To try it is to love it.  To eat it is to let every other person in the room know that you ate it too.  While garlic breath is no joke, neither is the versatility that comes along with this beautiful, albeit potent member of the onion family.  It adds depth to any dish and its unmistakable flavour can create a base that can turn an ordinary meal into a family favourite.

Any garlic lover knows the tantalizing aroma of it cooking in the kitchen.  Whether you are roasting it whole in the oven to add a delectable topping to your homemade pizza or adding it to melted butter as a base to your favourite pasta dish; that smell will make you want stop and grab a fork.

A simple and versatile way of using garlic is to prepare a confit

Simply mix equal parts olive oil and canola oil (about a half a cup of each) with a decent sized handful of peeled whole garlic in a medium sized saucepan.  Bring the mixture to a simmer over medium-low heat and then reduce it to low and cook for about an hour (stirring occasionally) until the cloves are golden brown and soft.  Remove the mixture from the heat and strain the oil off into a separate container, allowing it to cool completely.  Mash the garlic with a fork or a blender and to form a smooth paste and store both the confit and oil in the fridge.  They can be kept up to two and three weeks respectively.  

Use the oil in salad dressings, pastas, or drizzled on top of soup.  The confit garlic makes an outstanding base for garlic bread when mixed with butter, salt and pepper, and herbs of your choice (parsley, oregano, or rosemary), and you can even throw in a little Dijon mustard.  If garlic bread isn’t your thing, this concoction would be delectable on top of any meat, fish, or poultry as well! 

Garlic’s versatility is made all the more simple by its abundance and availability.  Garlic is widely available to all of us at most local grocery stores all year round; you can even purchase it pre-minced, or peeled for even more convenience.  Despite the ease for which it is available, even those of us with the slightest of green thumbs can attempt to grow our own garlic.  All you need is a little forethought and some patience.  Garlic can be planted in the fall and left over the winter.  With a little TLC in the springtime, you can enjoy the fruits of your labour by the end of summer! It is really a very easy crop to grow.

In the BC Interior, you can sow your cloves from September to November. Separate The cloves and set each one, pointed side up, on your soil, leaving cloves 4-6” apart and 1-2” deep. Make sure to keep the skins on. Using straw as mulch is strongly recommended to insulate the cloves as they grow in our harsh winter conditions. If this step is skipped, you run the risk of losing bulbs to winterkill. Planting at the beginning of March for a fall harvest is also an option, but garlic tends to grow better in winter conditions if it is possible for you to do so. 

Although it can be done, garlic is not well suited for growing in containers and will have a much better yield if planted in the ground or in raised beds. Water as needed and keep weeded. In the meantime, the bulbs will send up hollow, tubular (sometimes flattened) leaves, followed by a flower stalk (scape) and then by the flower itself. Cut the flower stalks to keep the energy in the bulb, causing it to grow bigger. 

When the tops begin to dry, pull and air dry like onions. Some growers recommend waiting until 75% of the plant has dried up before harvesting, and others say the key is to pull when each plant is down to 6 green leaves. 

If you choose to grow your own garlic, your harvest can allow for a multitude of ways to use your bounty.  While garlic itself stores well, a large harvest isn’t always conducive to being stored all in one place.  One simple way of preserving garlic is to pickle it.  Even the most inexperienced food preserver can pickle their own garlic. If you find yourself with a multitude of different types of vegetables on hand, garlic makes a delicious contribution to most other canning recipes too.  Garlic dill pickles, garlic pickled carrots, garlic pickled peppers, or even radishes.  

We all know that garlic is delicious and versatile but did you also know that garlic is healthy too?  It even has holistic health properties.  Enjoying garlic can in fact lead to a longer life and benefit your brain, heart and multitude of other organs.  It is high in nutrition and low in calories.  One clove of garlic contains such nutrients as magnesium, Vitamin C, selenium, fibre, calcium, copper, phosphorus, iron, Vitamin B1, Vitamin B6, and potassium.  Garlic has been shown to reduce blood pressure, boost your immunity, and even help fight the common cold.  A study showed a daily garlic supplement reduced the number of colds in a large group by 63%, as well as a 70% reduction in the length of the cold in the group taking the it daily.  Garlic has also been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease by lowering cholesterol levels.  With the combination of the antioxidants and its ability to lower blood pressure, garlic has also been shown to reduce risks of brain diseases like dementia and Alzheimer’s.  Is there anything this tiny delicious superhero can’t do?

This wonderful member of the onion family gives depth to all our favourite foods and keeps us healthy in the process.  We can grow it ourselves in our own backyards and preserve it to be used all year round in our homes.  Eating it for its health benefits can also be effortless as its deliciousness is palpable.  If garlic is not already a staple in your home and in your cooking, its ease of use and availability makes it incredibly easy to instill into your diet for the long term. 

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