All about Garlic by one of Australia's experts, Penny Woodward »

An organic guide to growing and using garlic in Australia

By Kerry Scambler
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Garlic by Penny Woodward

Garlic by Penny Woodward

Plaited garlic
Garlic - cut in half
Garlic farm
Southern Glen Garlic variety


One of the most appealing sights at farmers' markets is the sight of freshly dug garlic, hanging in purple threads or in baskets ready for the pickup. The only garlicky sight more satisfying to me would be strings of those big, beautiful bulbs hanging in my own kitchen after doing their work protecting my roses.

Sadly that second experience is usually missing an important adjective... big.

After years of growing garlic simply as an aphid deterrent in the rose garden and digging up small bulbs, still tasty but oh so small, Penny Woodward has let me in on a garlic secret – apparently it’s not just real estate that’s all about location. I read about it in her latest book:

Garlic: it's a plant that can be hot, spicy and pungent or sweet and nutty and its popularity and use has grown in Australia. The first two plants arrived in 1788 but the last three decades – with immigration and of course, the ubiquitous cooking shows – have seen a rapid rise in the use of fresh garlic.  As a nation we have embraced the bulby wonder to the extent that we now consume around 12,000 tonnes or more a year. Sadly over 80% of this is imported.

Now if you need motivation other than the joy of growing your own (no matter the size!) perhaps the thought that imported garlic is reportedly sprayed with toxic chemicals banned in many countries might prompt an Australian-only garlic patch at your place.

In her comprehensive, but easy-to-follow book Garlic: an organic guide to knowing, growing and using garlic, from Australian Whites and Tasmanian Purples to Korean Reds and Shandongs, Penny sets out to get everyone successfully growing their own garlic, wherever you happen to live.

Despite it being such an intrinsic ingredient in our daily lives, many of us think that garlic is pretty much all the same. But meet Marbled Purple, Turban, Silverskin, Pinners Pink and Porcelain just to name a few. In fact there probably more than a thousand cultivars around the world, mostly falling into eleven distinct groups, each with their own particular characteristics and growing conditions. Who knew?

With so many out there, how do you know where, when and exactly what garlic to grow? Obviously this book is the first step and where Penny Woodward's wealth of experience and knowledge comes in. 

In this, the latest of seven best-selling gardening books, you'll find:

  • A short history of garlic
  • Guidelines for growing organic garlic in various climatic zones
  • A selected list with descriptions of more than 50 Australian cultivars.
  • Conversations with some of Australia’s growers – find out how and where they grow garlic.
  • Recipes for cooking, preserving and smoking … and making your own black garlic.
  • Medicinal uses
  • Selected garlic cultivars
  • A list of online references, growers and suppliers.

In fact, it’s all you need to know to go organic and start harvesting your very own little flavour bombs to dish up in the kitchen!

I've still got my small garlic growing around my beloved roses but we've also planted out in a special patch according to Penny's advice, and I can tell you that the plants are already above ground and thriving on some dedicated space and attention. Stay tuned for harvest time!

Note for Tasmanian readers: Penny says that Tasmania offers the perfect climate and whilst it is often not possible to bring in plants from other states, there are some unusual cultivars already here, not found in other parts of the country. It’s easy to find them with this guide on hand and its reference to suppliers and websites.

KERRY'S GARLIC GARDENING UPDATE - Spring 2015: we are delighted to advise we are the proud custodians of a magnificent bunch of garlic which will looks like it will take us through to next season!


About the author:

Penny Woodward has a BSc in Botany and Zoology and works as freelance writer including contributing to the ABC's Organic Gardener Magazine as well as writing for her own website, and setting up

She is also on the board of the Australian Garlic Industry Association and is a member of Horticultural Media Association and the Australian Society of Authors.

This is the seventh of her best-selling gardening books which include:

  • Asian Herbs and Vegetables: how to identify, grow and use them in Australia
  • Community Gardens: A Celebration of the People, Recipes and Plants
  • Grow Your Own Herbal Remedies
  • Growing Easy Herbs for Beauty Fragrance and Flavour
  • Herbs for Australian Gardens
  • Pest Repellent Plants – 2nd Edition


Garlic: an organic guide to knowing, growing and using garlic, from Australian Whites and Tasmanian Purples to Korean Reds and Shandongs by Penny Woodward is published by Hyland House (Melbourne, 2014, sc, 224pp, RRP A$29.95). Available for sale via, other online booksellers and local bookshops.

Scroll down for some of Penny's recipes and a few other garlicky treats.

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May 26th, 2015
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