The Joys of Growing Garlic: For Garden, Kitchen, and Healing Use

It’s unanimous: the world just wouldn’t be the same without garlic.

But from an outsider’s view into the worlds of gardening, food, and herbalism, this pungently potent plant, Allium sativum (from the larger Allium genus that includes ornamentals as well as edible onions, leeks, and more), may seem like nothing more than what it essentially is: a simple cupboard spice.

If you love the pungent taste of garlic, you've got to try growing it yourself! Find out by reading this Gardener's Path article - along with some tips on its health and healing benefits: https://gardenerspath.com/plants/vegetables/growing-garlic

It’s just a white bulb or perhaps a dried cooking powder that helps to bring simple dishes to life. But that’s not all – what you may think of as just another basic flavoring from your vegetable bin or spice cabinet accomplishes so much more, and should really be a cornerstone crop for every grower.

Every gardener, expert or aspiring, should make room for a plot of garlic in their yard or field. Entire books and festivals have been dedicated solely to growing this vegetable, and many more to eating it, as well as its cultural significance, healing potential, and much else besides!

In a way, garlic changed the world by influencing countless cultures, finding its way into the ancient agricultural, culinary, and healing traditions of almost every civilization in Europe, Asia, and Africa.

Today, you can find the heads of garlic or bulbs grown, enjoyed, and healthfully used in all corners of the world. Its far-flung popularity is certainly no coincidence!

Why was it so revered way back when, and why is it still today? Why should you grow it – and how do you do it?

Let’s find out why this centerpiece of gastronomy is an absolute must-have in your garden. Not only is it an incredibly easy crop to grow and a delight to devour – there could be some healthy, healing perks in it for you, too.

History

The origins of this relative to the lily and the tulip – endearingly called the “Stinking Rose” – is an extensive multicultural tale of epic proportions. All of the details couldn’t possibly fit in this article!

Boiling it down instead to an easy-to-digest summary, garlic began as a wild onion-like plant, native to central Asia and Russia. It’s believed that it was first used as a forage plant as long ago as 10,000 B.C.E., and then became domesticated and cultivated around 7,000 years ago in the Middle East.

From there, it became clear to many that the crop had some very delicious and valuable uses, and so it spread to the rest of the world. Ancient Greek, Roman, Egyptian, Chinese, Indian, and numerous other cultures began to grow it as an irreplaceable food, condiment, and yes – even medicine.

In fact, the herb became so important that large cash crops, harvests, and stores of the bulb were considered essential to many cultures, cities, and communities in Asia, Europe, and Africa – not to mention the huge number of personal household gardens. Records of massive ancient garlic cultivation can be found in some areas.

For more information on the fascinating history of garlic, check out Michael Castleman’s “New Healing Herbs,” available on Amazon.

Most of us regard it as a flavorful seasoning, but in ancient times it was so much more than that. Here are some interesting historical tidbits:

  • In India, it was an important and powerful Ayurvedic remedy – Ayurveda being a healing tradition that is still practiced today, utilizing both food and herbs as medicine.
  • Egyptians of old encouraged cultivation of the vegetable in order to improve immunity, strength, and wellness among the less-nourished lower class.
  • The Ancient Greeks would give garlic to athletes in order to improve strength and endurance.
  • Roman healers used it for healing infections, wounds, and much more.

Another surprising but wonderful thing? A lot of these uses are still valid today, supported by scientific research, and used by alternative practitioners and herbalists.

But we’ll get to those fascinating details later – let’s start first with the growing information, necessary steps, and invaluable tips and tricks for cultivating this healing plant for your cooking needs (and possibly more)!

Varieties

There are two different varieties of garlic to consider, in general – either softneck (A. sativum var. sativum) or hardneck (A. sativum var. ophioscorodon).

Why would you pick type one over the other? Let’s take a look.

Garlic Varieties | GardenersPath.com

Softnecks

Often thought of as true garlic, softnecks account for most of what you’ll find at the supermarket. This is because they are more productive, easier to grow (especially in warm climates), and they store longer and better.

They’re called softnecks because their above-ground stalks will flop over in the summer, a sign that they are ready to harvest. There are some differences in growing habits from hardnecks, though the cloves are harder to peel, according to Rodale’s Organic Life growing guide.

The fun perk of softnecks? You can braid them together for kitchen use and decoration, after the garlic is pulled and cured!

California Softneck Bulbs available on Amazon

Within garlic’s sizable family tree, this category branches out into even more subcategories and cultivars. The kind you choose can impact certain traits – like color, bulb size, clove size, flavor profile, cold tolerance, and storage capacity.

Here are a few to consider:

Silverskins

  • Silvery-white, thin-skinned softnecks.
  • Very easy to grow, with the best storage capacity of practically all types of garlic.
  • This kind has tons of cloves and that trademark pungent flavor.
  • Best grown in warmer climates. Some varieties have a blush-red, rosy tint.
  • Specific strains: Creole Red, Silverwhite, Nookta Rose

Artichokes

  • These have thicker skins and many complex layers of cloves like an artichoke, from whence they got their name.
  • They’re the kind you’re the most likely to stumble upon at the grocery store.
  • Milder in flavor, It’s not uncommon for varieties to have purple or red hues.
  • As the hardiest softneck variety, they’re a good option for cold climates.
  • Specific strains: California Early, California Late, Inchelium Red

Hardnecks

This type may be reserved for the more experienced gardener or for cold climates, as they take some more attentive management to grow. The rewarding payoff is more variety and depth of flavor and color, as well as larger bulb sizes, so it could well be worth the extra effort.

Like their name, hardnecks will remain upright and rigid, even when they die back. It’s harder to braid hardnecks, but you get a different bonus from this subspecies: the delicious scapes (garlic flower stems and buds), a culinary darling that we’ll get to later!

Again, a few to consider for your garden:

Purple Stripes

  • The oldest hardneck variety, these are showy with beautiful purple stripes and delicate, papery skin.
  • Very cold tolerant, but better for warm climates than most other hardnecks.
  • Size and flavor varies, though they tend to be average or small, with a moderate to warm flavor.
  • Specific seed strains: Purple Glazer, Chesnok Red, Bogatyr (that last one is very hot!)

Rocambole

  • Considered the standard hardneck type, these have less thick, parchment-like skins, making them better suited to cooking.
  • Thinner skins mean less peeling – with cloves that fall right off the bulb with little to no effort.
  • The potential drawback is that these less-protected cloves can be more vulnerable to bruising and damage during harvest.
  • When storing, they must be handled quite carefully – cloves that crumble from bulbs have shorter shelf lives than intact cloves attached to their original bulbs. In fact, Rocambole is a variety you probably want to eat up quickly!
  • Some cloves have purple or red stripes or blotches of color, and this variety does best in cold climates.
  • Specific seed strains: German Red, Korean Red, Ukranian Red.

Porcelain

  • Smooth, thick, and papery-white skin with larger cloves.
  • Bold but moderate flavor with amazing persistence through storage.
  • May have the best cold tolerance of all, and it’s ideal for cold weather climates, but more difficult to grow in warmer locales.
  • Though rare, it sometimes exhibits blushes of purple and rose.
  • Specific seed strains: Music, Georgian Fire, German White.

Dried and Cured Garlic | GardenersPath.com

Did you know?

Elephant garlic, the popular enormous roasting variety, is not actually not a true garlic at all – it is in fact a subspecies of leek. However, these are planted and grown the exact same way as your typical garlic.

Growing

For food and seasoning, growing your own is simple. However, it requires a lot of patience, depending on the method you use – with the best techniques, you won’t get your first crop within the same season.

With other methods, your wait can be much shorter – but we’ll take a look at a few options.

All the same, longer-term methods are well worth the effort, as they tend to produce bigger bulbs with more complex flavors. Gardeners and farmers had the patience over thousands of years to carefully tend plants into mature, tasty bulbs – and so can you!

Rules of Thumb

  • No need to worry about watering much. Let nature do the work, though you can water newly planted cloves a little more if you’re concerned.
  • The ideal pH is between 4.5 and 8.3, or slightly acidic to neutral, according to the Old Farmer’s Almanac.
  • You can grow the plant in any temperate climate, as it’s able to survive through the deepest of freezes – though this varies from cultivar to cultivar. It will need some protection from the cold, using methods we’ll discuss later on.
  • Garlic tends to struggle in tropical and sub-tropical growing zones with excessive humidity, moisture, and rainfall.
Garlic Bulbs | GardenersPath.com
Photo credit: Adrian White

Seeding and Starting

You know the way you break up each garlic bulb into separate cloves before crushing, chopping, or mincing them into something suitable for use in your favorite recipes?

Prepping for planting is not so different – except you skip the chopping part! The very same cloves that we eat are what’s planted in the ground, in order to produce yet more garlic.

You can get standard seeds from the flowers and propagate your crop from them instead. But this is considered a much more difficult and unreliable method.

Plus, garlic cloves are the most available seed you’re likely to find.

If and when you buy your garlic seed cloves, you may receive whole dried heads that you must break up into single cloves. Or, you may receive cloves that have already been separated.

Why can’t I just plant cloves from garlic that I buy at the store?

Well, the truth is: you can.

However, the product available at a grocery store is not hand-selected for disease resistance, larger potential size, and other characteristics that gardeners and farmers will look for when growing and selling the very best garlic cloves as seed.

Some Seeding Tips:

  • Order your seed cloves online, or you can find cloves for planting at various seed or farm stores. Have your seed ready – that is, purchased, or properly dried and cured from your garlic last year – by late summer/early fall for fall planting, and early spring for spring planting.
  • Which time is best to plant? We’ll take a look at that a little further ahead, along with the main techniques used, and various elements that might affect your choice.
  • If you planted some the year before, you can replant your own cloves from garlic you’ve cured and saved – we’ll get into the art of saving your own seed later in this article!
  • You’ll notice the cloves making up your seed are (and should be) much larger than cloves typically used for eating. Larger cloves are preferred, since they tend to grow into larger bulbs. As such, it’s smart to hand pick the largest cloves from your stores from last year – and make sure the garlic seed cloves you order are bigger on average!

The Basics:

Garlic is one of the simplest plants to grow, and this can be done successfully according to the following easy steps:

1. Prepare your desired bed by turning or tilling the soil about 1 foot deep (or deeper, if you can). It’s preferable to form these beds into raised beds so that water, rain, and moisture can drain away – excessive moisture is the leading source of garlic diseases. For more tips on doing this, read our article here.

2. Amend with fertilizer, organic matter, or a finished compost that’s high in nitrogen. It’s also very beneficial to cover crop your soil before planting for the extra nutrients, or make sure it’s in a well-rotated bed.

3. Mark rows or inch-deep ruts along your bed at least a foot apart. In these rows, plant your cloves 6 inches apart. Make sure the pointy tip faces up, and the bottom side with the brown root base faces down into the soil.

4. Once all of the cloves are planted, go back and cover them by closing shut each rut with loose soil. Be sure to avoid stepping on them!

Have you ever planted garlic? You've probably cooked with it - but do you want to know how to grow it and heal with it? Learn right here at Gardener's Path: https://gardenerspath.com/plants/vegetables/growing-garlic

As you can see, the actual planting process is a cinch!

The only real is effort is in making a few important judgments: determining the best time to plant for your needs, cooperating with your area’s climate, and knowing whether you should cover your crop to protect it from the cold.

Best Times to Seed:

Unlike other vegetables and herbs, garlic is usually sown in the fall, covered in winter, tended in spring when it sprouts, then harvested in mid-to-late summer.

According to the Mother Earth News organic gardening guide, planting your cloves before the winter arrives in your area allows the cold to bring out its fullest potential: size, flavor, color, and much else, especially for hardneck types.

Allowing it to put down roots in winter before emerging in spring lets the plant get the most out of the seasonal light cycle, too. From about December 20 through June 20 each year, the Winter Solstice through the Summer Solstice, the hours of daylight increase in length (the opposite for the Southern Hemisphere), providing more daylight and triggering excellent bulb growth in garlic, as well as its other Allium relatives.

However, you do have the option of sowing in spring and harvesting in fall instead, though this practice can inhibit flavor development and growth. Simply follow the directions outlined in the above “Basics” section in the springtime, as soon as the soil becomes workable.

What’s the absolutely perfect, no-fail time for planting?

Experienced growers point to October, (April in temperate regions of the Southern Hemisphere) though the general idea is to get it into the ground around 1 to 2 months before the first hard frost in your region. As such, this can vary.

Determining when and how to plant your garlic isn’t too complicated, though it can involve a lot of detail, care, and attention to climate – all of which you’ll get the hang of.

Over the ages, and according to old gardening knowledge, the general consensus is that planting in the fall is highly desirable. It exposes your crop to beneficial cold stressors, making the bulbs tastier and bigger.

But in cases of very frigid cold, protecting against extreme temperatures will be a necessary part of your growing task. Even if cold is good for the plant in some ways, it can be harmful to your crop in others.

When exactly do you need to be careful about guarding your garlic from the cold, and how? Read on.

Covering and Protection:

The traditional method involves laying down about a 6-inch-thick layer of mulch – like straw or hay – right over your seeds after you plant, in order to protect them from incoming cold temperatures and frost.

I emphasize right after you plant, as you’ll want to do this in anticipation of any hard frost, which can sometimes come earlier than you’d expect. Mulch will keep frost from touching or damaging your cloves.

If you are especially worried about frigid temps, you can make that blanket layer even thicker if you like. And of course, mulching your entire bed prepares for weed pressure in advance – the thicker the better!

But how will you know when your garlic needs protection from the cold?

Row of Planted Garlic | GardenersPath.com

Identify your growing zone

This determines your cold parameters. The USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map can be helpful here.

  • Zones 8 and higher:

    Here you can can grow garlic year round. These ares are great for softneck varieties, and will most likely require little to no covering.

  • Zones 7 and lower:

    In these areas you’re edging into chilly territory. Hardnecks do better, and they absolutely require covering if you want to grow healthy plants.

What’s the real cold threshold here? The Old Farmer’s Almanac growing guide recommends that planted garlic be protected from any temperatures below 20°F. This suggestion likely lines up with the lowest average temperatures of the zones listed above.

However, this exact temperature may vary just a little, depending on the variety you choose; and this doesn’t mean that in Zones 8 and higher you won’t ever experience temps below 20°F. As a good gardener you must be vigilant, especially during spring and autumn, when temperatures can fluctuate wildly.

Let’s say you’ve read the list above, and you realize your garlic is going to need some help over the cold winter to come.

You might worry about leaving your plantings to fend for themselves all winter – but farmers have been doing it for thousands of years! And the following bits of wisdom can provide some reassurance that your garlic will be just fine.

Some Protective Covering Tips:

  • Sprouts over cloves

    It’s not so much the cloves you’ve planted as it is the new shoots that are sprouting (called cotelydons) that you’ll need to worry about protecting – especially when they begin to pop up as light cycles increase with the approach of spring.

  • Cloves provide their own protection

    The cloves themselves are developed to nourish and insulate the plant embryo inside. Your seed is very much alive and will grow in the spring, even when it’s touched by temps below 20°F – so long as it’s not sprouting already (as in cases when you get that ground covering down too late – it happens)!

  • Watch for sprouting

    Premature sprouting can happen on unseasonably warm days in cold climates. Keep an eye out for that, and make sure they have adequate cover – or you might damage or lose your crop.

  • Frosts CAN happen in spring

    This is another good reason why you must watch for premature sprouting, to make sure a late frost doesn’t do your planting in.

Mature Plant Care

Here’s the true beauty of garlic: just as you can rely on it for making food taste great, it dependably pops up in spring, needing practically no management through the summer.

If you see the first green spears poking up through your mulch – congratulations! The hardest part of the task is now behind you.

Planted Garlic Field | GardenersPath.com

Over the spring and early summer months, you’ll mostly just watch your tiny sprouts rise and unfold into larger, leafy green fans. Around May you’ll see bulbs beginning to swell, and it’s normal if you see them peeking above the ground. Scapes, the plant’s long-necked flower buds, will start forming around that time as well.

For the remainder of the warm growing season, it’s smooth sailing, more or less – though you should keep the tips outlined below in mind, if you want to get the biggest bulbs possible.

  • Move over, mulch

    After all threat of frost, go over your garlic beds and move the mulch away a bit, to alleviate some of the pressure from spouting cloves. This also ensures that your garlic doesn’t grow crookedly, which can take energy away from bulb development.

  • Reduce weed pressure

    If you didn’t mulch your entire bed, prevent any weeds from getting too big in your beds. Hand weed in between rows and plants, and stale-bed or cultivate the soil between your rows with a hoe – or add extra mulch.

  • Water when dry

    You don’t need to worry about watering garlic much. Unless it’s droughty or you live in areas with very scarce rainfall, let mother nature take care of it for you.

  • Amend if you like

    Some growers recommend a couple additions of fertilizer around the base of plants in spring. This isn’t 100 percent necessary for a good crop to grow, though experts encourage adding something high in nitrogen (like finished compost or blood meal) to give bulbs a boost.

  • Remove scapes

    These are the garlic’s flowers, which you’ll want to snap off once they form. Store them in the fridge for later use – they’re delicious sauteed, or added to a homemade pesto! This also helps to redirect the plant’s energy back to its bulbs. These are more prominent in hardneck varieties, though softnecks can produce small scapes, too.

Garlic Scape Bunches | GardenersPath.com
Bunches of garlic scapes, the edible flower removed from the top of garlic at the height of its growth. Scapes tend to be much hotter in flavor than the bulbs of any variety!

Diseases and Pests:

The Plant Clinic at Cornell University has listed the following diseases to look out for in your garden. I’ve added a few of my own most common garlic adversaries as well, along with some management tips.

  • Downy Mildew

    White spots and fuzz form on plants, hampering growth potential. Usually the result of overly damp environments or plants spaced too closely together, it can be prevented by avoiding these conditions.

  • White Rot/Sclerotinia

    Plants rapidly become mushy and quickly die. In some cases, rot simply persists and emerges in the harvested dried cloves in storage. Avoid re-planting in plots with the disease, and remove infected plants quickly. Placing seed in hot water (around 100°F, and NEVER over 120°F, according to the Garlic Growers Association of Canada) for a few minutes before planting reduces the risk of disease development.

  • Penicillium Decay

    Fungal infection resulting from poor storage, and wounding or bruising of cloves. This mostly just affects them cosmetically for later culinary use (you’ll see puffy gray and bluish growth), though you might not like the way they look, and you’ll have to cut infected parts away.

    • To prevent this: dry your own seed cloves from last year thoroughly, using the methods that we’ll get to later. Also make sure any seed you’ve purchased is culled of infected cloves.
    • Another tip: plant seed cloves immediately after cracking the garlic heads open – and avoid keeping loose cloves in storage as seed, as these are more vulnerable to Penicillium than whole bulbs.
  • Aster Yellows

    Carried by aster weed host plants like thistles, wild carrots, dandelions, and plantain and transmitted by aster leafhoppers, it yellows leaves and depletes health, yield, and taste. Testing is required to diagnose the disease. The experts at the University of Illinois Extension say to keep non-diseased plants away, and eradicate any diseased garlic as soon as possible. This mostly occurs in the Midwest, but is prevalent in the South and the Western states as well.

Harvest

Leaves unfold, stalks grow, and bulbs begin to swell through the summer heat. But how do you know exactly when to harvest your crop?

Harvest usually happens a few weeks after the Summer Solstice, when the plants begin to whither, shut down, and go dormant. There are a couple of indicators to look for, to know whether your garlic is ready.

Freshly Harvested Garlic | GardenersPath.com

One good way: simply look at the average size of bulbs in your field or beds in mid-to-late July. Are about 85 percent or more of your bulbs the size you were hoping for or bigger? If so, it’s time to pull them out!

Do your garlic bulbs instead look rather small – or are there no bulbs to see at all? After late July, there is very little chance they’ll get any bigger anyway. You can wait until August or even September to see if they’ll get a little bigger, but it won’t be much. By September at the latest, it’s time to pull your garlic no matter what.

This is only one very basic, rough-estimate method to anticipate harvest readiness. But there are a few other ways to determine garlic’s ripeness, depending on its type.

  • For hardneck varieties:

    The first day of summer and the weeks following mark the time when garlic stops putting on growth, and returns energy back to its roots and bulbs instead. Notice that the above-ground parts will begin to look yellowish, withered, even crispy and brown. By this signature, you’ll know it’s about time to get your gloves on and start pulling – they aren’t likely to get any bigger.

  • For softneck varieties:

    You’ll see the same telltale signs in these too, but there’s an even more obvious indicator that they’re ready: true to their name, the stalks and leaves will flop over when they’re ripe.

Other experts, such as those at the Oregon State University Extension, say you don’t have to wait for yellowing or flopping over to know your plants are ready to pull.

If you believe your bulbs are up to size sometime earlier than the times I’ve indicated above, you can pull them while plants are still green, right around or even before the Solstice. It’s arguable that this method may help to support the strength and health of bulbs through storage, as early pulling may reduce susceptibility to disease and rot.

Harvesting in 5 Simple Steps:

1. With a shovel or spade, loosen or even pop up the soil a bit around and under the roots – about 1-2 feet deep, and 1-2 feet away from where the plant springs from the ground. This makes pulling easier and prevents breakage. Avoid actually hitting the bulbs with your shovel.

2. With gardening gloves, grasp the neck of each plant close to the bulb and pull it out. It should come up easily. Avoid pulling by the leaves or any other part.

3. If roots are stubborn, try loosening up the soil again and pulling once more. Do this to avoid snapping the bulb off the plant, since it will be more difficult to remove.

4. Once picked, clip roots down to the nub, and clear bulbs of excess mud or dirt right away.

5. Transport garlic carefully to where it will be processed, dried, and stored – avoid bumping garlic heads against each other, or leaving them out in the sun. This can bruise or sunburn bulbs, which affects taste and perishability.

Curing and Storing

Curing (a term for thorough drying) and storing your garlic is important if you want to hold on to large stores for a long time. It also prevents disease, discoloration, and rot from setting in – and gives you the very best taste and character to enjoy.

As soon as it’s pulled, however, you can clean, peel, and use it immediately – no need to wait to complete the curing process!

If you like, you can even pull up whole plants without developed bulbs in the spring, preparing and eating them like leeks. This is called “green garlic,” something you might see at restaurants or farmers markets, and it makes a delicious alternative to the bulb type.

Do you love garlic? Have you ever considered growing it? Learn all the skills needed to do it right here at Gardener's Path - along with some insights on health and healing benefits: https://gardenerspath.com/plants/vegetables/growing-garlic

Regardless, you might want to implement the following techniques for most of your garlic, if you want to store it to enjoy for months to come:

  • You can dry your garlic whole with the plant matter still attached in attractive, tied bunches. Or, you can clip this off after harvest – just make sure you leave 7 or more inches of stalk attached to the bulb, which helps it to cure.
  • Hang tied bunches in a dark, dry area with good air circulation. If you clipped your garlic, store it in loose piles in containers that permit airflow, in a similar environment – preferably in breathable crates, boxes, or shelves.
  • Curing can take anywhere from about a month to 6 weeks. Check the progress daily – once the paper-like skin starts to peel away but the cloves still feel firm, you’ll know it’s ready, especially if the typical curing time has already passed. You can then cut off any leftover plant matter and store your garlic heads as you like – my favorite options are in a dry basket on the kitchen counter, or in a dark, dry part of your fridge in a paper bag. If you’re going to use them quickly, any dry place will work.

Do you really want your harvest to last? Here’s one last important step: sort your garlic!

Set the largest heads aside in a dark and dry place (without breaking them into cloves) for use as seed next year, and use the smaller ones in your cooking.

Speaking of kitchens and cooking, let’s take a look at garlic’s culinary uses next – one of the best and most obvious reasons to get garlic growing in your own backyard!

Cooking

Beyond the joys of growing your very own garlic, the delight of cooking it is irreplaceable.

Whereas growing it is relatively simple and straightforward, garlic’s signature taste is comparatively loud and complex – one of the reasons why it’s found a place in almost every type of cuisine, seemingly effortlessly.

Something that’s so easy to grow, and with such amazing flavor, is truly worth your while!

Prep, Cooking, and Eating

  • Crush, slice, mince, chop, or throw your garlic cloves into your desired dish whole. It’s a pivotal contribution to the flavor of soups, stews, and broths as well.
  • You can also roast whole heads of garlic, making them into a delicious spread for bread, or a garnish for protein dishes, roasted vegetables, or homemade pizza.
  • Garlic is a staple ingredient in pesto, along with basil, pine nuts, olive oil, and cheese. The flavorful scapes make an excellent addition to pesto, too.
  • Scapes can also be chopped, sautéed, roasted, or pureed to make a topping or sauce. They have a reputation for being even hotter and more pungent than the cloves themselves. Give them a try! Roasted scapes make an excellent addition to a vegetable quiche filling.
  • For the very best health benefits, enjoy the cloves raw as often as you can – it can be a challenge, though! Raw cloves can have a really overwhelming flavor and heat, and consuming them might cause indigestion or stomach cramps in some, so be cautious. We’ll dip into the healing benefits later.

According to Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg’s excellent book, “The Flavor Bible,” garlic goes well in dishes made with the following ingredients:

  • White wine
  • Olive oil
  • Parmesan cheese
  • Basil
  • Lemon
  • Mustard
  • Tomatoes
  • Mushrooms
  • Onions
  • Chicken, lamb, and most meats

Health and Healing

A Note of Caution

The health information in this article is not intended to assess, diagnose, prescribe, or promise cure. Consult with your health care professional before considering any plant-based remedies for your health and wellness.

Raw garlic is reputed to have some powerful healing properties that may shock you – especially if you never suspected such potential from this common plant!

When crushed, the cloves produce a compound called allicin, which studies have shown exhibits powerful antibiotic and antimicrobial effects (i.e. killing bacteria, viruses, and fungi).

Here’s the catch:

You must eat or use garlic raw and immediately, or most of the allicin quickly oxidizes and dissipates.

Crushing garlic cloves releases the allicin, but if it’s not consumed immediately, all antimicrobial properties disappear or change – leaving the cloves mostly inert, without any of the desirable antimicrobial effects in this regard.

This means you won’t find these fantastic antimicrobial properties in dried garlic powder, or even in cooked cloves from your own garden.

Sliced Garlic Cloves | GardenersPath.com

Some studies (like this one) have found, however, that a cold water press of the cloves, such as a warm or cold tea, can retain some allicin, and may work as a mild antimicrobial tisane. It would be nowhere near as powerful as the fresh stuff, though!

Besides these properties, consuming garlic regularly and often as a culinary herb provides enough small amounts of allicin (and other compounds) to boost health and immunity, according to this study.

The bulbs also contain another potent compound called ajoene, with studies pointing to its anti-tumor and diabetes management possibilities.

Among herbalists and alternative practitioners, there is a lengthy tradition behind its use as a topical antiseptic, cold and flu fighter, digestive healer, and tonic – and it’s still employed for combating various ailments, even stomach ulcers and parasites.

For Growing, Dining, and Healing

Getting more garlic into your life is easy enough already: you can just go to the store, bring some home, and cook it up, in whatever way and with whatever foods you like.

But a much more rewarding pastime is growing it yourself, as many gardeners, farmers, and culinary enthusiasts have known for thousands of years.

With your own bulbs to enjoy straight from your yard, you can feel the amazing benefits, satisfaction, and ownership of having nurtured your very own – and oftentimes, growing your own makes for even tastier and healthier food!

What gardening, culinary, and healing experiences have YOU had with garlic? What else are you growing? Feel free to comment below. I love a discussion – and I’m here to answer any of your questions.

Happy growing!


Don’t forget to Pin It!

A collage of photos showing different views of purple and white garlic cloves.

Photo credits: Shutterstock, unless otherwise credited.

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About Adrian White

Adrian White is a certified herbalist, organic farmer, and health/food writer and expert. She aims to bridge the world of natural, holistic health and nutrition to the realm of organic foods, herbalism, gardening, and sustainability - or "Food as Medicine" - throughout her writing.

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