garlic. There we talk about some tricks you can use to make the garlic flavor mild and creamy or as bold as you prefer.
Burgundy has a deep flavor yet mild heat that make it a delight for raw eating - most creoles have this characteristic although some are a little stronger. Red Toch, Chester Aaron's favorite, has a similar taste - lightrichness. Chesnok Red and Siberian fall in there somewhere. Inchelium Red and Nootka Rose are excellent medium and medium warm tasting garlics and are very good for raw eating with rich fullness.
Hardnecks, such as Rocamboles, Purple Stripes and Porcelains have generally the deepest flavors with Rocamboles having the most earthy and musty flavor and usually a lot of heat, but storing the shortest time. Rocamboles are excellent for raw eating even though they're strong because of the deep, rich, earthy flavor that just makes everything feel better. Commercial Artichoke garlics are generally considered to have the least flavor of garlics, although they can have a lot of heat, they may not have much depth.
Have you ever noticed how difficult it is to get good garlic at your local supermarket during the late winter through mid-summer? There is a reason for that-most garlic sold in stores is artichoke garlic and by that time it is beginning to deteriorate or trying to sprout and grow as it has been out of the ground long past its time to be replanted (the fall). It is usually sometime around mid-July before good garlic again becomes available.
Because most garlics grown in the United States are grown in more northerly latitudes, the time to harvest usually starts in late June or early July. Since we are located in the southernmost part of the country, our garlic matures a month or two earlier than the northern growers so we can offer high quality gourmet varieties much sooner than most other growers. We often begin harvesting in mid May and can have freshly harvested garlic available in June.
Elephant garlic is so mild you can take a whole bulb of it and slice the cloves into quarter inch thick steaks, sauté them in butter or olive oil and serve them as a vegetable.

In Summary The hard-neck garlics tend to be more colorful and have fewer, but larger, cloves per bulb than the softnecks. Soft-necks generally have about twice as many cloves per bulb as the hard-necks. The Silverskins (soft-necks) tend to be the longest storing garlics with Porcelains (hardnecks) the second-longest storing and are usually hot and strong in flavor-though not always. The Asiatics (hard-necks) tend to be the shortest storing kinds with Rocamboles (another hardneck) next and Rocamboles and seem to be unsuited to growing well in the southern climates, unless grown at higher altitudes. The other main varieties all fall in between and grow well in our soil and produce generally superior garlics as long as we get decent rain and reasonable temperatures.

How to Grow Garlic #1

What Really is Garlic, anyway?

Garlic (Allium sativum L.) may be the oldest cultivated plant by humans and is of the same general plant family as lillies and onions and leeks. More than botanical designations, garlic is a lifeform, that is, a living being that continues to remain alive by dividing or cloning itself into many miniature versions of itself and basically consumes its old self in the process of becoming its new self.

The heart and soul, as it were, of the garlic is the so-called true stem, or basal plate from which the roots extend downward and the leaves, cloves and false stalk (properly called scape) emerge and reach upward seeking light and air, for it is the sun and air that power the water pump that is a garlic plant. It is from this true stem that the mother clove gives her life to all her daughter cloves, passing her very essence on directly to them.

Garlic grows by dissolving nutrients and drawing the nutrient laden moisture into its roots and drawing it up to the true stem where it is used to build various parts of the plant. The whole time, the tiny central heart of the plant is growing like a nautilus in its chambered shell, for its growth pattern is a spiral, with new growth forming at the center and maturing as the new little cloves work their way around and out from their birthplace at the the center, growing ever larger as they dance round the center in celebration of their lives as if honoring their giver of life as they take their first steps in their trip through life. What else could it be?

Garlic is undeniably a living entity that responds to its environment. As diners, we justify our wholesale slaughter of our defenseless little brethren by agreeing to preserve their species by becoming growers and thereby allowing the garlic species not only to carry on their kind, but promising to let them live in sumptuous quarters, free from interference by weeds on the condition that they have plenty of kids we can eat.

Sunlight and atmospheric gasses provide energy to power the process and as sunlight increases with the day-length in spring, the pump works harder and harder until the intensity of the sun causes it to burn out and the plant withdraws all its liquid resources back down into the rapidly forming cloves and it withdraws to the cool underground to wait until fall so it can begin the process of growing again, this time in multiplex.

The Growing of Garlic
Garlic is fairly easy to grow. Great garlic is fairly difficult to grow. If you just want to grow garlic, put the separated cloves in the ground anytime between September and March and it will probably grow, but not very well. If you want to grow large, healthy bulbs, there's much more to it than that.

This section is meant for the backyard gardener and is not meant for those who want to grow large quantities of garlic for commercial purposes, I recommend Ron Engeland's book Growing Great Garlic. It's the book that got us started.

First, consider your location, climate and soil conditions and then determine the kinds of garlic which grow best in your area.

Let's talk about location and climate first. While garlic originated in central Asia with its long cold winters, damp cool springs and warm, dry summers, it has been transported around the globe and grown in so many areas that its needs seem to have changed a little. Some varieties, such as Rocamboles, still want those conditions in order to thrive. Porcelains, Purple Stripes and Silverskins are more tolerant, but still won't stand for a hot, dry spring. Artichokes will do well almost anywhere. For a detailed description of these five basic varieties, please read our Overview of Garlic section where we explain the differences between them. Don't be afraid to experiment. A wonderful and wizened master herbalist, Odena Brannam, told us when we first started that she had grown things all her life in places the experts said they would not grow. She had accomplished the impossible many times because she did not know it could not be done.

Organic Growing Versus Chemicals
Soil conditions and watering are of utmost importance if you want to grow excellent, large healthy garlic. Garlic will grow (barely) in almost any dirt with whatever water is available to it but will thrive in healthy soil with proper watering. If you do not grow organically, you cannot grow garlic as good as those who do. That is a simple fact of nature. Chemical manufacturers may tell you otherwise, but they stand to make a lot of money from you if you grow as they say, whereas I stand to make no money off of you if you grow as I suggest-just a slightly less polluted planet. You figure out who is more likely to be honest with you.

Chemical growers feed the plants at the expense of the soil-and a lot of money. Organic growers feed the soil to the benefit of the plants-for very little money. If you build up your soil with manures and compost and a few trace minerals, your soil will stay healthy for years with a minimum of additions but when you use chemicals, you must add them on an on-going basis if your soil is to grow anything. The reason for this is that the soil is an ecosystem that contains millions of microscopic plant and animal lifeforms that live off one another just like in the jungle or the sea. When the soil is in balance in this way, the plants that grow in it can pull what they need out of it and thrive. Plants need much more than just Nitrogen, Potassium and Phosphorous, they need the wide variety of micronutrients and minerals that healthy, well balanced soil provides.

When you add high concentrations of NPK fertilizers, this imbalance kills off vast numbers of these microorganisms and the plants feed on their decaying bodies which gives you a good crop this year, but results in a less naturally fertile soil with far fewer microbes and you have to keep adding more of the fertilizers in subsequent years just to grow a plant that is inferior to a plant grown organically.

When you use chemical insecticides and herbicides, they kill not only the surface pests you aim to kill, but also soak into the ground and kill most of the microorganisms living in the soil as well, resulting in a less fertile growing environment yet. They can also leach into your community drinking water, too.

Do you really want to drink pesticide-laden water? Pesticide residues in our drinking water are not neutralized by adding chlorine or flouride to the water as they are not organic lifeforms but inorganic chemicals that can contribute to many human ailments. Some of the highest cancer rates are among people who apply pesticides and who work with the plants that have had pesticides applied, according to insurance industry statistics. That stuff soaks into the plants and cannot be washed off because it is inside them. If the government requires applicators to wear "protective" clothing, boots, gloves, hoods and masks to apply it, why would you want to eat it?

What's Really in Your Fertilizer?
Until recently I thought that NPK fertilizers weren't so bad; after all, it was the pesticides that were the real problem, right? I now see I was wrong and that many commercial fertilizers are as bad and some are worse than pesticides and are actually hazardous to your health. Fertilizers have been required to have their claimed amounts of Nitrogen, Phosphate and Potassium, but the other "inert" ingredients weren't regulated so any hazardous waste that contained any amounts of any form of N, P or K could be sold as fertilizer, regardless of what the undisclosed ingredients were.

A few years ago at the Garlic is Life! Symposium in Tulsa I met the former mayor of a small town in Washington and listened to her story. Patty Martin and some of her constituents discovered that some large industrial companies were disposing of hazardous wastes, including dioxins, lead, mercury, and even some radioactive material by putting it into fertilizer or selling it to companies that did. She was rightfully concerned for the welfare of her own family as well as all the town's other people and rattled enough people's cages to spur an investigation by investigative reporter, Buff Wilson of the Seattle Times newspaper. The story attracted nationwide attention and was nominated for a Pulitzer prize. It resulted in the state of Washington passing and implementing a law regulating the content of fertilizers and requiring fertilizer manufacturers to label the contents. They also tested all fertilizers sold in Washington and have published the list of ingredients on the internet - good move!

By avoiding the EPA's expensive hazardous waste disposal sites and selling their wastes to fertilizer manufacturers, some industrial companies have turned otherwise costly hazardous waste into a profitable product. Slick, huh? To find out what's in your fertilizer and learn a lot more about this important issue or Buy the Book, Click Here.

In view of the above, I cannot in good conscience recommend using commercial fertilizers in growing garlic - which is good because research shows that standard NPK fertilizers really don't do much for garlic, anyway, as it's the minerals/micronutrients that garlic seeks. After all, garlic originated in the thin, rocky mountainous soils of the area just north of modern Afganistan.
Follow our organic growing links for much more detailed information about growing organically and get into it. Prepare your soil a few months in advance so that it is in good balance when you plant. We recommend you have your soil tested for more than NPK and pH, but for micronutrient analysis also so that you will know what your soil lacks and what it has enough or too much of. That way you will know what and how much to add. Too much of anything can be bad, it is balance that is important.

Planting the Garlic
It's usually best to plant garlic in the fall as close to the autumnal equinox as possible. Garlic likes to sprout roots in the fall and feed and develop for a little while before the cold winter temperatures force it to curtail its growth and rest until the warmer weather comes. It uses this time to establish its root system so it can survive the winter and be ready to explode with growth in the spring before the weather turns hot. Hot weather forces garlic to bolt; that is, try to go to seed, as it were. But since garlic does not produce seed, it reproduces by forming as many cloves as its genetics allow and growing them as big as it can before the summer heat kills the leaves.

If you leave that multi-cloved bulb in the ground, it will wait until fall and every one of those cloves will try to send up its own leaves and they will all try to grow in the same spot, resulting in a large number of very small garlics the following spring. That is why it is necessary to pull the bulb out of the ground when it matures and store it in a cool, dry place until the fall. In the fall, separate the bulbs into cloves, being careful not to bruise or damage the cloves, and plant the cloves, top side up, four to eight inches apart so they will have room to grow and not fight over the limited resources of a small area.

Commercial growers in California and other places usually plant them right next to one another and the bulbs are not only touching, but crowding each other in heavily chemically-fertilized fields. These fields are also treated with toxic fungicides to try to fight soil-borne fungi that are too firmly entrenched from 75 years of growing almost nothing but garlic. On the other hand, if you grow garlic in a three or four year rotation with other crops, Mother Nature will sweeten the soil for you and drop the level of fungi below the level at which it is a problem - and grow a better tasting and better looking and healthier plant as well. And the additional outdoor exercise contributes to your all-around good health and well being, all for a lot less money. It's your choice.

In most parts of the country, garlic likes to be planted in fertile, well drained raised beds so that the bulb itself is up out of the water level and the roots are down in the water. The height of the raised beds and the depth to plant the cloves (root end down) depend on what part of the country you want to grow the garlic in. If your area gets a lot of rain and snow and very cold winters, then use higher beds and plant the cloves four inches deep and mulch heavily to protect the garlic from sub-zero temperatures. If you grow in more arid areas with warmer winters and less snow, then lower the beds and don't plant the garlic so deep. Garlic will grow in flat ground without raised beds, but the raised beds help the garlic fend off diseases that can come when the bulb sits in water too long.

Preparing the Garlic for Planting
Garlic is subject to fungal diseases and pest infestations that can be virtually undetectable until they strike. Prevention is the best way to deal with them. In our experience, garlic that is soaked in certain solutions and with the clove covers peeled off have a better chance of growing free of pathogen or pest.

When your soil is fully ready to be planted, take the bulbs you want to plant and break them apart into their individual cloves (Being sure to keep each variety separate from others. Soak each varieties' cloves in water containing one heaping tablespoon of bicarbonate of soda (baking soda) and liquid seaweed to protect them from fungus as well as give them an energy boost. Leave the cloves in the soda water overnight or long enough for the clove covers to loosen so the liquid comes into contact with the surfaces of the cloves. Garlics clove covers can contain fungal spores, or conidia or the eggs of pests such as mites and are best discarded rather than planted since the first thing the cloves do is to shed them, anyway. The baking soda helps neutralize the fungi. Commercial growers don't have time to peel cloves bare but gardeners do.

The cloves should then be soaked in rubbing alcohol or 140 proof vodka for three or four minutes and then planted immediately. The alcohol kills pests and pest eggs and any pathogens the first soaking missed. Every time I have done this, the treated garlic turned out better than the untreated control group. Alcohols are on the National Organic Program accepted list and baking soda is accepted under part 205.605.

Here in central Texas, we plant about 2 to 3 inches deep, with larger varieties going a little deeper in the ground than the smaller varieties. We put them in by hand so we can be sure each clove is properly bedded down. It's a lot of work on our hands and knees, but it's the best way to get the best results. Garlic does not lend itself well to automated planting technology due to the irregular size and shape differences in the cloves. Our beds are 6 in. high and 24 in. wide, we drip irrigate with T-Tapes and cover all with a 3 inch deep mulch to protect from weeds and to hold in the soil moisture, more to act as a barrier to direct sunlight on the soil than for temperature protection. Garlic survives cold quite well as it was designed by nature to grow in the fall, rest in the winter and bulb out in the late spring or early to mid-summer.

Across the northern tier of states garlics leaves do not usually emerge from the ground until spring, although in a warm winter, they will emerge an grow in the winter just as they do in the South or in California. Garlic loves the cold weather but it can be frozen out if the temp drops 10 or 20 below zero-F and stays there for a couple of weeks, but it is rare. During those times when we actually get snow down here, it's a beautiful sight to see all those lush deep green spearlike leaves shooting up abruptly out out of the stark white snow. When you walk out to make sure they're OK, you can almost hear them laughing and frolicking in the snow and singing their song of joy. The garlics allow the grower to join the party, but no one else - it's a private family affair.

Tending the Growing Garlic
Garlic is a naturally very resourceful competitor for available nutrients and will find a way to get what it needs out of the soil it grows in. You don't need a lot of NPK, just a good well balanced soil that is loose enough for the bulb to grow and expand when it is the time for it to do so. Ordinary garden soil with a little manure added a couple of months before planting is great. It doesn't much care for dry, hard packed clayey or thin rocky soils that may restrict its expansion, oh, it will still grow, it just won't get as big. It may; however, have a more intense flavor and store a little longer than the big beautiful ones. Like its cousins, the onions, garlic doesn't like to dry out completely during its growing season as that tends to make it stronger in flavor. A good thing to remember if you like strong garlic.

Professional growers know that size is what sells in this country, no matter what they grow. In a supermarket, most people will buy a larger fruit or garlic rather than a small one and would be surprised to learn that the small one might even taste better. Size in a garlic is determined first by the variety and then by the growing conditions. Some varieties are naturally larger than others - please see our section on Varieties of Garlic for an explanation. After varietal type, the next consideration is soil fertility and the amount and frequency of watering, mostly the watering.

Some growers recommend fertilizing garlic in the early spring to give it a boost just as the foilage gets a good start but before the plant begins to form a bulb, and I think that's usually a good idea. Others say that if your soil is naturally fertile enough you don't even have to fertilize at all during the growing season. If you're not going to do a spring fertilization, we think a foliar spray with a tablespoon each of seaweed, molasses and baking soda in a gallon of water two or three times during the spring helps the garlic finish out its growth, nicely - but do not foliar feed it within a month of harvest. It is a good idea to make sure the garlic is not real dry when you spray as that may not be beneficial to the plants. Foliar spraying should only be done on healthy, well watered plants. Garlic will build a good stand of lush foilage before it begins to swell at its base and form a bulb. Discontinue all fertilization at the first sign of the bulb beginning to swell. If you continue to fertilize beyond the bulbing point, especially with nitrogen, it can cause the leaves to become extra lush at the expense of bulb size.

Garlic likes a slightly moist but not wet soil. If the moisture content of the soil at the root level is below 50%, it is time to water the garlic. If it stays too wet, diseases such as fungus and blight can set in. Few things in nature prey upon garlic as garlic kills or repels most insects, fungi and other things that are problems for most other plants, but the things that bother garlic don't seem to bother much else (except grasshoppers).

Garlic needs to be protected from those diseases by giving it the growing conditions it likes and avoiding those conditions that lead to problems.

Overwatering garlic can lead to some of those problems as can underwatering because any plant that becomes stressed is more likely to develop problems than a plant that is not stressed. If it gets too dry, water it; if it gets too wet and stays that way for a bit too long, pull back some of the mulch and let the soil dry out some before replacing the mulch.

One way to determine the moisture content is to stick your hand down into the root zone feel the soil. If your hand comes out dry, it's time to water; If it is muddy and sticks to your hand, it's too wet. If it stays that way for too long, pull back the mulch and let the ground dry out a bit. Do not water during the last week or two before harvesting your garlic as it is easier to pull or dig garlic out of fairly dry soil than mud, and the garlic will store better.

Credit and Info by : http://www.gourmetgarlicgardens.com

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How to Grow Garlic # 2

How to Know Exactly When to Harvest Each Garlic Bulb

How do you know when it is time to harvest the garlic? There is no pat answer as it varies depending on what part of the country you grow in and the variety of garlic involved. Different varieties harvest at different times as Artichokes mature first, followed by Rocamboles, Purple Stripes and Porcelains and, finally Silverskins. Since spring warms up from the South to the North, southern growers will harvest earlier than Northern growers. It also seems to depend on the weather; how soon it warms up to what extent. If high temperatures come early in spring and it stays warm to hot, harvest will be earlier than usual because it is the heat and sun that causes garlic to bolt. A long cool spring will delay harvest until after the usual time as the bulbs will mature slower and maturing is delayed. We usually start harvesting in mid-May or so whereas far northern growers may not begin until July or later.

Hardneck garlics will send up a stalk, or scape as it is properly called, a month or two before harvest time. Some growers prefer to cut off the scape and some prefer to leave it on. There is widespread disagreement among growers about when or whether to cut the scape. Some say if you cut the scape it will make the bulb larger. Some say if you don't cut the scape the garlic will store longer and better-and make better seedstock. Some say you must cut off the scape at just the right time to get the right balance of size and storability or hardiness of the bulb. Some say if you cut off the scape too soon you will get big bulbs but that they are more susceptable to disease and short storability (just eat them first.) I suggest you experiment and see what works best for you in your situation. Most serious growers I know do cut the scapes while they are still tender and either eat them or sell them to gourmets - they're highly prized for their delicate flavor and they're only available for a short time in the spring.

Softneck garlics don't usually send up scapes but sometimes they do when stressed by adverse growing conditions. The Asiatic and Turban groups of Artichokes often send up scapes, even though they're classified as softnecks. They're both very early ripeners and need to be harvested as soon as the lower leaves start to die down, don't wait for the last six leaves or they will be overripe - they're unique in that regard. The Creole Silverskins also often send up scapes. All softneck scapes form an inverted "U" pattern - at least all that I have ever seen.

The real secret to knowing when to harvest the garlic is to watch the leaves and they'll tell you when to harvest. Garlic leaves signal maturity by beginning to turn brown and dying. The lowest (and outermost) leaves die first and then the rest die from the ground up. Generally with softnecks, the time to harvest is when the lower leaves have all died down and only the top six leaves are still green. Don't wait for the leaves to all die down and fall over like onions do or you will be inviting trouble in the form of overripe bulbs that are unattractive and more subject to fungus, pests and poor storage. Also, the upper leaves of the plant are the ones that determine how many bulb wrappers the harvested bulb will have. If you let the leaves all die down then the bulb wrappers will all rot away and you will have bulbs with the cloves exposed and no bulb wrappers to protect them. Use these bulbs immediately while they're still good-the ones with good bulb wrappers will store longer and better.

On the other hand, research indicates that garlic left in the ground longer has more potency and a stronger taste. Since the cloves within the overripe bulb tend to splay out as they crowd each other out, it becomes easier to break the bulbs apart. In fact, I know growers who say they let the bulbs they want to use as planting stock stay in the ground a little longer than usual because shortened storage is not a problem since it doesn't have to store very long until planting time comes around. These same growers also leave the scapes on their planting stock while cutting them on the stock they intend to sell as cutting scapes makes those bulbs bigger than they otherwise would be.

All the plants of any given variety of garlic will come to maturity at about the same time, but some varieties will mature in the early spring and others not until mid-summer. As each variety approaches maturity, inspect the bulbs so that you can see when they get to the size and condition you want. You can dig down around a few plants to inspect the size and shape of the bulbs, being careful not to disturb the roots, every few days until you are satisfied they are ready to harvest. If they're not ready yet, carefully replace the soil and let them go a few days more then inspect again. If you are growing more than one variety, be sure to inspect some of each and harvest only the ones that are ready.

Once any given variety of garlic starts losing its leaves and there are still eight leaves left (a week to 10 days from harvest), discontinue watering and let the soil begin to dry out some so as to make harvesting easier - it's easier to pull garlic out of loose soil than mud.

When your garlic is ready to harvest, there are several ways to do it. It is important to remove the garlic from the ground without injuring it as it is still a living creature and germs can enter through wounds at a time when its ability to ward them off is diminishing. If you have real loose rich soil, you can simply pull them up by their necks as long as doing so will not tear or damage their necks or roots. Few of us are fortunate enough to have that kind of soil. For most of us the best way is to use a shovel or garden fork and slip the blade down beside them and then work it under them and pry them up from the bottom. Be very careful not to cut the bulbs as you do this. We use a thick, tractor mounted , wedge shaped blade to undercut them below root level and push them up without touching them. The blade gently breaks up the ground under and around them and we retrieve them by hand, lay them gently into a wagon with a sun cover and immediately take them out of the sun and into a cool shady place to cure out for a while.
Be very careful in handling the bulbs at this point and do not bang them together as that can cause them to be bruised and invite storage problems and ruin them for seedstock. Do not throw them onto the ground or into a wagon, place them down gently - you have spent a lot of time and effort to grow them right, don't blow it all now by handling them rough. Get them out of the sun as soon as possible as the sun can scald them or cause them to dry down too quickly and may result in problems.

Many large commercial growers plow them up, windrow them for a few day then cut off the tops and roots and store them, but it's not a good idea. They do it because of the economics involved with personal handling and the cost of building huge drying sheds. Growers who are more concerned with quality than quantity don't do that any more than they would use conveyor belts and let the garlic bounce into truckbeds from the height of three to five feet - which they also do. However you harvest, cure and store your garlic, always keep the different varieties separated and identified so that you will know which is which.

Curing the Garlic
Many growers dispute the proper way to cure the garlic and cut the leaves and roots off for storage. Many growers wash their garlic and see nothing wrong with it while others are horrified by the thought. In my experience, garlic that is washed has a tendency to have wrinkled bulb wrappers that look a little like your fingers do right after a bath. It also seems to me that the extra moisture that accumulates in the bulb could lead to fungal infestation. Some cut the roots and leaves immediately, some wait a few weeks before trimming and some never trim their garlic. What is proper for one but not another may have to do with climate, humidity, human resources, cost of handling or available facilities.

We feel that garlic likes to dry down gradually in temperatures that are similar to those a few inches underground (about 72F). This initial drydown process is called curing the garlic. The idea is for the excess moisture in the roots and leaves to evaporate or withdraw into the bulb. When the roots and necks are completely dried and it does not emit a typical garlic odor when cut, that is the time to trim it. It usually takes two to four weeks to get to that point, longer for extra large bulbs. If you trim it while it is still moist and green, the fresh cuts expose the garlic to fungi, viruses and other contaminants that can set in and cause the garlic to spoil or pick up some disease you don't want it to have. With softneck garlics, many people braid them before they are completely dried down and are still pliable and never trim the roots while other braiders will trim the roots and flake off an outer bulb wrapper or two to make them more attractive.

After the garlic has cured, it is time to decide whether to trim or how much to trim it and how to store it so that it will last and still be good and healthy a few months later when it is time to plant next years crop or to last you for eating through the winter. USDA standards prescribe no more than a quarter-inch of root and no more than a half-inch of stem. I don't go along with that as I think it makes the garlic difficult to handle. We also use stem length as a means to identify certain garlics at a glance-different varieties of softnecks are cut to different lengths, that is, Locati will have longer stems than Rose du Var, to tell them apart at a glance since both look alike but taste different. It helps our customers identify them better, too. Many growers peel away the outer one or two layers of bulb wrappers in order to remove soil particles and contaminants and to make the bulbs more attractive to purchasers. If you have harvested your garlic at the right time, there should be several layers of bulb wrappers remaining.

Storing the Garlic?
As you might suspect, there is not widespread agreement among growers about storing the garlic any more than there is agreement about anything else. Again, you might try a few different things to see what works well for you. About the only thing that most people agree on is that it is bad to store garlic in plastic bags or sealed containers as these things promote rotting. They also agree that garlic should not be stored in direct sunlight.

Four factors affect the storage of garlic; namely, how well it was grown and cured, its varietal type, temperature and humidity. Garlic that was poorly grown and improperly cured will not get any better in storage. Some varieties naturally store longer than others. Silverskins are the longest storing , with Porcelains coming in second and Rocamboles being the shortest storing varieties, with Purple Stripes and Artichokes falling somewhere in the middle. Specific cultivars of each kind can vary from the pattern, but in general, this is the way it is.

Have you ever noticed that garlic that you buy at the supermarket doesn't seem to store very long once you take it home? There is a reason for that. The USDA recommends storing garlic at 32F, so most large chains of stores do that and require their suppliers to do likewise. Garlic stores well at that low temperature for a few months, (if the humidity isn't too high, which it sometimes is) but when you remove it from cold storage and place it on the shelf for sale, time catches up with it in a hurry. It either deteriorates rapidly or sprouts fairly soon and tries to grow. This makes for a garlic that is good for immediate use only.

We think garlic stores best long term when it is stored at between 55F and 65F and between 40% and 60% humidity. If the humidity stays below 40% for a couple of weeks or more, garlic has a tendency to dry out faster than it otherwise would. If humidity goes higher than 60% for any extended period of time, fungus and molds can set in. If the temperature goes below about 55F for an extended period of time, garlic tends to want to sprout and grow, even if it is not the right time of year (that's why the refrigerator is not a good place to store garlic). If temperatures stay much over 70F for any extended length of time, garlic tends to dry out and deteriorate. These are approximate ranges and need not be taken literally, but are very good guidelines. In our experience, garlic, except Rocamboles will store quite well for four to six months at between 65F and 75F as long as the humidity is moderate.

One of the advantages to keeping garlic around 55 F. is that fungi and other pathogens and pests are much less active than they are with the temp in the 75-80 F. range. Keeping them cool, but not cool enough to sprout them is the key to storing garlic well. It's pretty hard for the average person to achieve the proper temperature range for ideal storage of garlic.

It is important that airflow around the bulbs not be restricted too much as this hastens deterioration. A ventilated terra cotta storage jar is the best way to store garlic for the average person, since most people don't have grandpa's root cellar anymore. We have found that garlic stored in double paper bags in the shade in a normally air conditioned house seems to do pretty good. Of course, this isn't practical if you have several thousand bulbs, but works quite nicely for a few dozen. Basically, any dark, cool place is ok as long as the humidity is not excessive.

Good luck and enjoy the fruit of your labor. You will probably discover that you get much better tasting and longer storing garlic when you grow your own from selected cultivars than the garlic you get at the local supermarket. Enjoy.

New September 20, 2008 - Now you can buy two different kinds of Virus-Free Garlic. Pssst - Hey You - Gardener. Wanna grow some really BIG bulbs? Use Virus-Free planting stock.
Big News - We have two cultivars of very rare Virus-Free garlic available this fall.

We were very lucky to be able to get two of the three cultivars of Virus-Free garlic , some Duganski, a Marbled Purple Stripe and some California Late, an Artichoke but the Sofia, a Rocambole from Bulgaria got flooded out and will not be available until maybe next year. Not even virus-free garlic is exempt from the ravages of nature and while much of the garlic crops in the NW part of the country were greatly stunted by cool, damp and cloudy spring that never did warm up until well into summer, two of the three V-F varieties did quite well and were of good size in a world of smaller garlics.

This is good news for growers all over the country and especially the warm winter growers have something to cheer about as the Artichokes and Marbled Purple Stripes both do well in warm winter areas. A Marbled Purple Stripe called Metechi is always the biggest and best in our garden year after year.

Why does virus-free have any special appeal and how do they do it? At this point I'm not entirely clear as to all the features and benefits of virus-free garlic but I can tell you how they are developed and that ridding a cultivar of virii causes the garlic to grow larger and heavier than the same cultivars the contain virii. I'm not sure what effects being virus-free has on the health benefits of garlic but researchers have shown in the past that denser, heavier varieties, Porcelains, in particular had greater capability to produce Allicin, from which the most healthy fat-soluble compounds are derived.

All natural garlics contain some viruses; it's what happens out in the wild, life happens. These viruses have no known harmful effects on humans but apparently only affect the garlics and most of their effects are unknown although a few are; for example, the yellow streak virus carried by wheat curl mites cause a garlics leaves to show some yellow streaks but their effects on the clove is minimal if anything. If a garlic bulb has a viral contamination, and they all do, almost every part of the plant is affected. All, in fact but the tiniest growing tip where the virus has not yet gotten a grip on the plant.

This tiny growing tip, called a meristem, is snipped out under a microscope and tediously grown out from that tip and that virus-free tip will eventually grow into a full size plant and develop a bulb with multiple cloves and the cloves will also be virus-free and can be replanted to produce virus-free offspring. It takes several years of replanting all or most of the cloves for a single virus-free bulb to reproduce into a marketable number of bulbs to base a virus-free seed garlic business on. They are still a few years from widespread distribution.

Removing the viruses causes the bulbs to get bigger and denser. This is only the second effort I know of ever to produce virus-free garlic. The earlier one was done in California in the 1980s but the grower discontinued his program because it produced such large garlics , over 3" in diameter, that he had a hard time selling such large garlics and he quit doing it. I understand he is retired now and no longer involved. Our virus-free garlics were produced by a different retired plant pathologist and grown in Oregon and we're ready to try again so we can see for ourselves what the results are and are inviting our customers to try them also and see how they do for them.
To my knowledge, we are the only place in the country at this time offering virus-free garlics for sale on the internet although there may be others I don't know about.

They were not grown organically and normally we would not handle such garlic but since there is no source of organically grown virus-free garlics, these can be introduced into an organic operation and their offspring, if grown by a certified organic grower would become certified organic next year. They're a little pricy but so is everything that is truly rare.

Are virus-free garlics acceptable in an organic program? I don't know as I have never seen any prohibition against it. It is not a genetically modified organism, it is only a modern extension of the ancient art of rooting plants to produce offspring. Do virus-free garlics have the same health benefits? I don't know but I would think so since the chemical reactions would seem to be unchanged by the presence or absence of the viruses. Are these particular viruses any kind of enemy? I doubt it. Does eliminating the viruses have any kind of advantage? Only in that the garlic grows larger and denser with the same effort and most growers find that to be a desireable trait.

What is the future of these V-F garlics? How long will they stay virus-free? I don't know. Nobody knows how many years it took garlic to pick up all its virii. Nobody knows how long it would take to re-acquire some more of them via insects, etc. or how often new virus-free planting stock would have to be purchased in order to assure an essentially virus-free crop. We're stepping out on unexplored turf here. Whacking out new trails, so to speak. We'll learn as we go.

Credit by : http://www.gourmetgarlicgardens.com

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