Showing posts with label Garlic. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Garlic. Show all posts

21 Sept 2011

The Gar-Leek question

:: Gar-leeks unearthed ::
First things first, thank you to everyone who commented on my gar-leek conundrum. I've since pulled up a few more - they are, as you can see, quite definitely leeks (which is handy as I didn't get round to sowing any earlier this year) - and, despite my questionable sanity, I quite definitely planted garlic cloves.  Trust me, if I'd sown leeks they wouldn't have been nearly so neatly spaced. When planting garlic cloves, I get my dibber out (aka wooden spoon handle); my seeds, however, are sprinkled enthusiastically and rarely (if ever) transplanted neatly.  Ah well.  They're going to be cooked as leeks, although I'm slightly miffed at having to actually buy garlic in the forthcoming months as I've almost finished my store of last year's crop.

One very plausible suggestion, provided by Alex, has struck a chord:  "are they elephant garlic?".  Considering that elephant garlic is not true garlic but, in fact, a relative of the leek family, it seems that my garlic reverted to its genetic roots.

Reading up on the subject (as always - isn't the internet wonderful?), I've learnt that garlic sets need very specific TLC to thrive. And there's me thinking you just bung them in the ground and wait.  Suitability for the growing location and climate is a good start, as is planting in late autumn (early October-ish) so that the roots establish well before soggy soil and frost become the norm. (I've always gone for spring planting which, although possible, should be my second and last-chance choice.) Plant in free-draining soil (to prevent bulb rot) and, if possible, prepare the soil with a good layer of well-rotted compost to really get them off to a flying start. Mulch if the winter is severe and then clear the mulch off when temperatures rise and days lengthen.  Often the bulbs are triggered to set cloves by the lengthening daylight.

So, where did it all go horribly wrong for me this year?  Well, for starters, I planted my sets in spring and then the weather was unseasonably hot. I've now read that some varieties just will not grow in hot areas or will only set one clove or no bulb at all. The other (big) mistake I made was to make the cardinal error of growing my garlic in the same bed as the year before - although I improved the soil with a top dressing of compost, the sets were still at the mercy of any diseases left in the soil from the previous year; this, apparently, can be another cause for no bulb. None of this, though, explains how the leaves grew looking like leek leaves - although the bulb also looks like a giant spring onion or green garlic.  Hmmm, it will have to remain as one of nature's mysteries.

Am I downhearted by all this?  Not At All. On the contrary, it's amazing the knowledge that a year's hands-on experience will give you.  And expect my sister's Leek and Potato Pie on the menu sometime soon.

This evening I've just been out to lift all the gar-leeks; I noticed that a few of the withering leaves seemed to have a light sprinkling of rust.  Again with the research, and I discovered that this is an airborne fungus which lurks in the soil, only affecting onions and leeks.  Triggered by certain levels of wetness and heat, it's advisable to lift the affected plants and destroy the leaves.  Absolutely do not add these to your compost. The bit of the leek that you'd normally eat is still edible.  I think this is nature reminding me to read the rules!

12 Sept 2011

It's not exactly garlic ...

I've got so much catching up to do, I hardly know where to begin.  I want to write about my successful plan to dry onions outdoors (no space inside), my beautiful cerinthe flowers still pulling in the bees, my bountiful harvests, my Tornado tomatoes that are not quite what I was expecting, winter planting, onion storing, a great tomato sauce with fennel seeds, my Fat Baby Exploding Cucumbers (can't wait!) and so on.  For now, though, I have limited access to my laptop due to my son's A levels so I'm lagging behind and will (hopefully) catch up during the week.

So, this is less of a post and more of a conundrum that has me flummoxed:

To the normal eye, I expect this looks like a pot of tomatoes and two leeks. Yes? Err, no. Well, it may be.  At least the tomatoes are a certainty but the leeks are a real puzzle because they're meant to be garlic.   I've waited and waited for the leaves to turn yellow but, as the onions are all out and bad weather has been forecast, I thought I'd get on with lifting my garlic yesterday and starting to dry it ... and this is what I dug up. Lovely leeks. I swear I planted garlic cloves; I know they're all vaguely related, but this is a stumper - and it's wrecked my experiment.

I had resolved this year to try a garlic test:  One bulb of Scottish porcelain garlic from the supermarket, 7 chunky cloves from garlic grown by me last year and 14 Sicilian Red cloves from T&M all went into one raised bed in neat rows.  I wanted to test various theories about growing supermarket cloves versus grower supplied and also to see how my home-grown would adapt (they're supposed to improve year on year as each successive plant adapts).

And the results of my very non-scientific experiment:  T & M cloves -  none at all grew (could be the weather), my home-grown garlic clove became the smaller spring onion sized leek and the Porcelain Garlic turned into the big leek.  I haven't dug the rest up yet because, frankly, I don't need leeks today.

I would absolutely love to know what everyone else thinks about this! There was a small disturbance in that raised bed about a month after planting (at the time, attributed to a fox/pigeon punch up) but that only accounts for the T&M sicilian garlic going awol - unless we have some very clever gardening wildlife who know how to plant in very orderly rows ... (I'm discounting the gnomes and fairies.)

P.S. The forecast hurricane is not quite happening in North London - yet.  It is a very blustery, but dry, day here though!

13 Oct 2010

I've just popped a casserole in the oven - a piece of pork belly nestled among carrots, onion, garlic, turnip, parsnips and with sage going in later. (Trying out Heston Blumenthal's recipe of the week for Waitrose.) Bathed in home-made chicken stock (Prue Leith's recipe), it should be beautifully cooked by dinner time and all that will be needed is to mash the vegetables, fry off the meat and serve up with the crackling which is being slowly roasted in the oven alongside the casserole.

It gives me huge satisfaction to know that all the vegetables and herbs in this dish (bar the turnip) have been home-grown and, for me, the wonder veg is garlic. I planted a few cloves of ordinary garlic last November along with the onion sets, partly out of curiousity and partly because I wanted to have something growing over the winter.

I say "I" planted but, actually, the cloves were planted by the Veg Patch Kids, my part being to show the children how to measure the planting distance and dibble the holes (we used the handle of an old wooden spoon, marked to the correct depth) and which way up to pop the cloves in. I'm probably more amazed than they are that a single clove becomes a whole new garlic.  Even more amazing, I've read that home-grown garlic cloves will adapt year on year to produce the best bulbs. So I've saved a few of my heroes to go back into the ground later this month.

I assume that everybody grows garlic - it's really not hard - but what I found interesting was the little experiment that I ran.  Ever one to fly in the face of good advice, having been told not to plant supermarket garlic, of course I then had to. The original bulbs were, I believe, from Spain – they're the big whoppers in the picture.  They were already showing 6 inches of growth when the January snows fell and came through that beautifully. Then, in late April, the Gardening Guru gave me a few more garlic bulbs to sow - Isle of Wight and T&M Choice. They'd just been delivered to him by Thompsons which I thought was a bit late as they need a good frost to start them off.  I planted them anyway - some under the plum trees, some between the beetroot (probably not my best idea of the season).  The plum tree garlic should really have been watered more regularly and the beetroot garlic was overshadowed in the summer months.  A selection of the results are in the photo below, with the clear winner being my Spanish supermarket garlic which grew to be about 2 inch diameter with well-formed tasty cloves.  (But then it did have the benefit of being grown for 5 months longer than the others.)

Will I do it again this year?  Yes, absolutely. In fact, I've already selected some Porcelain Garlic which hails from the Highlands of Scotland (via Waitrose) and will plant those alongside my London/Spanish cloves - but will also be choosing some commercial bulbs to pitch against them for comparison.

P.S. I'm sure you all know of the massively diverse health benefits of eating garlic but did you know that recent research from the University of East London reveals that garlic may be effective against the superbug MRSA?  
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