International Herb Association "Herb of the Year 2004"

Description Garlic is a vigorous growing member of the lily family. Other alliums include such well-known plants as leeks, shallots and onions. It is a small perennial with flat narrow leaves that reach 2 to 3 feet. The stem is smooth, surrounded at the bottom by tubular leaf sheaths from which the long, flat linear leaves grow. A central stalk produces a terminal globe-shaped cluster of white to pinkish blooms. The white flowers comprising the umbel have six segments, six stamens and are usually sterile. As the plant matures, the underground bulb multiplies into ten to twenty cloves (or bulblets) that are wrapped in a papery skin. Other species of garlic may be found, the most common of these being the elephant garlic or A. ampeloprasum. Though be forewarned, garlic enthusiasts, while elephant garlic is quite large, its taste may be disappointingly mild.

Cultivation Garlic prefers rich, sandy, well-drained soil. Full sun produces the largest garlic, but the plant will tolerate some shade. Garlic can be planted in either spring or fall in our area. It is cold hardy, so is an excellent choice for the fall herb garden. It can be started from seed, but is most often propagated from the cloves. For every pound of cloves that is planted, five to seven pounds may be harvested. Cloves should be planted, pointy end up, about 2 inches deep and 6 to 8 inches apart. Like most root crops, garlic requires lots of food. Work in lots of gypsum or sand to loosen the soil, and lots of manure for feeding. When flower stalks appear, cut them back so the plants can direct their energy toward developing the bulb.

When the leaves dry and turn brown after 4 to 6 months, the bulbs are ready to harvest, dry and store. If the tops do not bend and begin to turn brown within 6 months, gently knock the tops down, and withhold water for a few days. Gently lift bulbs when the leaf stalks wither and turn brown. Hang them to dry.

Garlic makes an excellent companion plant. Plant it near roses and raspberries since it is thought to deter aphids and Japanese beetles. It improves the growth and health of other nearby plants, particularly cabbages, eggplants, tomatoes and fruit trees.

Uses Garlic flowers can be used in crafting. The flowers heads dry nicely and make an attractive addition to herb and flower arrangements. Garlic has also been used in folk medicine for the prevention of infection, cure for worms, and treatment for respiratory ailments and high blood pressure. Some of these applications have been substantiated to some degree; however, use of the herb for these purposes is not endorsed by the Herb Society of America.

Garlic is most commonly known for its traditional use in cooking. Its taste is pungent and oniony. The bulb is one of the most important in the world's cuisines. It can be used in just about any savory dish imaginable (herb butters, cheese spreads, breads, beans, broccoli, cauliflower, crackers, salads, stuffings, sauces and more).

Garlic can be used either pressed, chopped, smashed or whole. The more harshly the clove is prepared, the stronger the flavor. Roasting or poaching it sweetens and mellows the flavors. Frying it over low or medium heat brings out its most pleasantly strong flavor. Preserving garlic in oil is discouraged since it is a low acid vegetable, and may harbor the botulism toxin. Fresh garlic should be stored in an airy place, but not the refrigerator.

Garlic Soup


Tablespoons butter


Cups chicken stock or reduced-sodium broth


Tablespoon olive oil


Tablespoon chopped fresh parsley


Garlic cloves, quartered


Salt and pepper to taste


Thick slices Italian bread, cut into 1-inch cubes


Small eggs


cup dry red wine

 Grated Parmesan cheese 

In a heavy pot, melt butter with olive oil over low heat. Add garlic and cook 2 minutes; do not burn. Add bread to pan and toss. Add wine, stock, and parsley. Bring to a boil over medium heat, reduce heat to low, and cook 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

One at a time, crack eggs and gently slip into pot without breaking yolks. Cover pot and poach eggs in soup 3 minutes, or until whites are set and yolks are medium firm. Serve an egg in each bowl with soup around it. Pass a pepper mill and a bowl of Parmesan cheese. This is just as good without the egg.

Makes 6 servings.

* More garlic may be used at your discretion

From 365 Easy Italian Recipes by Rick Marzullo O'Connell

History and Folklore Garlic is given the moniker of endearment, the "stinking rose." Garlic lovers are so smitten, they've formed a society, the Order of the Stinking Rose, in its honor. The long pointed leaves of the plant are likely the source of its name: gaar is an old gothic word for "spear," resulting in gaar leac or "spear plant." Garlic was once thought to hold magical powers against evil and was widely used in charms and spells. Many legends associate it with strength, speed and endurance.

Botanists believe that garlic probably originated in central Asia thousands of years ago. Clay models were found in tombs in Egypt and dried bulbs were found in King Tut's tomb. Wild garlic was well known to our native Indians, and domestic varieties were brought over by the settlers.

Garlic is a primary ingredient in the legendary remedy, Four Thieves Vinegar. According to the story, four condemned criminals were recruited to bury plague victims, yet they themselves never succumbed because they drank a mixture of wine vinegar and crushed garlic.


Barclay, Gwen, Jean Hardy and Madalene Hill. Southern Herb Growing. Fredricksburg, TX: Shearer Publishing, 1987.

The Herb Companion. Volume 2 Number 6 (August/September 1990): 16-31.

Kowalchik, Claire and William H. Hylton, Editors. Rodale's Illustrated Encyclopedia of Herbs. Emmaus, PA: Rodale Press, Inc., 1987.

Meltzer, Sol. Herb Gardening in Texas. Houston, TX: Gulf Publishing Co., 1983.

Sitton, Diana Morey. Texas Gardener's Guide to Growing and Using Herbs. Waco, TX: Texas Gardener Press, 1987.

Garlic   Allium sativum     Liliaceae (Lily family)