Warding off Halloween vampires did not spur my desire to grow garlic; no. A neighbor inspired me. Last August I visited her house and in her kitchen a braid of garlic led up one wall, crossed the ceiling, and descended the other wall. Wow, So much garlic! I love to cook with garlic. I had to try growing it.

This fall I ordered a pound of garlic from Burpee Seeds (along with a garden dibbler– a tool to push holes into the ground) and waited for my garlic to arrive. It seems the fall is a good time to plant garlic, which is perennial, but needs eight weeks of cold to chill the bulbs for proper growth. I don’t need to worry about that where I live! From the end of November to the middle of March I expect to see snow on the ground.

Since I had garlic coming, I read about what type of soil was needed. Recommendations stated loose, well-drained soil with a high organic matter. Check, I got that–Good ole’ sugar sand with several years of mulch decomposed in it. The package arrived last week along with thirty-six daffodil bulbs and twenty-five bluebell bulbs, but whenever I was free, the weather turned rainy–cats and dogs type rain.

However, some young men came over to spread mulch on my flower gardens Sunday, so it seemed like a good time to plants bulbs. After separating four large bulbs of garlic into cloves, I grabbed my new dibbler and trucked out to the vegetable garden. The directions said to make a hole two inches deep and drop the flat side (root end) of the garlic clove into the hole first. The dibbler worked great, not only making the fifty needed holes easily and to the proper depth, but I could also use it to measure the space between the holes. In about an hour I had garlic, daffodils, and bluebells planted. After I spent another half-hour on general garden chores, the boys were done, so I took them home. The weathermen promised rain for the next day, so all the bulbs would be set in place as the water drained through the soil; all done until next summer.

From Rodale’s Illustrated Encyclopedia of Herbs (1987 edition, page 215) I learned many ancient herbalists thought garlic held magical properties that could ward off evil, so of course anyone needing protection wore a garlic amulet. They also believed that if eaten, garlic provided speed, strength, and endurance, and since it was the herb of Mars, the God of Battle, Roman soldiers ate garlic. This belief also made it a good food to feed slaves and serfs who did the hard manual labor through the next few centuries. Historical records also proved garlic prescribed for patients who suffered from many different ailments, including plague and intestinal worms. Okay, time to stop.

I use garlic for cooking many main dishes and sauces, but I’ll include my favorite garlic accompaniment: garlic toast. While toasting some bread-store bought bread slices, leftover French bread, hamburger or hotdog buns, whatever is on hand–mash one or two cloves of garlic and place in a quarter cup of butter. (Use more butter-garlic if six or more slices of bread are used.) Melt the butter with the garlic in a small pan and let cook on low for a couple minutes, not long enough to burn the butter, but long enough for the garlic to release its essence. Spread on the toasted bread coating it well while removing any large clumps of garlic. Sprinkle the bread with shredded Parmesans Cheese, stick under the broiler until lightly browned, and serve. Hopefully, by including this simple dish in your fall menus, no vampires will want to suck your life’s blood.