Why You Should Eat (And Grow!) More Garlic

garden remedies

Learn how garlic can benefit your family by adding more than just flavor to meals!  Here are some time-tested recipes and remedies to help you add garlic into your daily routine to benefit your family wellness during the cold months.  Who knows, you may even decide to grow some!

You likely have some sort of family story involving garlic.  Perhaps you grew up with a remedy that helps coughs, or your grandmother's kitchen smelled heavily of garlic when she cooked big batches of spaghetti for everyone, or maybe you were even given cloves to eat raw when you were feeling under the weather!  Garlic is full of flavor, but is also filled with many medicinal qualities (including antioxidants and anti-bacterial properties) that may come in handy during the colder months!

"People have known garlic was important and has health benefits for centuries.  Even the Greeks would feed garlic to their athletes before they competed in Olympic games."   - Dr. David W. Kraus, associate professor of environmental science and biology at the University of Alabama.

What is the best way to take garlic?
The most effective way to eat garlic is raw (or close to raw), but not a lot of people will happily choose to do that.  After chopping a garlic clove, let it sit for 10-15 minutes before eating or adding it to heat.  This allows the enzymes a chance to form and ensures maximum benefits.  Cook garlic on very low heat or add it to your meals at the very end so it doesn't lose it's benefits!

One of our very favorite ways to take garlic is by making a very simple honey fermented garlic!

Honey Fermented Garlic
If you are brand new to fermentation and would like to start with something nice and easy- honey fermented garlic is one of the first things you should try!  This recipe combines the medicinal properties of both honey and garlic, allowing their anti-bacterial, anti-viral, and immune boosting properties to give you a boost during the cold and flu season!



You will need:
1 cup garlic cloves, peeled
1.5 cups liquid raw honey
Sterilized glass jar

1. Combine garlic cloves and just enough of the raw honey to cover the garlic in a sterilized glass jar.  The glass jar should be large enough to double the capacity of your ingredients so that you have room for expansion.  Close the jar with a lid.
2. Stir the mixture or flip the closed jar upside down daily to make sure all garlic cloves are well-coated with honey.
3. Within just a few days, you will see air bubbles forming.  This is a great sign of active fermentation.  Open the jar daily to release any excess carbon dioxide.  If fermentation does not begin, add a spoonful of water to the mixture.
4.  Continue this process until fermentation slows down.  The honey will thin out, the bubbling will stop, and the cloves will sink to the bottom of the jar.  This process may take well over a month.  Once this has happened, store the honey fermented garlic in the sealed jar at room temperature, to let it age. 
5. For best flavor, consume after three months.  The finished honey fermented garlic can be stored in a dark place at room temperature for years!

Special Notes:  Like other vegetables that you ferment, you should keep the garlic under the liquid to prevent mold growth. Garlic will naturally float to the top of the honey, so stir with a clean spoon daily or flip the jar upside down for a moment several times during the day.  As the fermentation process continues, you will notice that your garlic will no longer float.
Once fermentation begins, bubbles will form at the top of your jar and will occasionally cause it to overflow.  Leave plenty of space in the jar to help prevent this sticky mess!  You should also make sure you are opening the lid daily to "burp" the jar by releasing the carbon dioxide.

Should I grow my own garlic?
Gardeners will tell you that no other vegetable is as simple to grow and harvest as garlic, so get ready to plant some!  Even if you have a small garden, you can likely raise enough garlic to be self-sufficient for a good part of the year!

 

1. Knowing which type of garlic to plant can be a little tricky if you've never done this before!  Specialty catalogs feature dozens of varieties, which can easily become paralyzing to new growers.  For general purposes, the most important difference is softneck and hardneck varieties.  Softnecks are aptly named because the entire green plant dies down and leaves nothing but the bulb and flexible stems that are easy to braid.  Hardneck varities have a stiff stem in the center that ends in a lovely flower.  It will dry into a rigid stick that makes braiding impossible.  What do you typically eat from the grocery store?  Softnecks, as they are easier to grow in mild regions and will keep longer, whereas hardnecks will do best in areas where there is a real winter.

2. In mid-fall, plant garlic bulbs in loose, fertile soil.  The cloves must be inserted root-side down (with the pointed top up) about 5-8 inches apart in all directions, burying the tips about two-inches below the surface.  You will find green shoots emerge, at which point you can mulch around them with straw.  After a hard freeze kills the shoots, mulch the entire bed.  When spring weather arrives, pull the mulch back when you notice new shoots emerging.  Water when the soil is dry two or more inches below the surface, making sure you never water the crowns of the plants.

3. Hardneck garlic will grow flowering scapes.  Many gardeners will tell you to cut these off so they do not draw energy away from the bulbs.  Cut the scapes when they are approximately 4 to 6 inches long for the best flavor and texture. 

4. Depending on your garlic variety, they are divided into early, midseason, and late, depending on the climate zone and weather during the growing seasons.  Heat will speed them up, cold will slow them down.  Bulbs are ready when most of the lower leaves have turned brown, while the upper leaves will still look green.  On an overcast day when the soil is dry, loosen it with a small trowel, gently lifting the garlic out of the row.  To allow your garlic to last as long as possible, store it in an area with moderate humidity and good air circulation, with temperature that is between 55 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit.  They may have access to the light, but should not be in direct sunlight.

To learn more about medicinal plants, I recommend Rosemary Gladstar's Medicinal Herbs: A Beginner's Guide: 33 Healing Herbs to Know, Grow, and Use.  (aff. link)

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