The trick is in the timing for planting garlic, and that time is now explains Fiona Lawrenson, who shares her thoughts on cooking and harvesting this delicious little bulb
Garlic is said to work wonders for your love life, keep those bloodthirsty vampires at bay and give you bad breath. Not bad for a little bulb from France!
Well, how do the French grow such large ones! What is their secret? The trick is in the timing of the planting. The garlic needs to go through a cold spell if the head is to develop well, so what better way to guarantee that than planting in November.
Choose a site that is open and sunny with a fertile, well-drained, light soil - garlic hates wet, heavy clay as it can cause the bulb to rot or under-develop. If the soil is heavy, either add sand so as to aid drainage or plant in raised beds. They don’t require a soil high in nutrients, so are ideal to follow a summer crop that has just finished and been lifted.
When choosing garlic to plant, look for bulbs that are healthy and firm. Split the bulb and plant the individual cloves; these should be nice and plump and about 1½ cm (½ in) in diameter. Space the cloves 15–18 cm (6–7 inches) apart, in rows spaced 30 cm (12 inches) apart as a guide. The closer the planting, the smaller the mature bulbs tend to be.
Plant the cloves straight with the flat base down into the soil to a depth of twice the length of the clove, plus 2½ cm (1 inch) of soil above the clove. This will give the garlic plenty of soil to grow in, since they tend to push upwards, and it should also help increase your yield. Keep the patch weed free, otherwise there’s very little to do!
Lift the garlic when the leaves have started to turn yellow in the summer. Dry the bulbs and leaves thoroughly, leave on the top of the soil, if very dry, or in a greenhouse or kitchen windowsill. Do keep the leaves, since it’s these you use when platting strings of garlic in true authentic style.
In the East, garlic’s fresh green leaves are used to flavour foods as the taste is so much more subtle than the cloves; they are especially good in salads.
Garlic and Rosemary Roast Potatoes
You will need:
6 cloves of garlic peeled and chopped
750g (1½ lbs) of potatoes peeled and chopped
600ml (1 pint) of chicken stock – warmed
3 fresh sprigs of rosemary
4 tablespoons of olive oil
Salt and black pepper to taste
Take the peeled and chopped pots and arrange in a roasting tray. Pour over the mixture of chicken stock, olive oil, salt pepper and chopped garlic and fresh rosemary. This liquid will be absorbed by the potatoes when cooking. Cook on the top shelf of your preheated oven at 200C (400F, gas mark 6) for 45/50 mins or until all the liquid has been absorbed and the pots are a lovely golden brown.