Well some gardeners may have come across this very occasionally when they have failed to look after their garlic plants or have put their bulbs out late – British gardeners call them ’rounds’ – and it is considered that the plant is immature which is basically true. But what makes these garlics different is that they were grown this way deliberately and on a massive (ie, millions of tons) scale.
What we do in the UK is take a single clove (technically a bulblet) from a bulb of garlic and plant it in the soil, at the end of the season that one clove becomes a whole bulb (of many cloves) and the whole process starts again. This is called asexual reproduction because there is no union of genes from two different plants – it is basically cloning. There is also another way of cloning a hard necked garlic. In late spring the garlic plant will put up a seed stalk and on the end are dozens of mini cloves (called bulbils) which you can remove and plant in the soil. This is what the Chinese do (and it is they who are growing the garlic we buy in Lidls).
Once the bulbils have been put in the soil (in earlyish Autumn) they put on some leaves and overwinter. The next year they become the single clove garlic we see above. During the summer the greenery on the garlic goes yellow and disappears as the plant becomes dormant, but it is not dead, it is waiting for autumn to put on more green growth and the year after it will divide into the many cloved bulb we know and love in old blighty. In the UK we take a short cut and propagate the quicker and bigger cloves, and cut out a year in the lifecycle. But the Chinese are not doing it because they are daft, they get to eat (or sell) all their garlic and keep the bulbils for propagating many more if these much less fiddly single clove garlics.
Fancy a try? Challenge accepted!
In other news, the day was a really nice and sunny February day so I took the opportunity to video the garden on Youtube. It is very early days for the growing year but I got a bit over excited.
Here it is:
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