The lazy gar­dener’s way to save gar­lic

NZ Lifestyle Block - - In Jane's Garden -

GAR­LIC is due for har­vest­ing and this usu­ally hap­pens here in mid-to-late Jan­uary. I wait un­til the weather is hot and set­tled then pull the cloves, lay them to dry in the sun for a day or two, be­fore cut­ting off the tops and stor­ing them in bas­kets. They con­tinue to dry and cure over the next month or two and the lean-to at the back of the house is redo­lent with the smell of fresh gar­lic. It goes into lots of dishes and is shared around.

Th­ese days I’m also sen­si­ble. I sort the seed gar­lic when I cut the tops off and store it separately with a la­bel which says “Hands Off! Saved for Seed!” I put it up high as well as I don’t trust the house­hold when those lus­cious big

cloves are so tempt­ing!

The lovely pur­ple flower heads of the gi­ant gar­lic also get kept and be­come dry­ing/dried ar­range­ments un­til they get that old, tired and dusty look and are thrown out to start their grow­ing cy­cle again. Drop­ping the dried seeds into a worked-up spot of ground and keep­ing it weed-free will re­sult in heaps of tiny seedlings. The leaves can be used like chives in your cook­ing, and if you leave some un­cut they be­come an on­go­ing food­pro­duc­ing, in­sect-re­pelling fea­ture.

I used to bun­dle the gar­lic up, tie it with a strip of harakeke (flax) and hang it un­der the ve­ran­dah eaves but th­ese days I am find­ing it keeps bet­ter with the tops off and in open bas­kets. More air move­ment per­haps? Plaits of gar­lic look great but I am just not pa­tient enough, and there is so much more to do! THE RAIN GAUGE is of­ten empty for long pe­ri­ods at this time of year, al­though weather bombs can strike at any time.

At­ten­tion to mois­ture main­te­nance is es­sen­tial as sum­mer pro­gresses. Lack of mois­ture on grow­ing plants can weaken them and open them up to in­sect dam­age, dis­ease and com­pro­mised growth.

Keep­ing crops grow­ing strongly is es­sen­tial if we are to have good har­vests of win­ter keep­ers such as pump­kin and potato, corn and onion, car­rots and parsnips.

Adapt­ing to heat also means pro­vid­ing shade for plants such as let­tuces or they can eas­ily turn tough and bit­ter to taste.

Trolling the aisles at our new su­per­mar­ket, I spot­ted a lushly lux­u­ri­ant mass of ver­dant fo­liage spilling out of its cel­lo­phane packet. Just be­side the ap­ples, and spilling into the ba­nanas. A wa­ter­cress plant.

Some­thing deep in the near-dor­mant recipe com­part­ment of my mem­ory went ‘ping’ and I re­called a recipe for a wa­ter­cress salad with wal­nuts and bal­samic vine­gar. Into the trol­ley it went, along with six other items not on my gro­cery list.

Once home I re­mem­bered the plant in the car – most un­usual – and I even read the in­struc­tions on the la­bel, plac­ing the tiny root-bound mass in the rec­om­mended 3cm of wa­ter on the win­dowsill. I then promptly for­got all about it.

My hus­band found it 24 hours later, res­cu­ing what was now a wilted and dried-up friz­zle. What is it about the word Wa­ter­cress that doesn’t in­di­cate it might need a heap of wa­ter? Les­son one.

Wa­ter­cress ( Nas­tur­tium of­fic­i­nale) is an aquatic plant. In the wild it grows more in the wa­ter than out, its hol­low branch­ing stems and fo­liage trail­ing for up to a me­tre un­der­wa­ter with just the top 10-15cm vis­i­ble above the wa­ter’s sur­face. From early sum­mer to mid-au­tumn, small, white to pur­plish white, mus­tard-like flow­ers are borne at the tips of the stems.

Wa­ter­cress is orig­i­nally from some­where in western Asia, but is now found in most tem­per­ate cli­mates, grow­ing thickly along the mar­gins of fresh run­ning wa­ter, es­pe­cially if it has a high lime con­tent.

Com­mer­cially-sold wa­ter­cress is grown in spe­cially-pre­pared beds fed by clean run­ning wa­ter. It is re­li­ably peren­nial and can fill a gap in spring and au­tumn when mesclun and spicy salad greens are in short sup­ply.

Culpepper said that the bruised leaves or juice would ‘free the face from blotches, spots and blem­ishes…’ so I tried it on a per­sis­tent dose of eczema on my right leg. I mashed up some leaves and slathered it on for a pleas­ant, in­stant, cool­ing ef­fect. Sadly I did not re­peat the treat­ment and there was no last­ing ef­fect, other than a trail of mac­er­ated wa­ter­cress gunk on the car­pet where my makeshift ban­dage leaked. I de­cided it might be safer – and ti­dier – to eat the leaves in­stead.

My semi-re­vived wa­ter­cress plant is now in con­va­les­cence un­der a leak­ing tap in the gar­den. It’s not look­ing too hot so I’ve hedged my bets and taken some cut­tings which are root­ing nicely on the win­dowsill, and also or­dered seeds. This will be the first time I have asked my hus­band not to fix a leaky tap!

NEW EV­I­DENCE sug­gests that wa­ter­cress may lower the risk of prostate, breast and colon can­cer and coun­ter­act the pro­cesses by which th­ese can­cers spread.

Its anti-can­cer ac­tiv­ity may stem from its abil­ity to in­crease anti-ox­i­dant lev­els and pro­tect DNA against dam­age.

This was shown in a promis­ing eight week study at the Univer­sity of Ul­ster, where 60 men and women in­gested 3 ounces of wa­ter­cress daily for eight weeks. Re­sults showed a 17% re­duc­tion in basal DNA dam­age and sig­nif­i­cantly in­creased an­tiox­i­dant lev­els. Beta-carotene in­creased by 33% and lutein lev­els in­creased by a whop­ping 100%.

Wa­ter­cress is a mem­ber of the broc­coli fam­ily ( Cru­ciferae), and is es­pe­cially rich in phy­to­chem­i­cals, in par­tic­u­lar nas­tur­tiin which hy­drol­y­ses to pro­duce phenyl isoth­io­cyanate (PEITC). PEITC in­hibits the liver en­zymes which ac­ti­vate many car­cino­gens in an­i­mals, and in­duces other en­zymes which en­hance car­cino­gen ex­cre­tion.

Stud­ies on rats show wa­ter­cress may also help pro­tect healthy tis­sues dur­ing ra­di­a­tion and chemo­ther­apy treat­ments.

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