Guest Post by Author and Gardener, Renea Winchester
When Veggie Val invited me to write for her blog, initially I hesitated. I had decided to write about garlic. Writing about this pungent bulb during the month of February isn’t exactly romantic. Then I remembered, garlic is heart-healthy. That’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it.
For the newbie gardeners, planting garlic bulbs is great way to begin growing your own grub. Of course you can purchase bulbs from your local organic garden supply store. However, most of us have unused garlic sitting on our kitchen counter that look like the one on the left. Before you toss this bulb into the trash, please reconsider. When planted, this bulb will mature into something that resembles the photo on the right.
Oh, doesn’t that look wonderfully delicious?
The secret to growing gigantic garlic is first securing a dedicated growing area. At my home, I have limited space and restricted sunlight. For that reason I garden in layers. Meaning I have an area where I grow both garlic, and tomatoes.
I hear some of you saying, what does she mean?
Garlic is what I call a cold-weather plant. Here in Atlanta, when the temperatures rise to 90 degrees, some varieties of garlic decide it’s time to rest. The greenery dies back leaving plenty of room for the sun-loving tomatoes to thrive. For those who have planted garlic only to have it die, I suspect that the bulb was merely resting. Plant bulbs in a dedicated area and keep an eye on them throughout the growing season. Since the bulb grows beneath the soil, it is perfectly acceptable to plant another vegetable beside it. When the garlic greenery turns yellow either dig the bulbs or celebrate that particular part of the growing process and allow the pungent plant to rest.
Here in Atlanta, February is the perfect time to plant garlic. Plant in full sun and cover with a minimum of inch of dirt (even the bulbs with green shoots coming from the center). Apply 10-10-10 fertilizer and wait. In May, bulbs begin to mature and develop. Bulbs require one inch of water each week during the peak of the growing season. By June, the leaves begin to yellow. At this time, harvest a small portion of your plants. Leave the remaining in the ground to over-winter. The longer the bulbs remain in the ground the larger the bulbs.
Personally, I never dig garlic. I leave them outside year round. I know where they are and can whenever necessary. Atlanta rarely has a hard freeze. When one is forecast, I cover the area with straw.
Lean in close. Here is a top-secret tip. You can cook the green part of garlic. It is delicious! Do you have a stir-fry recipe that calls for chopped green onions? Add garlic greenery as well.
During football season, my beloved husband and I adore chips and a creamy delicious garlic-laden dip. Let me share the recipe for Creamy Garlic Dip.
- One garlic bulb (including green tips), chopped
- ½ onion, chopped
- 1 package frozen spinach, (or two cups fresh spinach, chopped)
- 2 cups fresh kale, chopped
- 4 ounces of cream cheese
- 1 heaping Tablespoon mayonnaise
- ¼ cup milk
- ½ cup mozzarella cheese
- ¼ cup parmesan cheese
- 2 teaspoons salt
- Fresh cracked pepper
- Tortilla chips
- Preheat oven 350 degrees.
- Place chopped garlic and onion in an oven-safe glass dish and [br]microwave for one minute to “sweat” the veggies.
- Add spinach and kale.
- Return to microwave for three to four minutes until greens have begun to cook.
- Stir in cream cheese, mayonnaise and milk.
- Sprinkle with salt and pepper mix well.
- Add mozzarella and parmesan cheese on top.
- Place bowl in oven and bake 15-20 minutes or until mixture bubbles.
- Enjoy with tortilla chips!
I’m thrilled to have Renea Winchester guest post on my humble veggie patch of the blogosphere. She’s an award-winning author of In the Garden with Billy: Lessons about Life, Love & Tomatoes and in 2014 look for In the Kitchen with Billy: Farming, Friends & Fried Bologna Sandwiches. Visit her at www.reneawinchester.com and http://blogthefarm.wordpress.com where you’ll find her insights on life both educational and entertaining. And she’s also a delight in-person. Please show this fellow Southern gal some love in the comments.
Remember that each commentor is entered into a random drawing to win one of several great foodie books! ~Veggie Val