Garlic shines whether it is assertively pungent or not

Two rows of garlic grew in my garden this year. It’s less than in other years, but it is a respectable crop. After harvesting, we dried it in the barn for around three weeks until the long stalks turned brittle and greyish brown, and the skin on the heads became papery.

I trimmed the stalks, snipped off most of the roots and scraped off the dried mud. Then I tucked the garlic heads into a basket, storing it in our dark pantry.

To buy:
Enon Valley Garlic Co. sells certified organic garlic for growing or eating. Go to or call 724-336-0501. Look for the garlics also at the Sewickley Farmers Market on Saturdays and at Market Square Farmers Market on Thursdays until November.

My stash of homegrown garlic will last through early winter when I’ll again, have to resort to store-bought garlic. Meanwhile, I’ve got these robust bulbs to add flavor to food. Right now, the cloves are perfect, juicy and almost mild. As they age, they’ll get drier and become sharper.

Planting garlic is one of the last things gardeners do in fall. It's planted sometime in October, after the first frost, but before the ground freezes around November. This year’s harvest is the seed for next year’s crop. Magically, from one little clove grows a whole head.

I’ve been setting aside the largest heads of garlic to plant — bigger cloves make larger heads. Don’t plant store-bought garlic as it may be treated and won’t produce reliable growth.

Ron Stidmon, owner of Enon Valley Garlic Co., a small family farm in Beaver Valley says he has about 30 varieties of organic garlic left to sell for planting. For first-time growers, he suggests planting two varieties: “Because one might not do well. Not all garlic grows equally well every year.”

Many people, I included, grow garlic as a row crop. I’ve got space. Mr. Stidmon instead recommends a 4-by-4-foot raised bed, with full sun. “You’ll get good drainage, there’s no place for weeds, and it’s easier to maintain,” he said.

Cloves go in pointy side up, about four inches apart. “Cover them with 1½-to 2-inches of soil. Mulch with straw or chopped leaves, from a known source. Depending on the garlic type, you can fit in 64 to 144 plants. They’ll be easier to harvest, easier to get to the scapes,” he said.

Just like that, they’ll be up in the spring. Garlic is ready to harvest when about half of the leaves are brown, early-to end of July.

“What we’ve found,” Mr. Stidmon said, “is that growing garlic is life changing.” It certainly changed his.

Fourteen years ago, he left New York City where he coached executives on leadership strategies and turned to the farming life. Almost accidentally, he began growing garlic. They now grow 52 varieties. Before, he lived an international life, “But garlic is even more fun. Now I send some of my old clients garlic, and they love it,” he said.

Garlic also is good for you. According to Pittsburgh-based dietitian Leslie Bonci, garlic — either raw or cooked is “smart” for your heart.

“Garlic’s active ingredient allicin may lower the risk of heart disease, lower cholesterol and blood pressure and slow the build up of plaque in the arteries. In addition, garlic adds maximum flavor with minimum calories,” she said in an email.

Sharp when raw, garlic mellows after cooking, and here are recipes that let the bulb shine. In the Greek garlic sauce Skordalia, accompanied by beets, the garlic is flavor forward, yet less assertive. The Italian kitchen loves garlic, too, especially when paired with olive oil. Grill some good bread, rub it with garlic, drizzle with oil and you have one of the most divine ways to appreciate this essential bulb.

Miriam Rubin: mmmrubin@gmail and on Twitter @mmmmrubin.

Eggplant and Tomato Curry

PG tested

Garlic is just one of the flavors in this vibrant curry. Serve it with basmati or jasmine rice.

3 tablespoons olive or vegetable oil

2 cups chopped onion

2 green chilies, seeded and minced

1 teaspoon cumin seeds

Kosher salt, divided

4 garlic cloves, minced

2 cups chopped fresh tomatoes

2 teaspoons grated peeled fresh ginger

1 teaspoon yellow curry powder

1 teaspoon turmeric

½ to 1 teaspoon cayenne

¼ teaspoon ground coriander

1 eggplant, about 1¼ pounds, cut into ½-inch pieces

Heat oil in Dutch over medium heat until shimmering. Add onion, chilies, cumin and pinch of salt and cook, stirring often, 6 to 8 minutes, until onion is golden.

Stir in garlic, tomatoes, ginger, curry powder, turmeric, cayenne, coriander and salt to taste. Add eggplant, toss well, and cook for 2 minutes, stirring often. Reduce heat to low, cover and cook 8 to 12 minutes, adding a little water if mixture is dry, until eggplant is soft.

Makes 4 servings.

— Adapted from “Vegan: The Cookbook” by Jean-Christian Jury (Phaidon; May 1, 2017; $49.95)


Roasted Cauliflower With Garlic-Tahini Dip

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Salma Hage flavors the cauliflower in her recipe with a Lebanese 7-spice seasoning. I approximated it here, using a pinch of each ground spice to equal about 1½ teaspoons.

Kosher salt, divided

1 medium head cauliflower, cut into medium florets

1 tablespoon olive oil

Good pinch each: ground allspice, ground pepper, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, fenugreek and ginger, mixed

1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds, lightly crushed

Garlic-Tahini Dip

3 garlic cloves, grated 

Pinch of salt

2 tablespoons tahini

1 tablespoon olive oil

Juice of 1/2 lemon

1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Lightly oil a rimmed baking sheet.

Fill deep skillet half way with water. Bring to boil over high heat. Add pinch of salt and cauliflower. Return to boil, cover and simmer 2 minutes, until nearly tender. Drain and let steam dry. Transfer to prepared baking sheet.

Toss cauliflower with oil, spice mixture, cumin and salt to taste. Roast 30 to 40 minutes, turning once, until crisp and golden.

For the dip, mix garlic and pinch of salt in small bowl. Mix in tahini, oil, lemon juice and a splash of water until dip is consistency of heavy cream. Add parsley and more water if necessary. Serve with cauliflower for dipping.

Makes 4 servings.

— Adapted from “The Middle Eastern Vegetarian Cookbook” by Salma Hage (Phaidon; 2016)

Bread with Oil and Garlic

PG tested

Life and garlic doesn’t get any simpler than this. Serve plain, with antipasto or soup, or top with chopped tomatoes and basil for bruschetta.

2 large garlic cloves, peeled

8 slices crusty ciabatta or country bread, grilled or toasted

Extra-virgin olive oil

Kosher or sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Rub garlic gently over the surface of the toasted bread, pressing more or less, depending on your taste. Pour a little oil over the top. Season with salt and pepper.

Makes 4 servings.

— Adapted from: “Vegetables” by Antonio Carluccio. (Quadrille; 2016)


Skordalia (Greek Garlic Sauce)

PG tested
Serve with cooked beets, grilled zucchini and bell peppers, fried fish or grilled lamb chops. This makes enough for a party, but it’s easily cut in half for a smaller group.

1 pound baking potatoes, scrubbed

Kosher salt, divided 

3 to 4 large garlic cloves, peeled and chopped

1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Hot water

Cooked beets, for serving, chives to garnish, optional

Put potatoes in large saucepan with cold water to cover. Add pinch of salt and bring to boil over high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low, partially cover and simmer about 20 minutes, until tender when pierced with fork. Drain, then peel while still hot. Put through ricer or food mill, letting potatoes drop into medium bowl.

Sprinkle garlic with 1 teaspoon kosher salt and, with flat side of chef’s knife, smash against cutting board to a puree, adding a pinch more salt if needed. (Salt acts as an abrasive.) Scrape garlic into medium bowl; mix in oil.

Add potatoes and lemon juice, beating with spoon until smooth. Beat in scant ½ cup hot water (or more) to make a fairly loose sauce. Taste, adding salt or lemon juice. Serve with beets, garnish with chives, if you wish.

Makes about 2 cups.

— Adapted from “Food from Many Greek Kitchens” by Tessa Kiros. (Andrews McMeel; 2011)

First Published September 26, 2017 9:15 PM


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