Growing Garlic

Wednesday, March 08, 2006
Did I ever think I would be growing my own garlic in Washington, D.C.? No. Never. But I do.

This is the last head of garlic from our first-ever crop. We planted two heads each of two different varieties: German Extra Hardy and Siberian. We ordered the bulbs from Seed Savers Exchange, a company I like to support because it's making an effort to save heirloom seeds and plants.

It was truly an enjoyable process to grow garlic. Before having a garden, I never thought about where it grows, when it grows, or how it grows. And to be honest, I didn't care. I didn't once think about it. Garlic is so easy to find in any grocery store, anywhere, at any time of year. And it's cheap. So why bother?

What was so rewarding is that I learned the answers to these questions. Yes, we
can grow garlic in Washington, D.C. It goes into the ground like a fall flower bulb. (We put it in around Columbus Day in October). It likes a rich, well-aerated soil and a good layer of mulch. It grows curly extensions called scapes, which are good in stir-frys. We harvest the heads in June and hang them in the kitchen to dry and develop their flavor.

Garlic is the basis of so many things we cook. Garlic grown by our own hand adds something very special to each recipe. I take extra care now when I peel the cloves. I think about how it grew. I remember how eagerly I awaited the harvest. How it felt to pull each treasure from the cool, moist ground -- pulling away the mud to reveal their perfect, papery-white skins. The smell in the kitchen. The drop of a gardening journey in every dish.


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