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September 2, 2009 > Pat Kite's Garden: Garlic Breath

Pat Kite's Garden: Garlic Breath

By Pat Kite

Marie made midnight fresh garlic sandwiches, pan fried in butter. Mack, spouse, not to be outdone, decided if wife could eat midnight garlic then he could eat midnight Limburger cheese sandwiches. They have been married a long time and are equally stubborn. I like garlic too, and mid-October through January is best Bay Area planting time. The October planting will give you the largest crop, since it has more time to mature by June/July harvest.

Pungent Allium, alternate name "stinkweed," was utilized in America prior to the colonist's arrival. Native Americans used garlic to treat a variety of medical problems, from intestinal worms to snakebite. Settlers in New England strapped garlic cloves to the feet of smallpox victims, hoping for a cure. They took a clue from their European ancestors, who ate garlic daily as a disease preventative. Name a disorder, and somewhere, sometime, garlic was supposed to cure or contain it.

Early religious mythology extols garlic as an evil-spirit protection. The tale goes that the first garlic sprang up where Satan's left foot stepped when he left the Garden of Eden. An onion grew where his right foot landed. To prevent assorted disasters, people draped garlic around windows and wore garlic necklaces. In ancient Rome, garlic was dedicated to Mars, the god of war. As Roman warriors marched across Europe, they planted garlic in all conquered lands. They believed eating lots of garlic gave them battlefield courage.

If you like fresh garlic for courage, possible increased vitality, or gustatory happiness, begin with a nursery purchase of certified disease-free garlic bulbs. In our climate, softneck garlic does best. Select a site that gets oodles of sun. The site doesn't have to be large. Dig in some compost and a tad of fertilizer. Now gently separate the larger garlic cloves. Do not peel them. Plant the separated cloves in damp soil, plump end down, and pointy end up. Space about 4 inches apart, and cover with one inch of soil. Wait until little green shoots arrive before watering for the first time.

In late winter, the plants begin growing rapidly; a little fertilizer now. Water if you must, but no soggy soil that rots the bulbs. Dig up your odorous prize when the leaves are about 60 percent brown. Put the entire plant in a warm, dry place away from sunlight for about two weeks. Cut off stems and store in a cool, dry, airy place. Or eat. Midnight garlic sandwiches on French bread are quite tasty. Burp.

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