Garlic! A Love Story and Mystery

Garlic! A Love Story and Mystery

Let me begin by saying I was born and raised in Minnesota. Minnesota is not known for culinary adventures. Catsup is considered as racy as it gets when it comes to additions to basic food.

So in the land of casseroles and salt and pepper, I never knew about garlic. Then I received this wonderful gadget, a garlic press, as a wedding gift. I love gadgets and this one fascinated me. It was a lever action instrument. One side contained a metal basket with holes in it and the other side was a flat bar. It was a lovely soft grey and the metal was smooth to the touch. Once I was informed it was a garlic press, I went to my local grocery store and bought garlic. I immediately loved this bundle of cloves with the little roots bunched up at one end and the paper feel of the skins. I pulled the whole thing apart, and rubbing the little "toes" removed the parchment skin. I put several cloves in the basket of my new garlic press and pushed down and my kitchen became pungent with this wonderful smell.

I was in love. I put garlic in everything that made sense. I crushed it into beef, sprinkled it on eggs, mixed it into potatoes. It made everything exotic and my "very simple tastes are fine" husband sat up and took notice of what I was cooking. We both became enamored with garlic.

Garlic became a part of my cooking experience. I acquired the basic garlic necessities. I had a wonderful hand press, a blue and white garlic jar for my refrigerator and a soft terra cotta roaster for my oven. I continued to experiment with garlic and bought it in all forms: fresh bunches, jars soaking with olive oil, flakes and salt. For years I was happy with buying garlic in grocery stores, produce markets and farmers' markets. Then, after living all over this country, I moved back to Minnesota and seeing the black loamy soil that was the base of so much bounty, I decided to try my hand at growing my own garlic. Off I went to the local nursery and picked out several pots of garlic plants. I had planted many rose bushes the week before and one of my old gardening books recommended planting garlic amongst the bushes to keep nasty pests away. So I put the garlic plants in my rose garden. I watched all summer as its arching green stalks grew and waved in the breezes. I was tempted many times to pull up the stalks, but waited until they became yellowed and withered. I was rewarded on a sunny September day with a harvest of four large bunches of garlic. I was hooked. There is something about harvesting your own produce and eating it. Something very basic to man, I believe. Grow it, havest it, cook it and eat it. I filled my garlic jars and enjoyed MY homegrown garlic throughout the winter.

The next spring I was dismayed to find nursery centers had no garlic. Discouraged, I sat down with my old gardening books and leafing through the pages on garlic saw a tiny entry saying one could grow garlic from cloves. Zipping into the kitchen, I opened my refrigerator, grabbed some garlic cloves, raced to my rose garden, dropped down on my knees and planted my cloves. Not sure which way to plant I placed some in every direction: points up, points down, points east, west, north and south. I waited. And three weeks later, up came these wonderful green stalks. I marked the area off so I could watch them grow. Summer moved along lazily and my garlic stalks kept on growing. Roses were in bloom, pests nowhere to be seen, but...there were these holes around the rose garden. I also had holes in my flowerbeds, but nothing seemed to be disturbed. Flowers were whole; stalks not nibbled on. September arrived and I eagerly anticipated fresh garlic, until one day I noticed the green stalks were gone. I walked over and looked closer. They were really gone! I fell to my knees and crawled around looking for broken-off stalks, clipped stalks, chewed up stalks. Nothing. But there was a hole right in the middle of my garlic bed. I complained to my mother the following week and her one comment was. "Moles. They just pull right from the bottom. Gone. They don't touch the flowers though."

So my harvest was gone. I hope the moles enjoyed my garlic as much as I have.

About the Author I garden in Zone 4....Minnesota...
Passions are roses, orchids, herbs somedays, perennials and trees.
Come from a long line of serious gardeners.
Forever humbled by the whole process of nature and eternally grateful I can be part of it.>

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