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What’s that I smell …

What’s that I smell …

By Anita Tucker

Garlic is one of the oldest and hardest-working vegetables known to man.

Often considered an herb, this cousin to the onion was first used more than 7,000 years ago. It is said to have anti-oxidant properties and the ability to lower blood pressure. Of course, it also wards off vampires.

Allium sativum, aka garlic, is a bulb that grows up to 2 feet and produces flowers.

I’ve been reading up on garlic and I’ve decided to plant a few bulbs in my kitchen garden. (Confession: My kitchen garden previously consisted of a couple of those herbs that the big store on Highway 65 now offers in its produce section. I killed them off quite efficiently. So the garlic will start my kitchen garden anew.)

Here are the instructions I’ve found to give it a try:

Use a 2- to 3-gallon pot at least 10 inches deep. Fill it three-quarters with organic potting soil. Press individual cloves of garlic a half-inch deep into the soil, pointed end up. Space garlic cloves at least 5 inches apart.

Water immediately and keep the soil moist throughout the growing process. Indoor plants usually require watering every other week.

Garlic needs sun, about six hours of bright indirect sunlight a day. If you don’t have a place indoors that gets this much sunlight, you can use a grow light for 12 hours a day. (I don’t have a grow light, so this might be a complication. We’ll see.)

Garlic grows best in temperatures between 65 and 70 degrees F, and a plant-heating pad may be needed. (I looked up plant heating pads on the Internet and found them at a cost ranging from $15 to $35. I’m thinking there should be a cheaper alternative here; an old heating pad or something? Ideas?)

The cloves mature in four to six months. When they are ready for harvest, the green foliage will turn yellow.

Honestly, I’m not a huge fan of garlic, but I keep reading about how good it is for you. In fact, Democrat columnist Lallah Ostergren once recommended a garlic sandwich for my sore throat. She said to take a slice of bread, butter it and place garlic on half, fold it over and eat. She recommends one clove for beginners, and work your way up to two or three. But she warns to always eat raw garlic with butter or oil to avoid blistering your mouth and throat.

“Everybody should eat more raw garlic,” Lallah says.

She also offers this for eating raw garlic: Chop it finely by hand or with a chopper and place it in a jar. Cover it with olive oil. Spread on a cracker to eat.

Garlic, Lallah says, is one of the best things the Almighty put on this earth for us.

According to Web MD, garlic is used for many conditions related to the heart and blood system, including high blood pressure and atherosclerosis, more commonly know as hardening of the arteries. Many believe it can prevent several types of cancer and can help treat diabetes, fevers, coughs, headache, sinus congestion, asthma … and on and one.

The active ingredient in garlic is allicin. Web MD says allicin is unstable and changes into a different chemical quickly. Some manufacturers age garlic to make it odorless so their products will be more palatable. However, allicin is also the source of garlic’s strong smell and taking away that smell also reduces garlic’s effectiveness.

Medicinal properties aside, I found a several other uses for garlic while browsing the Internet. Here are a few of them:

Use as a mosquito repellent by placing cloves around mosquito-prone areas.

Add to a dog’s diet to help repel ticks and fleas.

Mix garlic cloves and extracts with pepper and a little soap to use as a garden pesticide.

Catch fish with garlic by mixing powder or crushed garlic with marshmallows. Toss them into the water and see if you can catch bass and trout.

If you try any of these, let me know how they worked.

Anita Tucker is editor of the Van Buren County Democrat. Each spring and occasionally throughout the year, she briefly attempts to be an organic gardener. E-mail her at atucker@vanburencountydem.com.

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