Alibi V.17 No.45 • Nov 6-12, 2008 

Ask Chef Boy Ari

Homegrown Garlic

Q: Dear Flash,

I want to plant garlic this fall. What kind should I plant, and how should I plant it?

--Garlic Crusher

A: This is a great time to think about planting garlic. Since it usually happens in October to early November, now's when you want to acquire seed garlic and figure out where to grow it.

You have two basic options for getting your hands on some seed: You can order it or you can just go out and buy garlic and plant it. There really isn't a difference between seed garlic and non-seed garlic--except that with seed garlic, you know exactly which variety you're getting. And if you buy garlic at the farmers' market, the farmer might be able to tell you what kind it is; then there’s really no difference. Even if the farmer doesn't know, you can at least rest assured that whatever variety it is, it will do well in your climate, as the farmer surely grew it locally. Pick out the biggest, burliest, healthiest looking bulbs you can.

I grow a variety called Romanian Red. The bulbs are big, and there are few cloves--between four and six per bulb--which means that even the smallest bulbs have big cloves, which is nice in the kitchen. Cloves of Romanian Red will peel more easily than a prom dress and have awesome flavor. Romanian Red is a hardneck variety, which means in early June it’ll send up edible flowers.

As for planting, it's not a bad idea to choose your patch of ground now and supplement it with manure or compost. You might even want to cover it up with black plastic to prevent the growth of weeds.

When the autumn leaves start flying, gently break apart your bulbs and plant the cloves--with the peels still on--about 1 inch deep and 6 inches apart, with the pointy side up and scabby side down. Cover the whole patch with straw and forget about it until March. That’s when you should take a peek and make sure the shoots are finding their way through.

Send your food and garden queries to flash@flashinthepan.net.