Chesnok – Achuu Piyaz – Garlic

April 19th, 2016 Sections: Plants
A string of Garlic cloves

A string of Garlic cloves

Achuu Piyaz, (Chesnok in Russian, Allium sativum in Latin and Garlic in English),  has been a highly prized crop for it medicinal and nutritional qualities since ancient times – it is thought that it has been cultivated for something like seven thousand years according to some sources – but just four thousand according to others.

It’s another one of those plants that is thought to have originated here in Central Asia … and new strains are still being discovered here – the latest as recently as 1998 in the Sary Chelek Nature Reserve.

Over the centuries, of course it has traveled far and wide, becoming a staple in Mediterranean Europe, (being used by the Ancient Egyptians), a seasoning in China and throughout Asia, Africa and Europe … and even into the Americas.

Apparently the name of the city of Chicago is derived from the American Indian word for the wild garlic that grew around Lake Michigan, chicagaoua.

Rich in carbohydrates, proteins and vitamins, it was used in the ancient world as part of the treatment for a wide variety of ailments, including: angina, the common cold, gout, hypertension, influenza, insomnia, pneumonia, rickets, tuberculosis, as well as a dressing for wounds and ulcers.  It has also gained a reputation as an aphrodisiac … and a preventative measure against vampires.

One of the big disadvantages, of course, is that it tends to produce bad breath, halitosis, which is why it is sometimes dubbed the Stinking Rose.

In Kyrgyzstan it grows well throughout the republic and there are a number of projects to try and increase the somewhat modest yield.  Although Kyrgyzstan’s harvest has ranged from 9500 metric tonnes in 1993 to just over 37,000 tonnes in 2012, (which appears minuscule compared to China’s twenty million metric tonnes – out of a global production of twenty four million tonnes), but, even so, the country features in the top 30 producers in the world (at 26th place).

Since Independence the annual harvest seems to hover around the 10 metric tonnes per hectare, (dropping as low as 7 in 1995, but almost 14 in 2013, the last year for which I could find figures.)

Most of the production in Kyrgyzstan is to be found on small private farms rather than any large scale cultivation.

It’s been adopted by farmers in the remote Alai region as an additional alternative cash crop (as well as providing valuable nutrients to supplement the local diet as a subsistence crop) and there were plans for it to be adopted across the Naryn region – both areas which experience extreme harsh winters and where other crops can be difficult to grow.

The plants are well suited to these conditions because they are extremely hardy (although they don’t like extremes of temperature) and have relatively few pests and diseases – although, that is not to say that there aren’t any.

Some improvements in agricultural practices are needed to improve and optimize the yield: (crop rotation and deheading stalks before flowering occurs to encourage growth of the bulbs, renewing the planting stock every four or five years … and so on).

Bulbs can be planted in the autumn, before the winter frosts freeze the ground, or during the late Spring/Early Summer … autumn planting tends to increase the number of cloves produced.

 

Although I have written another postcard about Garlic, as it is National Garlic Day in the US today, (… it even has its own website …), it seemed appropriate to mark the day by taking another brief look at this close relative of the onion.

 

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