Growing Garlic

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Minced, chopped or baked, there is nothing subtle about this pungent, in-your-face cousin to the onion. Garlic is actually considered to be a vegetable and an herb, part of the onion genus and part of the allium species, the same family as onions, chives, shallots and leeks. Garlic is high in vitamins B6 and C, and contains several minerals including magnesium, potassium and calcium. It also contains essential oils, glucose and fructose.

As it turns out, the Rogue Valley is a great place to grow your own garlic. “We have the best weather for garlic right here in the Pacific Northwest,” says Mary Alionis, co-owner with her husband, Vince, of Whistling Duck Farm in the Applegate Valley. They grow a variety of organic produce, including certified organic seed garlic. 

This year Whistling Duck Farm’s selection of seed garlic includes Artichoke, Silverskin, Rocambole, Porcelain, Purple Stripe, Asiatic, Creole and Turban, all of which grow very well in the Rogue Valley. “The only one I have trouble with is the Porcelain,” Alionis says. “Some local people do grow them, but they tend to be more prone to tulip bulb mites.” 

As far as the taste, there is certainly a difference, she adds. “They all have their nuances, depending on the type. The Rocamboles are noted for being spicy hot and then sweetening up when they’re roasted. They don’t store as long as some other types, but they have big bulbs and big cloves that are easy to peel. Those with the tighter skins, like the Silverskins, store better but they are harder to peel. They tend to have more heat to them taste-wise, whereas the Artichokes and Turbans can be milder. The Creole types are hot and spicy and most of the Asiatics are fiery.”

The time to plant is in the fall. “People plant it all different times, but I like to plant in October or November,” Alionis says. They need enough time to put out some shoots before it rains. Our climate is pretty easy other than if we happen to get a lot of rain in early winter or late spring. If there’s standing water where it’s planted, that’s not such a good thing. Garlic can even handle super-cold conditions if it’s planted early enough to be well anchored before a hard freeze.” 

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Tips for growing garlic

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  • Plant in the fall from October to November. 
  • Don’t try to plant cloves from the grocery store. Instead, get cloves from a mail order seed company or a local nursery.
  • Break apart cloves from bulb a few days before planting but keep the papery husk on each individual clove.
  • Select a sunny spot where the soil is well-drained and has plenty of organic matter. 
  • Place cloves 4 inches apart and 2 inches deep, root-side down and pointed end facing up.
  • Garlic will be ready for harvest in the spring.

 

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The Alionis family of Whistling Duck Farm in the Applegate Valley. Photo by David Gibb Photography.

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