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Growing garlic

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garlic; photo by Edwin RemsbergGarlic is a popular home garden crop in Maine, but little research-based information is available about optimal planting and harvest times. That’s why University of Maine Cooperative Extension launched a participatory research initiative called the Maine Garlic Project.

For $5, growers receive a garlic bulb, a data collection form and a discount on a soil sample test. Data ranging from planting, mulching and harvest dates to bulb size, appearance and flavor will be compiled.

The Maine Garlic Project, led by Extension staff members Steve Johnson and Dave Fuller, also is designed to raise awareness of the bulbous herb.

Among Johnson’s favorite facts about garlic:

  • Garlic likely originated in Central Asia.
  • Ancient Greek, Indian, Chinese and Egyptian writings mention garlic.
  • Reportedly, garlic was once used as currency and clay models of garlic bulbs were found in the King Tut’s tomb.
  • A large portion of the garlic in the U.S. is grown and processed in Gilroy, Calif., where there is an annual garlic festival.
  • The two main types of garlic are hardneck (Allium sativum var. ophioscorodon) and soft neck (Allium sativum var. sativum). Elephant garlic is not true garlic and is more closely related to leeks than garlic.
  • More than 100 biologically active compounds (mostly sulfur-containing), including alliin, alliinase, allicin, S-allylcysteine and diallyl sulfide, come from garlic.

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