Plants Are Medicine

Cuban Garlic and Sustainable Agriculture

Ajo Criolla Braid in Cienfuegos, Cuba

Dear Garlic loving friends,

Today is February 27, 2011 and one meter of snow still covers the rows of Armenian, Fish Lake Porcelain and Inchelium Red here at Sandhill Farms in Eden, Utah. My wife Kati and I are preparing to return to Cuba as professional agroecologists (and garlic researchers) from March 6 through April 15.

We first visited Cuba in the late fall as participants in an education delegation in Cuban Sustainable Farming and Organic Gardening through Global Exchange ( In addition to learning about a fascinating culture of sustainable agriculture from extremely educated farmers and gardeners, we learned Cubans love their Ajo (Garlic).

Most Cubans we met, when somehow garlic became the subject of conversation, would tell us what has to be the most well-know green medicine recipe on the island. “First, you take one bulb of Ajo Criollo and separate the cloves. Peel the cloves and drop them into a bottle of Havana Club white rum. Let the cloves soak in the rum for 9 days. Then, every morning, take a small sip of this natural medicine. This is how we do it in Cuba.” We were told this medicinal mixture helped improve circulation, bone health and joint functioning as well as enhancing overall well-being.

A future onion and garlic grower? in Banao, Cuba

When we ended up in the mountainous hills and farmland of Banao, we understood that Cubans truly are Garlic lovers. Fields after rolling emerald fields sprouted in beautiful rows of Caribbean Garlic, proof that the pungent mountain herb, with origins in a land far to the north of Cuba, can adapt to the tropics and thrive.

Ajo Criollo is spicy, peppery and long lasting in flavor. Bulbs are generally small, tight and compact with about 12-18 small crescent cloves per bulb. We planted a few Sandhill Farms porcelain strains into the red, rich Cuban soil and we will be excited to participate in the harvest this March. Cuban Ajo is planted in November and harvested in late March.

Have a great spring equinox and keep in touch as we travel to Cuba and learn more about Garlic, the Blessed Bulb. This is Farmer Pete, signing out, for The Garlic Report.

Banao's Fertile, composted fields, cultivated by oxen and planted in onions and ajo.



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