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Rich, Pungent, Enticing . . . Garlic

Few food items can taste so many distinct ways, handled correctly. Anthony Bourdain

Transylvanian, Idaho Silver, Red Janice, China Dawn, Georgian Fire and Brown Tempest may sound like a stock list from your local CBD shop but they are actually plant varieties from the garlic store, a website with a comprehensive guide to all the types of garlic. I came across this on-line resource while looking for a certain Italian varietal and was amazed by the number and complexity of flavors that garlic can add to your food. For garlic has the ability to transform dishes in both subtle and significant ways.

I like the taste of garlic which pairs so well with our new harvest oil and although most would think that garlic has a heavy hand in Italian cooking, when properly used it never dominates but gives a subtle aroma and flavor. Even in the most garlic-centric Italian dishes such as Aglio e Olio, a pasta where the two main ingredients are garlic and olive oil, the combination is a classic where the garlic infuses the essence of the extra virgin oil to create an aromatic blanket of Italian comfort food.

Although Italian garlic (Purple Italian) is one of the most popular varieties in the world mainly due to its mild flavor, longer shelf-life and early harvest, there are many other cultivars with varying flavor profiles that you can explore. Here are a few I found interesting. But before I list these it’s important to know that within the genus Allium species sativa, there are two different varieties, hardneck and softneck. The term “neck” refers to the stalk that grows from the garlic bulb. Hardneck garlic varieties have a more garlicky flavor and a long flowering stem known as a scape and are closely related to the earliest heirloom strains of garlic. They are rarer to find because their bulbs do not store as long as the softneck varieties. Softneck garlic varieties have more cloves per bulb and do not have a flowering stalk. Most of the garlic found in the grocery store is softneck. Purple Italian garlic is a hardneck variety with 8-12 large cloves that are easy to peel, making it a favorite with cooks.

Interesting varieties of garlic.

  • Belarus- a purple stripe hardneck variety with a mild and smooth garlicky flavor. Its high sugars make it a great variety for roasting and baking. History and origin: Belarus, Eastern Europe.

  • Persian Star - a hardneck variety with a rich sweet flavor when roasted and sautéed. Can be eaten raw with a medium not too overpowering garlic flavor. Great in olive oil and salad dressing. History and Origin: Samarkand, Uzbekistan Republic.

  • Purple Glazer - a hardneck garlic with a shiny glazed, silvery purple blush. A mild rich sweet flavor with a gentle but fiery heat. Good roasted and sautéed. Known as the best baked garlic. Great in salad dressings, baked or in a stir fry . History and Origin: Mchadidzhvari, Republic of Georgia.

  • Amish Rocambole - a vigorous growing hardneck garlic variety that is cold hardy. Grows well in Northern States and has been grown by the Amish Community in Wisconsin for over 40 years. History and origin: Wisconsin.

  • Silverwhite - a large bulbed softneck garlic variety that handles humidity making it one of the longest storing garlic with a full garlic flavor that becomes stronger the longer it is stored. History and origin: California.

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