About 24,000 acres of garlic is planted in the U.S. annually, with total production of about 400 million pounds. California is the leading producer, with Oregon, Nevada, Washington and New York following in the distance. However, the U.S. is the world’s largest importer of the vegetable, mostly coming from China, Argentina, and Mexico.
Half of the garlic grown in the States is for the fresh market, with the other half being dehydrated. The average American consumes about 2 lbs. of the vegetable a year, with about 75% of their consumption coming from the dehydrated variety.
There are about 600 varieties around the world. The two main types are hardneck (or topset) and softneck (artichoke garlic). Softneck (what is mostly found in grocery stores) produces more smaller cloves, while hardneck produces fewer larger cloves.
History of Garlic
Garlic has been cultivated for thousands of years for consumption and medicinally. Researchers are unsure when it was first discovered, however the Chinese mention the vegetable as early as 3000 B.C. Historically it was mostly used for medical purposes. While this pungent bulb was brought to the United States in the 1700’s, it wasn’t until the 1920’s that it became a popular ingredient.
Planting to Harvesting
Garlic is planted in the fall on raised beds covered with either black, green IRT, or blue plastic much with drip irrigation. Timing is everything. Planting should be early enough that the ground doesn’t freeze before a root system is in place, but late enough that they don’t emerge above the soil. Cloves are planted about 1 to 1.5 inches deep. Small growers will plant each clove by hand, while larger operations will use specialized cups on transplanters. The crop is ready to harvest when 40% to 60% of the leaves are yellowed, usually about mid-July.
- Gilroy, CA, home to the annual garlic festival, is known as the garlic capital of the United States, mostly because majority of the U.S. crop is grown here.
- It is sold by the pound, by the rope, or by individual bulbs.
- It was once used to treat acne, warts, toothaches and evil spirits.
- Its strong flavor is caused by a chemical reaction that happens when the cells are broken.
- Eating a few slices of lemon or drinking lemon juice will stop garlic breath.
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