I fear that I’ve been a little remiss at promoting the planting of garlic. Now is the time people! At least in the northern hemisphere. Really anytime between the end of September and right up until the ground freezes works. I shoot for mid-October here in northern Wisonsin. It doesn’t always work out that way, but fortunately, garlic is pretty forgiving.
Ideally you want the garlic to get a jump on growing and set down a few roots before winter sets in. Then come spring it will shoot up as the ground thaws and be on its way. It’s really a glorious sight. If push comes to shove, you can even plant in the early spring, but who really wants to stick their fingers into icy cold soil? Do it now, while there is a least a glimmer of summer left.
Ready for a garlic planting crash course? It’s really easy, I promise.
1. Find yourself a few nice heads of garlic – ideally of a variety you enjoy.
2. Break apart the head into individual cloves. Pick out the largest ones and set aside any itty-bitty ones for eating. Leave the paper skin intact, but don’t worry if a bit of it pulls away.
3. Find yourself a patch of loosely fluffed soil – even a big pot on the deck or in the garage will work. Maybe work in a bit of compost if you have it.
4. Poke each clove in (root end down, pointy tip up) about twice as deep as the clove itself, 6 to 8 inches apart. Give a little pat of encouragement to each clove as you fill in the soil around it.
5. Put a good layer of mulch (by good, I mean 6-8 inches worth) over the top of your patch. I use straw, but leaves would work too. If you are leaving a pot on the deck, mulch it extra well around the sides too so it doesn’t freeze too hard. I think a shed or garage would be the best bet. Then just drag the pot outside in the spring.
And that’s it. I assure you that the hardest part is waiting. But it’s so worth it. Because if you’ve planted a little extra (did I mention you should plant a little extra?) you can harvest a few shoots of pencil-thick green garlic in the early spring and make amazing things with them. Even if you didn’t plant a little extra, you’ll still be okay. Come June you’ll get a fine crop of twirly scapes that you can make more amazing things with.
If all goes well, by late summer you’ll have significantly more garlic than the few heads you started out with. Which means fewer vampires and more amazing things in the kitchen. Like this garlic sauce, which is deliciously good on almost everything. Just keep an eye out for the devil.
The Devil’s Sauce
(adapted from Chester Aaron’s Garlic is Life)
2 red or mild banana peppers, coarsely chopped
1/2 – 1 habañero chile, seeded and chopped
1 cup chopped onion
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon adobo seasoning (or use all cumin)
4 tablespoons red pepper flakes (aleppo if you have it)
10 large garlic cloves (about 3-4 ounces), roasted*
1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt
black pepper to taste
*I use Romanian Red garlic, which has fairly large cloves. If you’re using a variety with smaller cloves, you may need way more than 10 cloves to make 3-4 ounces. To roast it, put the individual cloves in a little foil packet, drizzle with some olive oil, salt and pepper and roast at 350ºF for 45 minutes to an hour until cloves are tender and can squeeze easily out of their papers.
For the sauce, blend the peppers, chile, and onions in a food processor to make a purée. Transfer to a saucepan and add the vinegar, oil, sugar, cumin, and adobo, and pepper flakes. Simmer gently for about 5 minutes before adding in the roasted garlic. Mash everything up a bit and simmer for about 5 more minutes. Add salt and pepper and adjust to taste. Makes about 2 cups. Store in fridge, freeze, or pressure can (15 minutes at 10 psi).