Monday, October 18, 2010

Garlic

Back in April I went to Victoria to do three glorious day of research at the Provincial Archives and stay with some old, dear friends.

While I was there, I got to catch up with another dear friend (David) who is now an organic farmer on Salt Spring Island. We got together for dinner, and as an adieu, he gave me a head of garlic. Unlike your grocery-store variety (whcih is generall soft neck), this particular type of garlic has a central stem and 4 cloves (hard neck) (if you read this, David, can you please remind me of the name of this variety). When I got home I planted the cloves in a large pot. Sure enough, they grew! (Nature amazes me. Life is so tenacious). Well, they didn't get nearly as big as Davids did, but my garlic cloves are tasty and I hope to save a head for planting again. What really surprised me is the seeds these garlic produced (I now know that if you cut off the flowers the garlic heads will grow bigger - will do in future). I'm not sure if the seeds are mature yet as I don't see how pollination could have occured, but I'm going to have to harves the rest of the heads soon, so yesterday I took one of the seed pods apart. And to my astonishment, here's what I found.

This is the seed pod - the flower only ever looked like this:

Here's the inside under the outer cover:
And here are the little seeds:
They look just like tiny cloves of garlic!! I expected little black seeds similar to my onions. But I am thrilled to find these. Isn't it amazing that you still can learn something new every day. And don't they just make sense?

I've planted about 15 of them and let's see what happens. Will try to remember to keep you informed.
Update: Okay ... Marie pointed out that these are bulbils (not seeds), so I did a little more reading. Bulbils are clones from the parent plant, and the scape (what I called the flower) isn't really a flower, so, by the sounds of it, it doesn't get pollinated. The little bulbils propagate vegetatively and the bulbs that grow from them are clones of the parent plant. It will take several seasons for my little bulbils to mature into real heads of garlic - if I can wait that long. Man! You must have to be patient to be a garlic grower! Perhaps someone can tell me if garlic ever produces an actual seed?

7 comments:

  1. That's really cool. I had no idea what garlic seeds look like. Not to mention, and I'm embarrassed to say this - I didn't even know garlic grew from seeds. So, I'd say I've learned several things today ;D

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  2. These are bulbils. You can grow garlic from them, but it takes several seasons. From your description, it sounds like you grew hard-neck garlic. And fyi, for a real treat, when hard-neck garlic sends up "scapes," the top will turn and make a curlique. As you said, cut those off just after they make the turn so that your garlic bulb will grow bigger. But don't throw the scapes out! Scapes are delicious!! They make the best pesto on the planet. I'm sure your friend David, plus a bit of Googling, will give you better info specific to your variety. Enjoy!

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  3. Erin - we usually grow garlic from the cloves. So don't feel too bad about that.

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  4. Hey Marie. Thanks for the additional info. Yes, I figured it would take at least two seasons to grow a good head from them, but what the heck. The bulbits are pretty tasty, too

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  5. I'll be curious to hear how your bulbils grow. I'd planned on trying to grow mine out this year as well, but didn't get them in the ground on time. Hmmm....we've only had one frost, maybe it's not too late? Don't know. And I don't know how long those things last...Ah, so much to know and learn!

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