Food & Drink

Growing and cooking with garlic is serious business

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This article originally ran in 2003, when there was a local herb club called Herbal Companions that had monthly meetings to increase herbal learning. The club has disbanded for the most part, but one-time presenter Tony Hatfield-Nicholson is still growing and lecturing locally about his “stinking rose.” He recently appeared at the Boalsburg Garlic Festival at the end of August and plans to appear again next year. Garlic is one of the easiest crops to grow and the time to put it in the ground is now, for harvest next July. Last August, first-time grower Mark Smith took a second place win at the Grange Fair for his homegrown bulbs. For more information about how to plant garlic, check out Bill Lamont’s Aug. 25 CDT column, which can be found at www.centredaily.com.

Anton “Tony” Hatfield-Nicholson is serious about growing garlic. His business, Juniata Stinking Rose, harvested 10,000 pounds of it this year on five certified organic farms in Juniata, Mifflin and Franklin counties. His mission is to spread the word about the glories of heirloom varieties of allium sativum, which he did on Monday night at Shaver’s Creek Environmental Center to members of a local herb club at its monthly meeting.

“All I want is for people to grow their own garlic,” said Hatfield-Nicholson, who handed out long wands of Romanian Red to the attendees.

“It is one of the easiest crops to grow, with a return of 7 pounds for every pound of cloves planted. And you have the tool you need right here on your hand” he said, extending his thumb in a thumbs-up signal.

Garlic consumption is interesting to look at from a global perspective. Italians consume 14.5 pounds per person per year; France and Spain, 15-16 pounds per person; but these numbers pale before the Korean annual consumption rate of 50 pounds per person. In America, per capita consumption was a record-high 3.1 pounds in 1999 — a number three times the level of 1989. U.S. garlic production doubled over each of the past two decades as more and more studies corroborate the claims for good health known for centuries.

Research, including some done at Penn State, has found that garlic reduces triglycerides and cholesterol and can actually shrink tumors, especially when chopped and allowed to stand for 10 minutes before use. Garlic has antibiotic, antifungal and antiseptic effects and can be useful in fighting infections. Considered a functional food, garlic is an antioxidant, protecting cells from free radical damage and cancer. Cholesterol can be affected by increasing the HDL and lowering the LDL. Garlic has natural anticoagulant properties and helps to prevent blood clots and strokes as well as anti-hypertensive effects, by reducing blood pressure. In short — it is darn good for you and even better if it is close by in your yard, grown from organic stock.

Members of the Herbal Companions herb club, happily chewing on garlic taffy candies while listening to the presentation, asked questions about the two main varieties — the ophioscorodon, or hard-necked garlic, and the sativum, or soft-necked garlic, commonly seen in the grocery stores. The hard-necked garlic sends up flower spikes in late May-early June that are called topsets or scapes, which should be removed and enjoyed as a fresh vegetable so the plant will produce a larger bulb. Heirloom hard-necked varieties have larger cloves that are much easier to peel than the soft-necked ones. The time to plant garlic cloves is now, in October, for a crop in July.

A fragrant potluck sampling of garlic infused dishes followed the presentation, including some snappy pickled baby carrots, an artichoke dip, a marinated yogurt cheese and potato pancakes. Club members will be sure to keep any vampires away from their doors this Halloween season, thanks to the Juniata Stinking Rose.

One caution about using this plant: Garlic can be harmful if stored at room temperature in oil. Bacteria that are naturally occurring in the soil are easily killed by heat and by exposure to air. Keeping garlic in an anaerobic environment, like oil at room temperature, can result in botulism. Fresh garlic bulbs should be stored at room temperature, like onions, and used before green shoots start growing. When using garlic, mince the cloves when you want to cook them and crush them when using the garlic is a fresh preparation, like a salad dressing. Crushed garlic tends to scorch in a sauté pan. Garlic should not be browned, but should just turn translucent during cooking.

For information on ordering organic heirloom varieties of garlic contact Hatfield-Nicholson at stinkingrose@pa.net or give him a call at 717-436-9184. He is located at 211 Nicholson Drive in Mifflintown.

Anne Quinn Corr is the author of “Seasons of Central Pennsylvania,” of several iBook cookbooks (“Food, Glorious Food!” “What’s Cooking?!” and “Igloo: Recipes to Cure the Winter Blues”) that are available for free on iTunes. She regularly posts to the blog HowToEatAndDrink.com and can be reached at chefcorr@gmail.com.

JUNIATA STINKING ROSE SALAD DRESSING

1 cup extra virgin olive oil

 1/4 cup white vinegar

1 teaspoon kosher or sea salt

1/2 teaspoon white pepper

1/2 teaspoon ground celery seed

1/2 teaspoon ground mustard seed

1/2 teaspoon crushed hot pepper (cayenne or whatever you grow)

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

3 cloves of crushed garlic (more if you want)

Combine ingredients in jar and shake. Let set for two or three days before use.

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