As the saying goes 'Homegrown is always best' and definitely when it comes to garlic.
I love good sized cloves with plenty of flavour and sourced some wonderful bulbs from an elderly Italian neighbour over 10 years ago.
Since then I have been nurturing and selecting the largest bulbs to replant each year.
Last year I harvested 10 kilograms of delicious homegrown garlic.
There are a few tricks to getting a good harvest, keep them well weeded and don't over fertilise.
I plant my cloves in late March or early April, depending on the season and during a root week (the third week of the lunar cycle).
This gives me a good long growing season, approximately eight months in our climate.
I harvest the bulbs when they are ready in early summer, usually mid to late November.
The bulbs will tell you when they are ready and the leaves begin to dry and go brown.
Another sign is when you run your finger around the outside of the bulb in the soil, you should be able to feel bumps, similar to running your finger over your knuckles.
This indicates that your bulb has formed cloves.
If you pick it too early, the cloves won't be fully formed and will look like an onion inside.
Use a trowel or fork to loosen the soil before pulling out.
Dry the bulbs in the shade and plait for storage.
In late October lovers of garlic will be starting to feel restless.
The new seasons garlic is still at least a month away and my store of fresh garlic has run out.
If like me, buying overseas grown garlic from the shop is not an option, then don't despair!
A delightful seasonal treat is available, garlic scapes.
A garlic scape is the flower stalk produced by hard neck varieties of garlic, like my Italian one.
These stalks appear about a month before the garlic is ready and should be removed to encourage better bulb formation.
Don't throw them in the compost!
They are a versatile treat that can be used in cooking and will add flavour to butter or vinegar.
We enjoy ours with scrambled eggs or as my absolute favourite - garlic scape pesto.
It is delicious served with pasta, crostini or as a dip.
Change up the nuts for what you prefer, I like it with pistachios or cashews.
Wink's Garlic Scape Pesto
The recipe can be doubled as needed and makes about 3/4 cup.
- 10 garlic scapes
- 1/3 cup shelled Pistachios
- 1/4 cup Olive Oil
- 1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 1 tbsp Lemon juice
- salt to taste (optional)
Method: Wash and trim the scapes, cutting off the flower bud end and dice finely. Blend all the ingredients together to form a paste. Taste and add salt if necessary. Spoon into a clean jar and store in the fridge for a week or freeze in an ice cube tray for later use. Yum!
If you are keen to give growing your own a try, the queen of garlic, Penny Woodward has written a book titled Garlic and has lots of great articles on her website.
Thankfully there are now quite a few growers in the South West that will sell you bulbs to grow for next season.
Keep a look out in the summer months and choose organic if possible.