The Many Uses of Garlic

Looking for a dependable herb in the garden that always satisfies? With its multitude of uses, growing garlic is the way to go

Gardeners know that garlic is one of the healthiest foods we can eat

Great scaped, drought tolerant, deer proof and good as can be – there are few foods more gratifying to grow than garlic

It’s only in the fall, when things are at their calmest in the garden and no other edibles are pleading to be planted, that congenial garlic is due for its turn to be tucked into the soil (ideally with a tad of composted manure).

And it’s easy to do: simply separate the bulbs into cloves right before planting, then place each a full 10 cm (2 in.) down and 40 cm (8 in.) apart with the pointy tip up.

Don’t bother sowing the smallest ones – save them for supper. Big cloves become big bulbs. When you’re done, mulch your garlic crop if you wish; it will look nice layered over with leaves to keep things weed-free. Now you can head back inside, knowing the great circle of garlic life has begun again.

Using Garlic Scapes

Come summer, your now green and glossy garlic plants may each send up a “scape,” the stem that leads to a newly developing seedhead. Snip or snap each one off while crisp and curly to direct energy to the bulb below.


Chop scrumptious scapes for salads, sautés, stirfries, soups, omelettes or any other dish that gains from a garlicky green. Pitch into a food processor with fresh basil, olive oil and pine, hazel or pecan nuts and a nip of salt for unforgettable pesto.

Or whip up this dip recipe by garden-to-kitchen wizard Sharon Hanna: combine a scape or two, cooked white beans, lemon or lime juice, mint leaves and a bit of olive oil. If any scapes seem tough, freeze them for future simmering in soup stocks.

Snip scapes for eating when they have formed a loop or two

Back to the bulbs, garlic needs so little fussing that I planted a teeny field of it in a far-flung corner outside our deer-fenced food garden. For three years, no foragers have nibbled there, nor have I needed to drag the hose over much.

In fact, just as midsummer drought looms, good-mannered garlic declines all drink. Three weeks after cutting the scapes, it’s best to hold back water so the bulb crop can begin to cure.

The Garlic Harvest

Gardeners have differing ways of deciding exactly when it’s harvest time – some wait until two-thirds of the plant has yellowed, others are signalled by three discoloured strappy leaves.

I go with whatever theory works best for busy me, as cooperative garlic will be tolerantly waiting either way. I just don’t leave it in too long, as the bulbs can begin to split and won’t store well.

Hang it out of the sun in an airy spot for three weeks to cure. Homegrown garlic is among the healthiest foods we can eat: antibacterial, antiviral, anti-cancer, anti-inflammatory and antioxidant.

Pender Harbour Garlic Festival

More gardeners are realizing how wonderful it is to grow garlic, says Niki Smith, who, with her husband, Neale, coordinates the August 11/12 Pender Harbour Garlic Festival. Other garlicky gatherings include Agassiz, August 18; Grindrod, August 19; Lac La Hache, August 25/26; New Denver, September 9; and Chilliwack, September 15/16.

And this affable edible deserves the celebration.

Originally published in BC Home & Garden magazine. For regular updates, subscribe to our free Home and Garden e-newsletters, or purchase a subscription to the magazine