They’re everywhere, filling books, airwaves, and cable shows with their toothsome tales. Seductive, beautiful, and irresistible, they’re a perfect example of how good public relations can take the dead and turn them into superstars. If you’ve been anywhere near pop culture recently, you know the nation’s been bitten with vampire fever.
And if you’re anything like my monster-purist son, you’re probably wishing these sparkling, soft-hearted, new-age-fiend wannabes would grow a pair of fangs and start acting like the archfiends they’re supposed to be. Yet if they do return to their bad boy roots, gardeners will be ready for defense, planting bulbs that give these ghouls nightmares.
The one, sure way to keep a bloodsucker at bay is with garlic, a belief that might have sprung from the Romanian tradition of crushing and smearing garlic on everything from doors and windows to livestock horns to repel disease. A known antibacterial, garlic is also shown to help prevent blood clots, some cancers, and reduce cholesterol.
While wearing braided bulbs is certainly a fashion statement, the Romanians knew that to get the most from garlic, you have to break the clove. Garlic holds two compounds, alliin and alliinase, in different cells and you don’t get the pungent, sulfurous flavor of garlic until the cells are damaged, allowing the two to mingle. The product they create is allicin, which researchers credit with the most health benefits.
Leave the clove whole, and allicin isn’t created; the garlic is mild, nutty, and well behaved. Chop or crush it, and the allicin activates, imbuing the air with the odiferous tang that vampires, and lovers, find offensive.
Garlic thrives in Colorado, and if you want to grow your own protection from vampires, there’s still time to pop some in the ground if you act quickly. Because grocery store garlic might be treated with a growth inhibitor, purchase garlic for planting from garden centers or on-line suppliers.
Softneck garlic (Allium sativum var sativum) has a soft, flexible stem at the top of the bulb that makes it THE choice for braiding into ropes and necklaces for warding off vampires. Commonly sold in grocery stores, they grow readily.
Hardneck garlic (Allium sativum var ophioscorodon) produces a curled, flowering stem, called a scape, that eventually turns woody. Rich with flavor, they have fewer, but larger, easy-to-peel cloves. Use hardnecks early; they don’t store as long.
Elephant garlic (Allium ampeloprasum) won’t help protect you from Dracula and his fiends because it’s more of a leek than garlic. But the big cloves and subtle flavor make this giant a cook’s garden favorite. For best size, plant these three inches deep.
Plant now, while we still have four to six weeks before the ground freezes, in a sunny spot with well drained soil. Plant only the largest cloves, saving the smaller ones for eating. Push cloves root end down, one to two inches into the soil, about six inches apart.
Mulch to keep the soil moist and prevent heaving during winter. Water the garlic if we’re having a dry spell in winter, then plan to harvest in mid-summer, after foliage browns and dies back. Cure in a dry, warm, dark, airy place for a few weeks, then cut stalks one inch above the bulb for storage.
If you didn’t grow garlic and still want to keep the vampires off your neck, don’t worry. According to legend, they’re also compulsive counters, stopping to tally anything in their way. An old trick is to strew millet or poppy seeds around, so that the vampire spends the night counting until dawn arrives and it’s forced to return to the grave.
- Mysteries of The World – Vampires (socyberty.com)
- Cooking With Garlic (hubpages.com)
- In the Garden: The Cult of the Cloves (nytimes.com)
- Grow your own garlic at home, but buy “seeds” from the masters (cleveland.com)