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Triple-size but less potent ... elephant garlic.

Triple-size but less potent . . . elephant garlic

Bigger but milder than regular garlic, elephant garlic (Allium scorodoprasum) has in the last 10 years gone from being a garden oddity to a garden favorite, commanding top dollar in produce markets. With individual cloves the size of walnuts and bulbs weighing up to a pound, it's still as easy to grow as regular garlic and, although less intense in flavor, can be used in similar ways. In mild-winter areas, this is the best month to plant.

Start by preparing the soil

First, work in a complete fertilizer and also organic matter such as compost or ground bark. Set individual cloves 1 to 2 inches deep with the pointed ends up. Leave at least 6 inches between cloves and a foot between rows.

Water well after planting and then as needed through winter, spring, and the beginning of summer. When the tops begin to turn yellow in early summer, hold back water.

Next spring or early summer, you might also notice some plants sending up flower buds (see photograph above). Pinch these out as soon as you notice them or the bulbs may not form properly.

Harvest next summer when the tops are dry and begin to fall over

Use a spading fork to dig bulbs gently out of the ground. Lay them in a shady spot to dry for a week or more until the outsides turn papery white. Then cut off stems, leaving a 2- to 3-inch stub. Store in a cool place with good ventilation; garlic should keep for several months.

Some bulbs may produce small, basal bulblets about the size of peas. These can be planted next fall, though they'll take two years to form a multicloved bulb.

Where to find bulbs for planting

You can find whole elephant garlic in the produce section of many supermarkets for $2.50 to $3.50 per pound. The biggest cloves yield the biggest bulbs. Some mail-order catalogs and nurseries also sell individual cloves for 75 cents to $1.

Photo: Set individual cloves, with pointed end up, 1 to 2 inches deep and 6 to 8 inches apart in well-drained soil in full sun

Photo: Pinch off any flower buds that form in late spring or early summer; they steal energy from the bulb

Photo: When tops dry, gently dig bulbs with a spading fork. Air-dry until papery white, then store

Photo: Elephant garlic is three times size of regular garlic grown in same garden
COPYRIGHT 1987 Sunset Publishing Corp.
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Copyright 1987 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Date:Nov 1, 1987
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