If you’ve been paying attention, you might have noticed that the past few months have seen record-high prices of immune boosting foods such as garlic and ginger. Garlic prices on local markets have doubled since much of the world went into lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic.
People are flocking to markets to purchase these natural immune boosters to aid in their fight to protect themselves against Covid-19.
Read here: Ginger now sold for up to R400 a kilo
For the foreseeable future South Africans will have to accept dramatically increased prices for their favourite seasoning until delays in international logistics are smoothed out.
Imported garlic is the bigger chunk of the South African market, with 57% of our garlic demands being met by imports according to an article by Fresh Plaza. With other countries heading into stricter lockdowns and trade severely limited, our local garlic producers are our only source for this highly sought after bulb.
The ZimTrade, the national trade development and promotion organisation of Zimbabwe, recently encouraged smallholders in that country to start producing garlic, to capitalise on the growth of the international market. Garlic is seen as a crop that is “relatively high-value and can be produced by smallholder farmers on a commercial scale”, said ZimTrade in an article by Zim Herald.
Apart from exporting garlic as raw bulbs, there are opportunities to value-add and produce products such as garlic powder or mix with salt to produce garlic salt or garlic oil. Pickled garlic, garlic sauce, garlic vinegar, and garlic insecticides are other value-added products that local farmers can consider.
If you are inspired to start to grow your own garlic, keep on reading for an easy how-to guide that will get you started in no time.
How to grow your own garlic
Garlic is easy to grow and can be produced in most parts of the country. It is less complicated other high-value crops in terms of crop management. And we’re not the only ones to find the scent overpowering, the good news for gardeners everywhere is that many insects and pests find the odour even less appealing. This fragrant bulb makes a wonderful natural pest repellent.
Not only is this a great crop on its own, it can also be a valuable addition in between some of your other crops. The bulb also attracts predatory and beneficial insects, such as ladybugs. Garlic is an especially good companion crop for cabbage, fruit trees, chamomile, peppers, roses, spinach, tomatoes and strawberries.
Grow garlic in a warm, sunny spot, in fertile, well-drained soil that doesn’t get too wet in winter. A raised bed works very well. Planting garlic is relatively simple. Each garlic bulb is made up of several sections called cloves, held together by a thin, papery covering.
Before planting, break cloves apart. Simply separate the cloves from a garlic purchased at the market and space them about 15cm apart in the soil in neat rows. The cloves should be planted with the pointed end up and the blunt end down. Push each clove 5cm into the ground, firm the soil around it, and water the bed if it is dry.
It’s best to plant your garlic in mid-autumn. Garlic needs little care. Water regularly and weed between plants to reduce the competition for water and nutrients. The general consensus is that you should wait to harvest your garlic until most of the lower leaves have browned while the upper ones still look green.
Harvesting and storage
When the lower leaves of your garlic plants have turned brown, you can gently remove them from the soil. Lay the garlic plants out to dry for two or three weeks in a shady area with good air circulation. When the roots feel brittle and dry, rub them off, along with any loose dirt. Do not get the bulbs wet or break them apart, or the plants won’t last as long.
Once dry, you can either store your garlic bulbs loose or braid their foliage to make a string of bulbs. Take care not to bruise the bulbs, as any damage can make them deteriorate in storage.
Once you have completed this process, use some of your cloves to plant and start all over again!
Top tip: It is known to be difficult for small-scale farmers to break into the garlic market. Make sure you find a market to buy your produce. Woolworths supports local garlic growers when it is in season, which is from about November to April.