In Praise of Garlic

Sunday’s garlic planting was benediction of drizzle and falling sassafras leaves. It was a benediction of soil under fingernails, mud caked on boots, and the sweet smell of damp earth. It was a benediction of conversation, companionship and camaraderie.

My eight-year old son and his friend, Felix, sat by the fire in the living room and worked their way through a basket of garlic, breaking each head into cloves, filling the large silver bowl before bringing it outside. If that sounds idyllic, please know we had required him to help. Though he found some joy in it on his own, telling me later that night: “I liked doing that with Felix because we were talking and didn’t even notice we were working.”

“Exactly!” I said. “That’s why I love working together.”

In our jewel-toned raincoats and knee-high rubber boots, we straddled wide rows of raked soil and made holes, six-inches apart, four inches deep. We save the biggest heads of garlic from our harvest in July and plant them in October.

This is our fifth year planting garlic, and my love for this plant continues to grow. I love that you plant garlic in the fall, when nothing else needs planted. I love that it requires the cold of winter to sprout. Most of all, I love that each clove will transform itself into a whole head of garlic. It’s a generous plant, as all plants are, creating an abundance of seed that multiplies with each replanting. Garlic offers the lesson that if we take care with what we plant, it will multiply and grow.