Garlic has been around for thousands of years. While its origin is unknown, some people believe it originated in Siberia, then spread to the Mediterranean area, becoming naturalized in the process. Classical writers such as Homer, Chaucer, and Shakespeare mention garlic, and it was present in the diets of early Romans, Greeks, and Egyptians.
Garlic has long, flat, solid leaves and a culinary bulb. Its grayish leaves are about 12 inches long and up to an inch wide. A round-stemmed flower stalk originates from the center of the plant and produces a ball-shaped, compact collection of white flowers that are sometimes tinged with lavender. Each bulb multiplies during the growing season, producing highly flavored segments called cloves. Each segment as well as the 4 to 15 cloves comprising a bulb is wrapped in a white papery sheath. Some varieties have a reddish sheath.
Culinary and medicinal.
Sauteed or fresh garlic tastes vibrant and onionlike. It is added to many dishes, including spaghetti sauce, pork roast, herb butter, fresh salads, beans, stuffings, dressings, stews, soups, and marinades. The cloves are either minced or added whole and removed before the dish is served. Garlic is said to have medicinal qualities.
Garlic is an easy, hardy plant for beginners to grow. Plant cloves in early spring, as soon as the ground can be worked. When flower stalks appear, cut them back so that the plant╝s energy goes into producing useful bulbs. Cloves can be planted in late autumn so that they will not sprout in the fall.