Thursday, March 25, 2010

Planting garlic

I think I'll make garlic soup tonight. Roger Verge has a fabulous recipe in his out-of-print* (so baffling, as it is a masterpiece) Entertaining in the French Style. Sumptuous photography, beautifully laid tables, flowers, delicious drinks in lovely glassware, full menus. I read it as an old teenager when I thought nothing of making 8 course meals, and little flashes of light from its pages remain with me still.

The garlic in this country can be very good. Not always the case in South Africa, where it is often irradiated and half dead, in my opinion. Walking into my local grocery store and buying five fat heads with fat cloves, all for a dollar seems miraculous.

So I peeled the papery layers off one head, and planted each clove about an inch deep in new potting soil, each about four fingers' width from its neighbour. Last year I planted already-sprouted garlic, and these were quite new, so we will see if it works. I give them ten days to show me some shoots.

And I have four heads left, hence the soup. It involves chicken stock, egg yolks and some white bread, and comes out frothily white. Very good.

* I see that New Entertaining in the French Style was published in 2002.


  1. I had some garlic in my fridge that sent out tiny green shoots, so I planted it. About 8 cloves, but most of them have disappeared and now I only have 3 left. If the hadedas don't dig them up I am hoping I will have health garlic plants flourishing soon!
    So I was most interested to hear that you do the same.

  2. it's that easy? I'm going to plant some as soon as I get home. How about onions?

  3. Lyn - last year's crop was an experiment, to see what would happen to those shoots. It took about 3 months for the heads to develop.

    flwrjane - garlic pays off because you get a head from one clove.'d get an onion from an onion. So seed is better.

  4. Mmmm...I can almost taste it!

    Strangely (and annoyingly!), most garlic in our shops comes from China! Perfect, even, white cloves.But a few weeks ago I did find some local heads.These have purple papery skins and I know their taste has not been killed.
    (And for times when I have no home-grown garlic, I use garlic chives in sauces.)

  5. My sprouted garlic dwindled from about 8 cloves down to 3 scraggly stems, while the happy, fat unsprouted ones seemed to give 100% yield. They've all over-wintered very well - I expect them to start moving again very soon. I occasionally borrow a leaf for a gentle green pasta.

  6. dinahmow - the whitest 'South African' garlic is also Chinese. And irradiated - it gets kind of yellow in the middle. Sometimes pale purple is available. Garlic chives are nice. Can you buy them there in great bunches, just the buds?

    jvdh - really? Maybe mine were just lucky last year. Can't wait to see yours. I like the idea of a gentle green pasta.

    frank - yeah, weird. I didn't know it was supposed to be difficult, then ...And it wasn't every day!

  7. Now i know what to do with my Farmer's Market garlic the next time it develops green sprouts!

  8. So should one not bother with supermarket garlic, due to the liklihood of irradiation? I mean in terms of hoping to grow it.

  9. QC - Hm, yes. And if you have the time and the garlic, just the little sprouts are considered a delicacy in an ancient and enlightened civilization, now poised upon world domination.

    Simba - tricky. Irradiated garlic cannot sprout, hence cannot grow. But how do you know it's been zapped? I don't know. That's why mine is a gamble. I bought it from my greengrocer, same source as last year's sprouted garlic. Then, considering irradiation itself...

    "The genuine effect of processing food by ionizing radiation involves damage to DNA, the basic genetic information for life."

    That's just Wikipedia, equivalent toe reader's Digest type info, but worth considering. I had thought, mistakenly, that irradiation was not permitted in the US of A. But the FDA says it's fine. And we know that they are always right.

  10. OOOooohhh - garlic soup. Great plan. Yum.


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