Garlic is a popular and versatile plant that is used in various cuisines around the world. It is known for its strong flavor and aroma, and it also has several health benefits. Let's explore everything about garlic, from seed to table.
Garlic Varieties: Garlic comes in different varieties, but the two main types are hardneck garlic and softneck garlic. Hardneck garlic produces a flowering stalk called a scape and tends to have larger cloves, while softneck garlic does not produce scapes and has smaller cloves. There are several heirloom garlic varieties, each with its unique flavor profile and characteristics. Here are some popular heirloom garlic varieties and their descriptions:
Purple Stripe: Purple Stripe garlic is known for its beautiful purple streaks on its bulb wrappers. It typically has large cloves and a strong, robust flavor. It has a complex and rich taste with a slightly spicy kick. Purple Stripe garlic is often favored by chefs and garlic enthusiasts for its vibrant appearance and bold flavor.
Rocambole: Rocambole garlic is highly regarded for its exceptional flavor. It has a rich, full-bodied taste that can be described as earthy, nutty, and slightly sweet. The cloves of Rocambole garlic are usually large and easy to peel. It has a thin, parchment-like skin and a distinctive curly scape (flower stalk).
Porcelain: Porcelain garlic is characterized by its large bulb size, creamy white appearance, and robust flavor. It has a strong, pungent taste with a hint of spiciness. Porcelain garlic cloves are usually large and fewer in number compared to other varieties. This garlic variety is often favored for its bold flavor that mellows when cooked.
Artichoke: Artichoke garlic is a popular heirloom variety known for its versatility and mild flavor. It has plump cloves and a papery skin that is easy to peel. Artichoke garlic has a slightly sweet and mellow flavor with a hint of spiciness. It is often enjoyed raw in salads or used in cooking where a less overpowering garlic flavor is desired.
Silverskin: Silverskin garlic is a late-season variety with small to medium-sized bulbs. It is known for its long shelf life and excellent storing qualities. Silverskin garlic has a hot and spicy flavor with a strong aroma. It is often used for braiding due to its long, flexible stalks and is commonly used for making garlic powder and garlic-infused oils.
Creole: Creole garlic varieties originate from Spain and have adapted to warm climates. They are known for their bold flavor and strong heat. Creole garlic bulbs are typically medium to large in size with a purplish coloration. This variety has a rich, spicy flavor that intensifies when cooked, making it ideal for adding a kick to dishes.
These descriptions provide a general overview of the flavor and characteristics of some popular heirloom garlic varieties. However, it's important to note that flavors can vary depending on growing conditions, soil, and other factors, so individual garlic bulbs may exhibit some variation.
Seed Selection: Garlic is not typically grown from seeds but rather from cloves. When selecting garlic cloves for planting, choose large, healthy cloves from disease-free bulbs. It's best to source cloves specifically meant for planting, as garlic from grocery stores may not be suitable due to potential chemical treatments or low viability. We grade our garlic seed to be any bulb over 2 inches.
Planting Garlic: Garlic is usually planted in the fall, about 4-6 weeks before the ground freezes, here in the PNW we usually plant the first week in November.
Follow these steps for planting:
a. Prepare the soil by loosening it and removing any weeds. b. Break apart the garlic bulb into individual cloves, leaving the papery skin intact. c. Plant each clove about 2 inches deep, with the pointed end facing upward, and space them about 6-8 inches apart. d. Cover the cloves with soil and mulch the area to protect against frost.
Growing Conditions: Garlic thrives in well-drained soil with good organic matter. It requires full sun exposure (at least 6 hours of direct sunlight per day). Ensure the soil remains evenly moist but not waterlogged. Garlic prefers cooler temperatures and a dormant period during winter for bulb development.
Care and Maintenance: Here are some care tips for growing garlic: a. Water the garlic regularly, aiming for about an inch of water per week. b. Remove any weeds that compete with the garlic for nutrients and water. c. Cut off any scapes that emerge to divert energy to bulb growth. d. Fertilize the garlic once or twice during the growing season with compost tea or fish fertilizer (no chemicals!!).
Harvesting: Garlic is usually ready for harvest in late spring or early summer, depending on the variety and planting time. We harvest in the first two weeks of July. Here's how to harvest garlic: a. When the leaves turn brown and dry out but still have some green, it's a good indication that the garlic is ready. b. Gently dig up the garlic bulbs using a fork or shovel, being careful not to damage them. c. Shake off excess soil and leave the bulbs in a warm, dry, and well-ventilated area to cure for a few weeks. This helps the garlic develop its characteristic flavor and aroma while extending its shelf life. Braiding the softneck is the traditional way of storing garlic.
Storing and Using Garlic: Once the garlic bulbs are fully cured, you can store them in a cool, dry, and well-ventilated place. Avoid storing them in the refrigerator as it can cause the cloves to sprout prematurely. Properly cured garlic can last several months. Garlic can be used in various culinary preparations.
To use garlic: a. Separate individual cloves from the bulb as needed. b. Peel the papery skin off each clove. c. Crush, chop, mince, or slice the cloves based on the recipe requirements. d. Add the garlic to dishes such as soups, sauces, stir-fries, roasted vegetables, marinades, and many other recipes. e. make fermented garlic honey and fire cider for your natural herbal medicine cabinet
Remember, if you have any specific questions about growing or using garlic, feel free to ask!