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Garlic Festival is Sept. 21 at Springfield Botanical Center

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Kelly McGowan digs for garlic in the Master Gardeners Demonstration Garden at the Springfield Botanical Gardens. Garlic will be the center of attention during a festival on Sept. 21.

Kelly McGowan digs for garlic in the Master Gardeners Demonstration Garden at the Springfield Botanical Gardens. Garlic will be the center of attention during a festival on Sept. 21.

There are any number of reasons why you might want to attend the third annual Garlic Festival on Wednesday, Sept. 21. Maybe you have an unhealthy fear of garlic, alliumphobia (vampires, take note). Or more likely, an understandable fear of “garlic breath” (drinking milk or lemon juice can help alleviate that, unless you have a fear of choking on lemon juice.

More likely reasons include learning how to grow garlic in the Ozarks, or hearing about its remarkable nutritional and health benefits. Data will be also be presented on the performance of 32 garlic strains in southwest Missouri and the evening will conclude with a garlic tasting. There will also be several different strains of garlic for sale in time for fall planting.

All the more reason to join MU Extension experts for the “Third Annual Garlic Festival” from 6-8 p.m., Wednesday, Sept. 21 at the Springfield-Greene County Botanical Center, 2400 S. Scenic, Springfield, Mo. There is a cost of $10 per person for the program and advance registration is requested.

The workshop will include presentations by Patrick Byers, a University of Missouri Extension horticulture specialist, Kelly McGowan, horticulture educator with MU Extension, and Dr. Pam Duitsman, a nutrition specialist with MU Extension.

Garlic production, including how to choose the best garlic strain, planting and caring for garlic, and the harvest and storage of garlic  – will be addressed in presentations. There will also be a presentation on the health benefits of garlic.

A harvest of garlic bulbs dries on special racks.

A harvest of garlic bulbs dries on special racks.

For more information about the program or to register, call (417) 881-8909. Registration is also possible in person at the Greene County Extension or send a check by mail to Greene County Extension at 2400 S. Scenic Avenue, Springfield, MO 65807.

The nutritional value of garlic along with its wide array of medicinal benefits made garlic one of the most valued plants in ancient times and (perhaps) the first to be cultivated. Indeed, garlic is mentioned in the literature of all of the great ancient world kingdoms. For example it is recorded that ancient Egyptians, during the reign of the pharaohs, fed garlic to the laborers who built the great pyramids. It was their belief that garlic would increase their strength and stamina, as well as protect them from disease.

Garlic’s medicinal properties are thought to be due to sulfur-containing compounds called thiosulfinates. One of them, allicin, is produced when a sulfur-containing amino acid called alliin comes in contact with the enzyme alliinase when raw garlic is minced, crushed, or chewed. Since the enzyme alliinase is broken down by heat, cooked garlic is less effective medicinally than is fresh garlic.

“Today, garlic is used as an herbal supplement to help prevent heart disease, lower high cholesterol and high blood pressure, and to boost the immune system,” says Dr. Pam Duitsman, nutrition specialist with University of Missouri Extension.

Growing garlic in the Ozarks

Garlic grows best in a sunny location in soil that is well-drained yet moisture-retentive and relatively high in organic matter. Well-rotted manure or compost is an ideal soil amendment to improve the latter in garden soils. Garlic prefers a soil pH of between 6 and 7. Liming is recommended if the pH falls below 5.8. Base rates on soil test results.

Although garlic is considered to be relatively pest-free, insects that can become a problem include thrips (especially during dry weather), onion maggots and wireworms. Diseases that can infect garlic include botrytis, powdery mildew pink root and purple blotch.

“In the Midwest, garlic usually is ready to harvest from between the second week of July through the first week of August. Harvest date will vary according to variety,” said Patrick Byers, horticulture specialist with University of Missouri Extension.

Garlic trivia

  • Well-preserved garlic cloves were found in the tomb of King Tutankhamen who ruled from 1334-1325 BC.
  • One clove of garlic contains only four calories.
  • China is the world’s largest producer of garlic.
  • The majority (90 percent) of the garlic grown in the United States comes from California.
  • The fear of garlic is called alliumphobia.
  • The flavor of garlic is most intense just after mincing. This is due to a chemical reaction that occurs when its cells are ruptured.
  • Drinking milk or lemon juice can help alleviate “garlic breath.”
  • April 19th is observed in the United States as National Garlic Day.

George Freeman is a veteran journalist and photographer. An award-winning writer, editor and columnist in Springfield, Mo., with more than 50 years experience. His preference is for positive and uplifting stories about people, places, traditions and trends that make the Ozarks one of the most livable regions anywhere. A member of the Garden Writers Association of America, he is a past-president of the Society of Professional Journalists of Southwest Missouri, the Kansas and Ohio AP societies; a board member of Friends of the Garden and a member of the Rotary Club of Springfield. In 1976, he traveled to India as a member of a Rotary Foundation Group Study Exchange Team.

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