Garlic (Allium sativum; Alliaceae)

Description

A hardy perennial usually grown as an annual in Britain, with a bulbous base made of separate segments called cloves, and grass-like leaves about 1 ft (30 cm) tall. Flower stem to 2 ft (60 cm), and flower white, appearing in summer. Origin doubtful, possibly the Kirghiz desert of Central Asia,

but now grows naturally throughout the world including Britain.

Uses

Has very strong flavour and odour, mostly onion-like, but with a characteristic all its own; this makes it a herb to use sparingly in cooking, where it has widespread use. Thought to have considerable antiseptic and antibiotic qualities particulary for stomach infections and blood cleansing.

History

The word garlic is a compound one, from gar, a spear and leac, a leek. The derivation is Anglo-Saxon, but it is more than likely that it was introduced here by the Romans. It is said to have been fed to the slaves who built the Egyptian pyramids, and it has been used consistently in Britain for many centuries. In mediaeval times it was held to be an ingredient of medicines to cure leprosy.

Cultivation

Plant the cloves in mid February, March or between September and early November, in a light rich soil and sunny place. Distance apart about 8 in. (20 cm), just below the soil surface, in rows 1 ft (30 cm) apart. Remove the flowering stems. Harvest when the leaves are yellow and hang to dry in a warm but shady place. Use a new site every year to avoid attack by white rot.

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