Can You Plant Garlic Cloves If Papery Cover is off?

Here’s a good question:

“What do you do about the cloves where the paper skin comes off as you are separating them? This can easily happen when pulling apart a head of garlic. Part or most of the paper wrapper will separate from the clove. Can you still plant these?

The short answer is no. Garlic bulbs naturally shrink as they cure, and then shrink more in storage. This is the natural course of things, because dormancy lasts only so long, and the cloves must get busy changing into new plants. This natural shrinkage makes garlic cloves easier to peel, but naked cloves are not what you want in your garden. The wrapper/skins contain chemical compounds that do various things – inhibit the emergence of a sprout until roots have formed, deter invasive microbes, and probably leach “come hither” signals to appropriate strains of garlic-friendly bacteria.

Cloves that enter the world of soil need to be wearing their full armor. If you have more naked cloves than you can use, dry them and make small batches of delicious garlic powder, or slice and pickle them just like other quick pickles.

To prepare garlic powder, follow these simple steps:

First, peel the garlic cloves. Then cut them into thin slices and put in a dry pan. Place the pan in a 150-degree oven to dry the garlic, turning the slices often. Grind the dried slices in a blender, (a friend of mine uses a coffee grinder) then sift the material through a strainer to separate the chunks from the finer powder. (The chunks taste great on pizza!)

Use your homemade garlic powder on any food that can benefit from a concentrated shot of garlic flavor. Store the chunks or garlic powder in airtight jars kept in a cool place, or freeze for long-term storage.