If you’re buying garlic in the grocery store it probably comes from China. A small percentage might come from Mexico or Argentina.
Supposedly the retailer or food-service provider is required to place a Country of Origin Label on all produce items so you can check.
I don’t want any food that comes from those places — especially China. Chinese suppliers are not regulated by food safety or quality-control guidelines and I’d hate to think of what I might end up eating.
Why it’s Cheap
Chinese garlic is cheap. At one time they were selling it for less than what it cost them in order to drive the American growers out of production. That’s why American grown seems so much more expensive than Chinese garlic. (Chinese garlic is half the price of American grown garlic and sometimes 1/5 of the price.)
Facing the Facts
In the late 90’s up until 2009 there was a lot written about contaminated garlic (and everything else) from China. Talk has died down, but that doesn’t mean that the situation has changed. It just means no one has had enough reason to want to write about it again.
The FDA is suppose to inspect food from more than 130 countries. But let’s be realistic here. Last I read, only 450 inspectors were inspecting at ports of entry. It’s only possible for them to inspect 1 to 2% of the shipments. Even fewer are tested.
Even with those statistics, a Washington Post article in 2007 said that FDA inspectors refused 298 food shipments from China in the first 4 months! Imagine what it would have been if they could have inspected the other 98%!
Disregard for natural health laws
- It’s a known fact that the Chinese use sewage (also known as sludge or biosolids) to fertilize. As I mentioned in a previous post sludge contains antibiotics, medications, viruses, chemicals, bacteria and parasites. Currently that’s a practice with many American farmers as well.
It seems to me that this “no-no” would be a no brainer, but I guess some people are totally taken in by someone marketing a product even if it’s human waste as fertilizer.
When Chinese garlic is tested and is too contaminated with heavy metal to get into the country — I’ll just bet it’s because it was grown with sewage.
- Bulbs coming into the country are fumigated with methyl bromide — another thing I don’t want on my garlic.
- And that brilliant bleached white color? Sorry — not natural. It’s obtained by the use of chlorine bleach.
- And of course there are the chemicals to prevent sprouting during the months of travel from China.
At least buy garlic grown in the United States. (U.S. Organic is better.) Or — why not grow your own?
Perfect Time to Plant
Mid October is the perfect time to plant here in Virginia. It’ll give the roots time to get established before the cold sets in and bulbs go dormant. You can plant as long as the ground is not frozen BUT even two weeks after mid October will make a big difference in the growing the roots do before dormancy. So try to plant mid-October.
Put another way, after you see a little green coming out of the ground, the garlic still needs about 30 days to develop enough roots to feed on its own. So if you’re a lot further North than I am in Virginia, you might have planted your garlic in mid or early September.
Regional if Possible
If you can, try to order from someone regional. I ordered from Southern Exposure Seed Exchange this year — only because they are in Virginia and their garlic is grown in Virginia. I had noted another Virginia grower and then lost my note. I didn’t want to miss out totally so I quickly logged into to SESE website and ordered. (If your grower is close to you — there’s a better chance the variety will do well in your garden too.)
What to Order – Hardnecks or Softnecks?
Virginia is situated so that both kinds do well here. If you live in the far south you’ll probably want softnecks; the far north – hardnecks to withstand the winters.
Just for variety (diversity), I ordered a softneck variety, but they’re not my favorite with all those little cloves that are hard to peel. The particular Artichoke type Italian softneck that I ordered is suppose to produce good sized bulbs that store well. (Softnecks are noted for long storage anyway.)
Softnecks are the kind you can braid.
Then I ordered two varieties of hardnecks. Both are said to have large cloves. (Yeh! easy to peel.)
- Music — which I’ve heard a lot of good things about. It has especially large cloves — 4 to 6 per bulb!
- And German Extra-Hardy which has 6 to 8 cloves per bulb and stores well.
You can’t braid the hardnecks, but trade off is — they produce scapes. The scapes you can harvest early. (They sell at some farmers markets for $1.00 to $1.50 each) They’re said to be absolute delicious in cooking. I’m looking forward to that!
Keep in mind if you harvest the scapes it decreases the amount of time the bulb will keep in storage. On the other hand you might see as much as a 25% increase in bulb size by cutting the scape.
What Garlic Likes
- A soil with lots of organic matter
- Good Drainage
- Mulch to protect in winter and hold needed moisture,
- plant about 1 inch deep in the South; 2 to 3 inches in the North because of heaving after a freeze. (Like onions, if you plant garlic too deep you’ll end up with very small bulbs.)
- space at least 5 to 6 inches. Bulb size will be larger if they have enough space.
When your Garlic Bulbs Arrive
Keep your bulbs in a cool dry place until you get ready to plant. Break them apart just before planting. If you do it sooner the bulbs will start dehydrating and that will lessen the quality of your planting.
Your big cloves will give you your bigger bulbs. ( I’ll eat some of the smaller ones since I know I won’t have room in the garden for all the cloves.)
Even if you’re new to gardening — why not grow some garlic. You can even grow some in a container.
It takes trying various varieties each year to find out what will really do well for you. Once you find that out — you can save a few of the best bulbs for planting next fall.
If you haven’t ordered and want to — get on it! You’ve got time, but you need to make haste.
Another Post on Garlic:
Organic Gardening is easy, effective, efficient — and it’s a lot healthier
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