Garlic vs. Elephant Garlic

Elephant garlic is so satisfying to grow and handle. Individual cloves can be the size of a golf ball. Peeling and slicing is a breeze. However, it’s not truly garlic–it’s a kind of leek–and it’s not as flavorful as garlic. But I like to grow both. A friend is using elephant garlic instead of onions to impart flavor in cooking without giving him the heartburn onions do.

Elephant garlic is fun and easy to grow and makes a truly great host gift.

Like regular garlic, elephant garlic cloves are planted here in the Hudson Valley in October and harvested the following July when the tops brown and wither. When you buy seed cloves from a supplier, they are super expensive, but you try to get really big ones so that you get a big head of garlic out of it. Then you save the very biggest cloves to plant in October. It’s cheaper to buy elephant garlic from the grocery store–but this could backfire, as garlic sold in stores is sometimes sprayed with a growth inhibitor to prevent sprouting. Nonetheless, I think for experiment’s sake I am going to buy some elephant garlic and some shallots from the grocery store this fall and stick those babies in the ground. I also have saved some cloves from my recent harvest that I’ll use for planting in October.

My biggest elephant garlic head this year

Like all root crops, garlic prefers a friable soil high in organic matter–so, sandy loams are ideal. But you can grow garlic in most any soil. The heads you harvest might not be as big in a clay loam, but you will still get some nice garlic, especially if you’ve been weeding and watering. Remember to prune off the young, spiraling scapes (stems) in springtime. That will prevent seed formation–so that the plant’s energy can be used for bulb formation instead–and will give you some garlic-flavored goodness to stir-fry.

Dry your garlic for several days after harvest to cure it for storage.

Here’s a great site for garlic growing tips: http://www.gardening.cornell.edu/homegardening/scene568b.html

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