Survival Crop – Garlic

I feel like I’m constantly talking about garlic. I grow a hardneck variety of garlic in my garden and identifying it is always the first question visitors to my garden ask.

What’s that funny looking leek?

Some think leeks, some think lily, my neighbor across the street thought onion.  It’s one of the first big plants in the spring garden, strong and green when everything else is puny baby-sized. Then, it gets really tall and sends out crazy alien looking seed pods.  (They are called scapes, and of course, they are delish.) Then, when the heat really gets established in mid-summer, it dries up and is dead and sorry looking within a week.  It definitely has it’s own rhythm, but I find planting it every fall to be a nice change after a long summer of harvesting. It always feels like a promise to my garden.  I plant my carefully separated cloves,  the biggest cloves, from the largest and best of the heads harvested. They get nestled under at least 4″ of mulch and left alone for winter.  Those little cloves draw me back to the garden, even through winter.  Just to check on them. They represent 5 years of breeding now, (hopefully) containing helpful traits to my particular micro-climate. Every spring they are a balm to my soul, just when I think I can’t stand another grey cold day, up pop the garlic shoots.

I use it in most of my cooking. Bulbs that get damaged in harvest go into the dehydrator, or chopped in some oil in the fridge, or tossed into what ever is getting canned that week.  Or they get eaten… Mmmm roasted garlic.

Undamaged bulbs will last well into the next spring, if stored away from light in a cold cellar. No fancy equipment needed for harvest or storage, just some bags.  For a year’s worth of eating, I would plan to harvest 12 heads for each family member. (Plus 2 or 3 heads per person to seed the next crop.)

It smells funny, so of course it’s good for you.

  • High levels of Vit C.
  • High levels of Potassium, this can aid in absorption of nutrients, and help avoid digestive problems and fatigue as well.
  • An organic compound called allicin– which gives garlic its aroma and flavor – acts as the world’s most powerful antioxidant.
  • Garlic assists some people in the management of blood pressure and cholesterol levels.


Modern science has shown that garlic is a powerful natural antibiotic, albeit broad-spectrum rather than targeted. The bacteria in the body do not appear to evolve resistance to the garlic as they do to many modern pharmaceutical antibiotics. This means that its positive health benefits can continue over time rather than helping to breed antibiotic resistant “superbugs”. Skin conditions caused by bacteria, virus, fungi or yeast can be treated by rubbing raw chopped garlic on the affected area.

The hydrogen sulfide in garlic is what makes it so effective at preventing a wide variety of cancers including, prostate, breast, and colon cancer.

Some people who want the health benefits without the taste prefer to take garlic supplements. These pills and capsules have the advantage of avoiding garlic breath. You can make your own capsules if you dehydrate some of your garlic crop. Eleanor Roosevelt would eat three chocolate-covered garlic balls daily to improve her memory.

 Garlic is called “Russian penicillin” in Siberia, where the cloves sometimes pass for currency. I’d plant 4 or 5 cloves per medicinal user.
Work on your own breed of garlic now, someday it could be your bird-flu medicine and your rent check all in one bulb.

– Calamity Jane