I hadn’t planned on planting garlic this season. My excuse until now has been that I had no space, but the truth of it is, I have been procrastinating on building new beds for some time. However, my work colleague gave me some garlic to plant this month. He has purchased approximately 60 bulbs of at least 4 different garlic varieties via TradeMe and is planning an experiment to test the differences in growth, taste and disease-resistance across them. My colleague’s gift of garlic has kind of forced my hand.

So here they are – a small sample of 4 varieties:

Ideally I should have planted garlic when it was a little warmer, back in April or May, but I am hopeful that some of these will be ready in late January when the leaves begin to wither. This is certainly not enough to keep me in garlic for the year, but hopefully I can grow enough to provide seed for the following season, with a few to taste.

Garlic prefers rich, moist sandy soil enriched with lime, but can be grown in most soil types. Just make sure to grow it in full sun and it should do fine.

A rough map of where each variety is planted

Passion and Ignorance

Garlic is avoided by those following the Brahman way of life, or those seeking a higher state of mind such as yogi, monks or followers of Krishna. In Ayurveda, foods fall in to three categories: sattvic, rajasic and tamasic – foods that convey goodness, passion and ignorance, respectively. Garlic is considered rajasic/ tamasic – so full of passion and ignorance! That’s bit harsh in my opinion.

According to these theologies, garlic roots the consciousness firmly in the body, making it detrimental for meditation. Some beliefs consider it to stimulate the nervous system, having an aphrodisiac quality and disturbing vows of celibacy.

I can certainly attest to the cerebral effect of garlic and am interested to hear if others have noted the same. When I eat lots of garlic I find that I have the most vivid and intense dreams. The rawer the garlic, the headier the dreams. Certainly not arousing – just intense and weird. And if dreams are a window to the subconscious, then I would argue that garlic might convey insight rather than ignorance.

Heart and Lungs

A Krishna source that I reviewed said that garlic was detrimental to the heart and lungs. This is in direct contrast to what I learned in my herbal medicine studies. Garlic in fact has an affinity to the lungs and also benefits the cardiovascular system.

The herb’s hot, dry and pungent character is due to the volatile oil content. This tends to be weaker when cloves are whole or cooked. However, when crushed raw, an enzyme converts alliin to allicin and diallyl disulphide which have powerful antibiotic, antibacterial and anti- viral properties.

Crushing garlic coverts constituents to more bio-active phyto-chemicals

The acrid volatile oil is quickly and readily excreted via the lungs where it’s antimicrobial properties benefit all kinds of colds, flu and bronchial infections as well as helping to move chest congestion. Take garlic as a prophylactic to increase the body’s resistance to infections in the winter months.

The antimicrobial and antibiotic properties work equally well for stomach infections, where garlic seems to have a selective action against pathogens without affecting beneficial intestinal bacteria. Basically garlic can benefit all kinds of infections, taken internally or applied topically.

Garlic also acts on the circulatory system, lowering blood cholesterol, relaxing peripheral blood vessels and reducing blood clotting factors. These factors may help to reduce the risk of strokes and cardiovascular disease.

Children may not be quite so compliant when it comes to taking garlic, so get creative with how you use it. A slice of garlic held by a plaster over swollen glands or in front of the ear can help throat and ear infections. Or hold crushed garlic to the soles of your feet with a sock overnight. The oils absorb quickly via the skin and within minutes you can taste garlic on your breath.

Culinary Companion

Of course the greatest thing about garlic is its culinary use. It adds depth, warmth and body to savoury dishes, and if used raw adds a pungent fiery element to food. Many recipes say to add it early on with the onions but I prefer it under- rather than over-cooked, and that way I retain more of the beneficial properties of the oils.

As a natural pest deterrent, garlic is a great companion to many vegetables. And because it doesn’t take up much space it is usually easy to squeeze it in among other vegetables. Plant it around cauliflower, broccoli, beets, kale, tomatoes, cabbage carrots and spinach. There is not much that won’t benefit from having it nearby.

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