How to Grow Garlic and The Benefits of Using Garlic in Home Remedies
Where would we be without garlic? From keeping vampires at bay to keeping over-eager suitors at bay, garlic has long been prized for its pungent aroma, unique taste and huge variety of medicinal and health-giving properties.
Hippocrates wrote of garlic that it could be used against parasites, to regulate the digestion, to combat respiratory problems and to boost low energy – these days, we can add to that list, with claims that garlic can help prevent heart disease, lower blood pressure and even prevent cancer.
More than 10,000 pharmacological studies have been carried out into the properties of garlic, and the results seem to indicate that it’s among the most versatile, powerful and useful of all kitchen-garden remedies.
Cultivation of Garlic
Garlic as we commonly know it is a species in the onion genus, closely related to onions, shallots, leeks and chives. It’s a hardy plant, and relatively easy to grow in any garden.
- Plant whole cloves, ideally in late autumn.
- When planting, push the cloves into the soil until the tip is about an inch below the surface, and space the cloves around 6 inches apart.
- Water regularly.
- From early summer, the plants can be harvested as “wet garlic” – this is when the plants are still leafy but there are reasonable sized heads underground.
- Harvest the rest when the foliage starts to dry out in late summer. When it has dried out, dig up the bulbs and allow them to dry on the ground in the sun.
Tips on Growing Garlic
- A 5ft row of planted cloves will yield around 10 bulbs of garlic.
- If affected with rust disease (red spots on the foliage), destroy the affected plants and don’t grow onions or garlic in that spot again for several years, to give the nitrogen levels a chance to even out.
- Dry harvested garlic bulbs well and store indoors rather than in a shed – storing in a colder temperature may kick start the growing process.
- Treat “wet garlic” like a fresh vegetable and use immediately.
Medicinal Uses of Garlic
Note that garlic allergies, although rare, do exist – if you are not certain whether or not you are allergic, you should always do a skin test patch before using garlic in direct application to the skin.
Lower your cholesterol – Tests have shown that eating garlic daily can reduce your cholesterol level by between 9 and 12 percent. One or two raw or lightly cooked cloves a day are sufficient to reap the benefits; if you don’t want bad breath after eating garlic, chew some parsley leaves to help get rid of the odor.
Treat wounds, cuts, grazes and scrapes – Raw, crushed garlic is a highly effective antibiotic and antiseptic – so much so, in fact, that battlefield medics used it during both world wars to help prevent infections at the front line. Applying raw garlic to a cut may sting for a short while, but in an emergency can make the difference between an infection developing or not.
Breastfeeding support – Some breastfeeding mums like to avoid garlic, as it does pass into breast milk and can affect the flavor – however, some studies have shown that babies prefer the garlicky taste and will stay at the breast for longer if their mothers have recently eaten garlic, thereby helping with fussy feeders.
Nip a cold in the bud – Hold a raw garlic clove in your mouth and breathe the fumes into your throat and lungs. Garlic’s active compounds include allicin and allin, which have been shown in test tube studies to kill a wide variety of nasties. Alternatively, chop a clove into tiny pieces and swallow quickly with a glass of water.
Keep biting insects away – Eat lots of garlic before you go on a camping trip. The odor is known to come through in sweat, and insects are repelled by it.