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20 October 2011

Growing garlic in the backyard

This is from the Angelica Organic Farm site "The bright white flawless looking Chinese garlic is bleached with chlorine. Most concerning is that Chinese garlic is still being grown using chemicals banned in Australia long ago and it is reported that raw human sewage has be used as fertiliser. To be able to allow it into our country, the quarantine department, AQIS, fumigates every single bulb with methyl bromide, one of the world's most dangerous chemicals for human and environmental health. It is kept in cold storage and is often too old by the time it reaches our shelves, which is why it’s sprouting or spongy when you get it."

I have been worried about the Chinese garlic sold in Australia for a few years now. The garlic we see on sale is pure white and very unnatural looking.  I'm not sure how Chinese garlic is grown,  processed and fumigated, but one look tells me I don't want to eat it. And yet Australian garlic is so expensive now. In my local IGA this week, Chinese garlic was $10 a kilo, Australian garlic was $49.95 a kilo. Who can afford to buy it at that price!  Garlic in the USA is between $12 and $13 a pound, that's about half the price of our locally grown garlic. Mind you, most of us usually buy it in small amounts so generally, we don't realise how expensive it is because we only buy one or two.

Just out of the ground, our garlic sat drying out for a few days (above), then I cleaned them up a bit, (below).
And below is my rather miserable attempt at a garlic braid. I think I'll undo it today and try again.

Garlic is slow growing but if you grow it in the backyard, in the soil or a container, it's quite an easy crop. We buy organic garlic cloves early in the year and put them in the fruit drawer of the fridge to fool it into thinking it's winter. After about four weeks, we plant it out. This is one of those once-a-year crops, if you get it right, and store it well, you'll have enough for the whole year. I'm not buying garlic again - Australian garlic is too expensive and Chinese garlic is too scary.

We harvested our garlic last week when the tops started going brown but still had some green in them. The bulbs were big, there were plenty of cloves on each of them and they had a lovely purple papery skin. We had one fresh straight away that night, roasted in the oven with some lamb. Delicious! The rest of them are now hanging outside on the back verandah drying out. I tried to braid them and while it looked good and tight when it was laying flat on the table, now that it's been hanging for a week, it's loosening and looking a bit untidy. Still, the main point is that we have good garlic, grown in our backyard - thrifty and local.

As you as concerned about garlic as I am? Where do you get yours from? Of course it's not earth shattering, we don't have to have garlic, but it is good for our health and good garlic tastes divine and makes other food really shine. I'd like to see all of us growing our own so I've searched for the information below to help us all do that. I wonder if you will.

56 comments:

  1. Really nice looking garlic! I'll be planting mine out in a few weeks but then again we get a cold spell here.

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  2. My neighbor across the street grows a large bed of hard neck garlic and he shares it with me and another neighbor. This year, he gave me some large cloves and I started these in large round containers since I live in a trailer home on a postage stamp lot, so I grow mostly in large 20 qt. containers. I will add to the garlic next year. I also purchase soft neck varieties from my local farmer's market, which I will start some of those next year also in containers.
    I am so very leary of food any more that I will not get anything anymore of produce or fruit at the grocery. I purchase what I need from farmer's markets or my own garden or from the neighbors. My staples I purchase from a wholesale supply company for institutions and cafes.
    I do not buy garlic in the grocery here as it is usually soft and bad and there is no sense spending money on something that is rotten in the first place.
    Thank you for the post today, Rhonda, we need to be aware of the poisoned food that we are subject to and be aware of everything around our world, no matter where we live.
    Denimflyz in Nebrasks US

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  3. I grow all our own garlic every year. It doesn't quite see me through because it starts to sprout. Then I replant my own cloves. It is yummy! Someone recently gave me some huge single cloves that she called Russian Garlic and apparently can be planted at any time of year, so I will use her garlic when the last crop starts to sprout. I haven't bought garlic for over two years! :)

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  4. I bought a punnet with 4 garlic plants in it at the beginning of the year and planted them, thinking that I'd gradually add to the number every year as the plants reproduced. Then my ex mother-in-law gave me two different sorts of garlic cloves so now I have garlic all over the place. I'm used to cooking with the minced garlic from jars, so using 'proper' cloves in the kitchen will be a new adventure!
    I was interested to see that you've pulled up your garlic while there's still colour in them. Mine are looking about the same... I'll inspect when I go and let the chooks out.

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  5. We grow our own garlic too for the same reasons as you do, Rhonda. You are a little bit further ahead with your harvesting , ours is still green . This will be our best crop ever and we hope to see it last us through the winter this year.....trouble is homegrown garlic is soooo yummy, there is nothing like roasted garlic with a baked dinner!

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  6. Thankyou for writing about this. It's so tiresome that we have to worry about what they put on our food all the time. I wish food could just be food! Our local veg store sells both Australian garlic and garlic imported from Sth America - it's certainly not bright white, but there are times it's mouldy. We've finally got our garden up an running again - will have to look into growing a pot of garlic or two. My father only ate homegrown garlic for years.

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  7. I'll probably be harvesting my garlic here (south coast NSW) in 4-6 weeks, just as I will finish last years crop. I plant about 120 heads a year. It doesn't take much attention or space, and it beats Chinese garlic hands down. Apart from scary ag practices, I'm sure Chinese garlic is programmed to sprout as soon as you get it home. Even if I don't grow anything else, there will always be a garlic crop at my place..

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  8. Thanks for the links. I might have a go at growing it in a pot next year.

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  9. Garlic suits the southern UK climate. It's in fact one of my most reliable crops, to the point that I don't think I've had to buy any for cooking for a good 7 or 8 years.

    This Summer was damp at the wrong time, so the papery skins melted away before we could lift most of the bulbs. So we pureed most of the stray cloves and froze it in ice cube trays.

    Any stray ones that regrow next year will be lifted, chopped and fried as green garlic.

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  10. Very interesting Rhonda....i had stopped buying garlic too as it has been too expensive and rather tasteless but didn't realise just how nasty the imported stuff can be so thank you so much for the info.
    We brought some local garlic at the farmers markets this year and planted our own for the first time this year....just a bit unsure as to when we should try pulling it up though....and i don't know i will have any better luck than you at the braiding thing....although maybe something the teenager would like to do!!
    Linda...we also got some of the larger cloves from market to plant(as well as others) but they don't seem to have much taste even though cloves are huge (the farmer made us try before we brought some, lol!)Not sure if they are the same variety you purchased but just wanted to warn you if they are!We still planted them anyway just for some variety....hopefully the garlic works for us this year and we can go back to eating garlic again.
    Do you need to wait until the tops all die off or better you think to pick with still some green as you did Rhonda?
    Maybe i shall blog my garlic efforts...even if they prove embarassing!Thanks again for such timely info...Jodex

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  11. Just checked and mine is from China! I'm in the US. It is very cheap too, a two pound pkg that my husband (he does all the marketing as he is better at sticking to the list) got. I think he said it $8. The texture and flavor seem fine - I was actually thinking of planting a few heads from it but now think I'll try the garden center. Thanks for the heads up.

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  12. My garlic is not ready for harvest yet but hopefully by Christmas we will be having roast lamb inserted with cloves from our own Italian garlic. Love this garlic, so much more potent than the Russian garlic. I can buy organic locally grown garlic and sometimes the growers sell their early season garlic with smaller cloves a little cheaper. I grabbed a bag at the markets recently to make pesto. I use so much garlic I really need to devote a whole bed to it. I have always avoided the Chinese garlic - it is used in most of the commercial pastes except for the Woolworths own brand which is made from Australian garlic. Can anyone recommend a good garlic press? The one I have is useless!

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  13. Ann, I use a Zyliss garlic press and love it.

    Jode, in our climate (Sunshine Coast) garlic can start going mouldy if left in the ground too long. It's wise to pull it out when the tops are brown but with some green still evident. When the tops are turning brown, pull one and see if it is large enough - if it is, pull all of them, if not, wait another couple of weeks. Stop watering your garlic a couple of weeks before you pull it out. I agree, that Russian garlic doesn't have much taste.

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  14. Chlorine? Methyl Bromide! I'm a scientist, and seeing those chemicals on our food is scary, I had no idea humble garlic needed to be bleached.....The things that are being done to our food is worrying me more and more....bring on the garlic patch!

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  15. Tony has had two garlic harvests over the past year. In both cases he put in some sprouted garlic from the vegie cupboard (locally grown from our produce market), stuck it in the ground and then forgot about it for six months. Like everything you do yourself the taste is incomparable.

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  16. We grew enough garlic last year (harvest December) to still have some now. It's so easy to grow, just need to give it's own spot and away it goes. We have even more garlic this year as I replanted all the garlic that I planted and then forgot until they grew new shoots (this worked fine last year) I grow them under fruit trees and it's amazing how tough they are. A good fail safe crop here. Jackie French suggests leaving a crop to multiply in the ground year round - then you always have some. Love the flowers too. Will make great xmas presents this year.

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  17. I harvested the first garlic of the year yesterday, but it is really a bit too early here (northern NSW). Another few weeks of patience needed. Garlic chives are not too bad a stand-by, if you run out of garlic and can't bear Chinese garlic. Not the same, by any measure, but they're a perennial and so easy to grow they're practically a weed. I have some in my along-the-fence-to-stop-the-weeds-invading planting, and they're just always there.

    And if I do run out, I bite the bullet and buy organic Australian garlic at the Farmers Market. I know it's expensive, but it's actually a fair price to the farmer given the amount of time it takes and the cost of seed - you can grow hundreds of lettuces from the seed from one plant, but building up a stock of seed garlic takes a lot of time and money. And hand weeding is a big job. If I really can't afford it, I'd rather go without than eat methyl bromide. That stuff is horrible, not just for the eater, but for the poor buggers that have to work with it.

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  18. Thank you Rhonda for the info on garlic which I'm sure I would not have heard anywhere else AND the legwork on the sites to visit. I remember for years buying garlic that was purplish and a bit dirty and then all of a sudden here is this white, very large garlic from China or Mexico. Tasteless with a thick outer skin and all uniform. I've just thrown mine out and will be looking for some locally grown at the markets on Saturday.

    Wish I could be at your workshop...
    Vickixx

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  19. Definitely a big thumbs up to the zyliss garlic press, we are lazy and don't even bother taking the papers off. In Tasmania we won't be pulling ours until December, and last season's have finally gone rotten, so I get about 6 weeks with no garlic. We do pull them green occassionally when we are feeling in need of some garlicy goodness.

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  20. Lovely garlic and the braids need to be quite tight if it's still green to allow for shrinkage when dried. Another idea is to hang singly until partially dried then braid so there's less shrinkage after braiding.
    Off to the markets in the mall today where I know there's organic locally grown garlic for around $25-30/kg. I've bought it before but the cost is prohibitive for us to do this continuously so this time the cloves will be refrigerated and planted in large tubs we have and I'll hope I have more success this time. Thanks for the links too, very informative.
    Cheers,
    Robyn

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  21. Absolutely!
    That garlic at the supermarket FREAKS ME OUT!!!
    Why IS Australian garlic so expensive?
    It's not difficult to grow - it would transport and store well - I don't get it.

    This winter just gone I planted out 2 different kinds of garlic:
    Australian White and
    Early Purple
    from The Diggers Club.
    They've got a great selection - who knew there were so many different kinds!

    I planted some in a pot - it didn't do so well, but the ones in the vegie patch are growing the clappers.
    Yay! To home-grown garlic!

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  22. I read somewhere that they use DDT on the crops in China which put me off it immediately. There is Argentinean garlic available for $20 but I don't know how safe that is either. :(
    I do have a few plants still in the ground so they will have to do us.
    xxxx

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  23. Rhonda,
    Thank you so much for this post. Growing garlic has been on my "hope to do soon" list forever. I have just not taken the plunge. After your valuable information, my husband and I placed our order for garlic, onions, and cover crops:)

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  24. Thanks for the info re picking Rhonda...i fear we may not get a big crop, i pulled one today and very small...but did pack a punch with flavour...however the stems are mostly still green with only a touch of brown on some tips so maybe too early here in Northern rivers as Linda mentioned, i shall wait a few more weeks and keep fingers crossed. Thanks again for taking the time x

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  25. Jode, the tops need to be almost all brown, not before. Garlic is a slow crop, don't rush it love.

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  26. Hi Rhonda, here at duck central we plant about 100 - 120 cloves every year. Each year I save the biggest bulbs for planting the next. We have been doing this for about 4 or 5 years.....The variety I grow is an Australian one - glenlarge....it is fairly early, so it goes in on Anzac day, and comes out usually late November. There are usually only 2 months of the year when the last of the garlic has sprouted, and we are waiting for the new lot to be ready to harvest. Yesterday I actually had to buy a bulb of garlic for the first time in years!

    Garlic is one of the things we actually are almost totally self sufficient in.....and home grown is delish, and in Australia, it is ready just in time for Christmas - we try to grow enough to be able to use some as gifts.

    Big love
    duckie

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  27. Hello Duckie! It's good to see you again. That's a big garlic harvest for just the two of you but what a great gift to give. I hope this year's harvest is a good one. ♥

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  28. I grow my own garlic (as well as a lot of other herbs and vegetables). I always braid my onions, the same method can be used for garlic. You can take a look at my weblog and just follow the pictures if you like. (It's in Dutch)

    http://de-gulle-aarde.blogspot.com/2011/09/uien-vlechten.html

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  29. Shocking about how they grow and clean up garlic. I wonder what they do in the UK?

    Do you know, you just reminded me that I planted some garlic cloves earlier on in the year. I've only just realised two nearby comfrey plants have taken over and buried them.

    I don't think I'm very good at growing garlic ;-))

    I shall do better this coming year though. I've always loved roasting a whole bulb when doing the Sunday joint and sitting there peeling and eating the nutty meat from each clove. I always thought it odd that the garlic flavour almost completely disappears leaving a nutty flavour behind.

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  30. I usually buy garlic in a farm, a great amount for several months. It smells fantastic, chinese garlic has no smell and it's big and unusually perfect!!! Enjoy your life, hugs from Sicily (where we have a special production of garlic), Clara.

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  31. I read somewhere that you should plant garlic on the shortest day of the year and harvest on the longest day. I planted pretty close to the shorest day and it is still green so will wait a bit longer and see how it looks closer to the longest day. I have also planted the bleached chinese cloves and got a pretty good result - figure they would be aussie by the time I pulled them up! LOL

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  32. I adore garlic, eat so much of it and the hens get it in their water. I grow it but I do have to buy it - from farmers markets usually. I can't bring myself to buy the cheap china grown bulbs, they are scary. Love the garlic tops in my cooking too. Have you ever eaten yours?

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  33. Cheat's braiding, very easy and quick. Cut a long length of string and tie the ends to make a loop then hang it from a handy hook. Take the bulb and insert the stem between the two bits of the loop and wind it in and out and round the two strings in a figure of eight. Take another bulb and do the same. Try and vary the angle of the bulbs by putting some in from the other direction. The weight of the bulbs on top stops the lower bulbs unravelling. You end up with a handy string of bulbs complete with loop at the top for hanging them up

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  34. Garlic is so easy to grow. I've found after you plant it in November (UK), to mulch the bed with fallen leaves. It keeps the bed a bit drier, and you know where you've planted it, LOL. After several months, when the leaves start to brown, you can harvest. Easy peasy, and it does taste so very good out of the garden. We harvested 60 heads this year, four of which will be saved for planting in the garden. Total self-sufficiency and no vampires!

    AM of the bread

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  35. I love garlic and live in darwin - so not sure if it would grow well in this tropical heat???

    I stopped buying the white Chinese garlic a couple of years ago. When I can't get the fresh Australian stuff I buy the small plastic tubs in the fruit and veg section as it's also Aussie.

    Is the high price of garlic in tune with the growing and labour involved?

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  36. Great post, (here on my first visit). The first time I saw garlic grown in China, I thought, my garlic never looks that pristine and sanitize. You answered the questioned as to why. Well I better get out and plant my fall crop. Cheers for the Pacific Northwest!

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  37. I don't use a lot of garlic but this is scary stuff. I am going to grow my own. Thanks for the UK instructions.

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  38. THANK YOU for all this information...had no idea!! However, my rule is to NEVER buy any food items from China, if at all avoidable. I find it incomprehensible for them to sell any food, when their own people are so poorly fed!! A friend who has had to go on several business trips over there tells about how awful the food is, plus how TINY the people are (most of the women about the size of an 8-10 yr. old girl here)...and we all know that Chinese people here in the USA are not that tiny...so it has to be that they are not getting enough good food to eat.

    Elizabeth in NC

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  39. China - humpf. Hundreds of dogs have died from their dog food, thousands more ill, and more may become symptomatic over time. Millions of toys recalled due to leaded paint. They will steal any technology they can. They unendingly produce counterfeit products. Their stocks may have some value, but Lord knows what value -describing their accounting as "tricky" would be lenient. See any kind of a pattern here regarding morals?

    And now I find out all this crap is applied to their garlic. I always believed garlic had natural defenses and that even non-organic type growers would have no need for chemicals.

    I've tried growing garlic, but my bulbs were pretty puny. I'll keep working on it.

    brenda from arkansas

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  40. I get organic garlic from the CSA farm we belong to. At our cottage I have an old fashioned sort of garlic that grows seeds on the scapes and self sows itself everywhere. It's rather invasive and should be planted off by itself.

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  41. Hi Rhonda,
    I bought a couple bulbs last year from the Farmer's Market and planted them last fall. The purple bulb produced an awesome crop. The white bulb, however, half of it rotted. Think it was because the white bulb was on my drip line and didn't have time to dry out before I pulled them. The taste is so much stronger than store bought. And you are right, it is so easy to grow! And I had no idea how expensive it was or how dangerous. Thank you for the great information.
    Julie in Arizona

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  42. Hi Rhonda,
    Thanks for the tip on garlic! I did notice that the ones we get in the supermarket here are from China, but didn't know about the hidden horrors.
    Even though they are very cheap to buy here, I did put down a few cloves earlier this year. They sprouted readily enough but all I got were one or two (very delicious) leaves then they withered away. My mum has been growing them but with the same results, so she just uses the leaves to cook.
    I however love lots of garlic, so looks like I will have to do a little more research into growing them. Will look into the links you posted and hopefully find something that suits our climate.

    Vicki
    Trinidad & Tobago

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  43. I have been growing my own garlic for years but never enough to keep me going until last year when I bought a kilo from Greenharvest. When I broke them up and planted them they went a long way. I ended up with 300 bulbs. My friends bought enough and more from me to pay for the initial outlay of $38 for the kilo and the rest was profit. But it was so lovely to eat and I had plenty left over to plant a whole lot more. Like you Rhonda I won't buy the chinese alternative.
    cheers
    Dayla

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  44. Most of my garlic comes straight from my organic farm co-op, and looks just as white as the stuff from the market. Yes, even when it has dirty roots and patches of dirt all over it. They send it home cured and unwashed. So perhaps it is just the variety? I would not assume all white garlic you see is bleached...

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  45. Hi Rhonda
    In our region in Sweden I plant our garlic cloves when the soil is around 9C. Cool enough for it not to start sprouting. We can have many minus degrees in the winter but as soon as winter starts turning to spring, up come the little green shoots. A welcome sign. We harvest mid July. Planted 80 cloves a couple of weeks ago. Wish we had room for more in our little veggie garden. I feel so rich with all those bulbs. The varieties we plant have their origins in France and Russia.
    Greetings from Uppsala/Sweden
    Ramona K

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  46. When we moved into our home 3 yrs ago there was some garlic in one of the flower beds. I am glad to keep it going and increasing it in size each year. last year I planted another variety and it is garlic planting time here so I just got it all in the ground. Hoping to keep increasing the amount planted each year for the ones I have growing so I know where they are from. Sincerely, Emily

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  47. I've always been worried about garlic. I did put a brief post about it earlier in the year and I'm horrified at the use of methyl bromide! We are thinking about trying for kids, and I always keep thinking that if something is safe for me, it is 1000 times more toxic to a little human 1000 times growing inside of me. I worry about the effect they have on children because they are "little people" and most things are deemed to be "safe" for a human adult!

    I hope everyone is having a great weekend!

    http://kohkohnut.com/?p=463

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  48. Just checked my garlic, it's Chinese & it's now in the bin! Thanks Rhonda!

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  49. I did buy one package of Chinese garlic this year .. and not even knowing it until I got home (it was purchased at a local fruit stand .. so I didn't think much about it) .. It was terrible! Thank you for this information about how it's processed. We normally grow it or buy it from a local farm where it's grown. I had a horrible experience with Asian pine nuts last year (if you're curious .. google 'pine mouth' to read about it).

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  50. I noticed in one of the links that it said to plant garlic in Australia in March - can I plant it at any time of the year such as now (giving it more water over the summer) so does the garlic prefer the cooler months?

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  51. Joluise, plants rely on much more than water to grow and reproduce. Other considerations include the length of day and temperature. Even if you live in an area where you can plant all year, garlic is one of those crops that needs cold weather then lengthening days.

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  52. I've planted garlic for two years now. It is very easy to grow. I just hang the bulbs up to dry out a bit and then cut the stems off and store in my pantry in a net bag. I also have started growing walking onions. They are great although a bit strong so you dont need much to make anything taste like onion. Walking onions stay in the ground and reseed themselves. You can either eat the bulblets on the top or dig the bulb out of the ground.

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  53. You can use a micro plane for mincing your garlic, garlic presses tend to make the garlic more bitter I have read. The same if it has started to sprout a bit, good to remove the green part before using for a sweeter garlic.

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  54. I live in Darwin, australia and our weather is tropical I really really want to grow my own garlic especially after reading all that info on Chinese garlic, can I do it or am I waisting my time?? Anyone.. Bobbi

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  55. One trick people use in South East Asia, is to chop 5% off the top of the clove, and push it into the ground and cover the top with cut grass.
    Ive tried this and it is 100% successful. NZ.

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  56. A friend gave me some home grown garlic which was lovely to eat, and then my husband bought a rose which came with a colony of aphids. I got rid of all the aphids and planted some of the garlic bulbs around the rose about a month ago (I live Central Coast, NSW). All have sprouted and are looking very healthy, but from other blogs it looks like I probably won't get much of a crop with this lot but I will plant another batch in March next year and see how that goes. Also, no aphids now on the rose bush! I NEVER buy the Chinese garlic - or any other food originating from China - one can never be too careful.

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