Garlic, Allium sativum
Yiddish: קנאָבל (knobl)
Hebrew: שׁוּם (shoom)
It’s mid-January in Ontario and while it’s a mild winter (thank you El Nino and climate change) it appears that nothing is growing in our gardens. But things are not always as they seem and underneath the almost-frozen ground at Bela Farm are 300 garlic cloves that were planted in the fall and are resting until spring. They are alive.
Shoresh is particularly fond of this delicious and nutritious vegetable. We’ve been growing garlic at the Kavanah Garden since 2009. We scaled up production in 2012 when a friend brought 25 garlic cloves from our Jewish farmer friends from the Adamah Fellowship in Falls Village, Connecticut. As alumni of Adamah, we are honoured to be cultivating our Adamah ancestors garlic in our multiple growing spaces throughout the GTA.
Culture and History:
Jews love garlic. We use it in almost everything! Garlic is so integral to Jewish cookery that according to the Jerusalem Talmud, Ezra the Scribe decreed that garlic should be eaten on Friday evening because of its potency as an aphrodisiac (J. Megilla 75a). The Babylonian Talmud notes the five properties of garlic: It satiates, it warms the body, it brightens a person’s countenance, it increases semen and it kills parasites in the intestines (B. Bava Kama 82a). There are folk traditions in both Sephardic and Ashkenzi culture that viewed garlic as protection from the evil eye.
Our love of garlic was used against us by anti-Semitic Europeans like the ancient Romans who referred to Jews as “garlic eaters” and the Nazis believed that Jews emitted the scent of garlic.
One of our favourite things about garlic is how easy it is to grow. We plant our cloves in the late fall, cover them with mulch and in early spring we see their green shoots bursting out of the earth.
Thanks to mulching and garlic’s natural pest-deterrent qualities, we have never weeded our garlic. How dreamy! But garlic’s growing process gets better! This generous plant gives us two harvests. In early-summer, we harvest the curly green scapes with joy and gratitude.
The plant then sends all of it’s energy down to the roots where a robust bulb is forming. Once the leaves start turning brown, we know the bulbs are ready and we harvest. Finally, we cure the garlic in the barn for a few weeks and then eat it or replant the cloves.
Garlic goes well with almost everything but given that it’s winter and therefore soup-time, our selected recipe is Leah Koenig’s delicious and nutritious, 20 cloves of Garlic Borscht. Leah is a leading voice of the new generation of young Jewish cooks who are reimagining the food of our ancestors while honouring the values of the contemporary food movement.
Stay tuned for Shoresh’s upcoming flu-busting kit which will include Bela Farm garlic and honey, 2 powerful additions to your medicine kit.