My friend Buddy lives in Pocahontas, Mississippi. Buddy is the hardest-working person I know; he does drywall, roofs, painting, whatever work he can find to keep his home safe and his family fed. He’s one of the best people I’ve ever known, and, like the rest of you–without justification, I hasten to add–thinks I’m a lazy bum.
Buddy’s always bringing me stuff from his garden; tomatoes, okra, and peppers in season, odds and ends like herbs and knotty apples, holly and smilax during the holidays. Some years ago in the late summer, he brought me a bundle of fresh garlic. The bulbs cloves were large and mild, resembling most what I have come to know as elephant garlic. I’ve since learned, but is actually a wild leek, Allium ampeloprassum. You’ll find this herb growing around old home places all over the South. You can use the bulbs before they divide out for a very strong garlic-y onion flavor, but for the bulbs to clove, you must cut the blossom in summer before it sets seed. Once the foliage has yellowed and the stem stiffened—this is a hardneck garlic—you can dig the buds. They will divide as they dry. Toes/cloves or small buds must be planted after first frost.
This old allium is a wonderful pass-along, and if you give it good loamy soil and full sun, it will thrive. Buddy tells me it spreads all over the place, and he has to thin his out twice a year. He also swears that it keeps him and his wife healthy. They’re both pushing 80 now and show no signs of letting up. Me, I’ve got the prettiest little patch of Pocahontas garlic you’d ever hope to see coming up out back.