What garlic is to food, insanity is to art

A wonderful quote, and appropriate as my mind is on garlic. I’ve just planted out this years crop, 8 bulbs in total. Maybe a bit much for a household of two, but we have lots of friends and family who are only too willing to help us out.

The history of garlic is a long one, originating from central Asia, and used throughout the centuries in China, India and Egypt, and across the Mediterranean. Garlic has a long culinary tradition, but is also linked with folklore, from the Egyptians being buried with a bulb, to it being hung from doorways to prevent evil crossing the threshold; being used in health rememdies like colds, as an antiseptic, or to aid digestion; or being thought of as a stimulant in many cultures and avoided on high-days and holidays.

China is now the largest producer and exporter. By growing my own maybe, just maybe, I’m doing my bit for the environment. Mostly I’m doing lots for my taste buds. Used young it is potent and juicy, older a little bit more mellow but still packs a punch.

Considering that garlic grows wild in the UK (it is a slightly different member of the Allium family) we Brits didn’t commonly use it in our food until relatively recently. I think I’m making up for lost time of generations past!

Growing this much garlic tells you something about my cookery, whether its a  garlic curry, or using it for home made garlic mayonnaise, or simply roasted garlic. So what next?

Every now and then I fancy some fresh pickles with my curries or to have in the fridge to liven up a sandwich. I’ve just made a fresh batch of Garlic Pickle; pickles like this are made all over India, using what ever is fresh and good, and the spicing and flavours vary from region to family.

It’s a very simple process, and once you’ve made it, you can start to play around with the flavours, maybe adding some mustard or onion seeds, or a pinch of Asafoetida to the mix. The recipe comes from Das Sreedharan, and his book Fresh Flavours of India.

South Indian Garlic Pickle

Ingredients~

  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1/2 tsp of fenugreek seeds
  • 100g garlic cloves, peeled and thickly sliced
  • 1/2 tsp chilli powder
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric powder
  • 200ml vinegar
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • A pinch of salt

Method ~

  • Heat the oil in a pan, add the seeds and cook for a minute for two
  • Add the garlic and gently fry for about 5 minutes.
  • Stir in the chilli, turmeric and a little salt.
  • Pour in the vinegar and add the sugar, gently stir.
  • Cook over a low heat until nearly all the liquid has evaporated and the garlic is cooked and tender.
  • Leave to cool, then put in a clean jar and store in the fridge, it will keep for about 1 -2 weeks, no longer.

Gardening Notes and This Years Garlic ~

I love the idea of the traditional dates for planting garlic being on the longest day and harvesting on the shortest. I’ve found the part about the harvesting day rings true, I’ve never managed to plant at the “exact” time, but the garlic doesn’t seem to mind.

This year’s crop taken with my camera phone.

I couldn’t use my own homegrown garlic for planting out as I discovered White Rot on this years crop. So I’ve started fresh again and bought garlic from the people over at the Garlic Farm on the Isle of Wight. I’ve found that the softnecks do well in my allotment as do certain varieties.  But generally speaking garlic is one of those great garden crops that can be left to it’s own devices, it really doesn’t need any fuss or a great deal of attention. All garlic really needs to grow is some cooler weather (to start splitting the clove), rain and then warmth later on to fatten up the bulbs.

In previous years I have grown garlic in containers or large pots, they did ok, but were on the small side. If planting in pots remember to water them, and they will appreciate a feed every now and then.

2 bulbs each of Early Purple, Iberian, Solent and Albigensian. That should keep Dracula well away. I just need to make sure the pesky pigeons are kept off with a bit of loose netting.

Last season’s garlic bed

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