I am so gah gah for garlic. Like, Lady Gaga for garlic. It adds knock-your-socks off flavor with an uppercut of health-promoting benefits to just about any dish. I distinctly remember taking in it’s smell the first time my mom chopped it up. After that, I insisted we triple the amount in every recipe. You could probably smell our house down the block.
Something I’ve never understood: How can anyone not like the smell of garlic? How? Seriously, how.
Garlic comes in either softneck or hardneck varieties. While softnecks usually store longer, hardnecks have a more complex flavor profile. Hardnecks also have more uniform cloves. Although I prefer hardneck varieties for both these reasons, it’s rather convenient that they thrive in regions with cold winters due to required longer periods of vernalization. Something we are not lacking in Midwest.
Sadly, over 80% of the world’s garlic are softneck varieties from China, which includes over half of the garlic consumed in the U.S. So what’s the problem with that? Unfortunately, Chinese garlic is laden with chemicals to stop sprouting, remove pests, and whiten––it’s literally been bleached, bleh! I’ve even read reports that it’s fertilized with raw human sewage. No thank you, China, no thank you.
But seriously, let’s get to the fun stuff: THE TASTE. I feel like Doug The Tomato Freak when describing hardneck varieties:
Pros: MY GOD THE TASTE
This year, we are growing four different varieties, all from Keene Organics, right here in Wisconsin:
Georgian Crystal (Porcelain Hardneck): One of the longer storing porcelain garlics (late winter to early spring). Originated from the Republic of Georgia between the Black Sea and Caspian Sea. Raw: Robust, but not hot, flavor great for pesto and salsas. Roasted: smooth and buttery.
Music (Porcelain Hardneck): One of the most popular varieties due to taste and vigorous growth. Another longer storing hardneck garlic. An Italian variety brought back to Canada by Al Music in the 1980s from his home land. Flavor is rich, strong, robust, and pungent.
Chesnok Red (Purple Stripe Hardneck): Vigorous plant. Long storage. Beautiful purple stripes with consistently large bulbs. Originally from Republic of Georgia in former USSR. Wonderful taste, winning numerous taste tests as best roasting garlic.
Killarney Red (Rocombole Hardneck): Easy to grow, very hardy, but shorter storage life. Original Source unknown but thought to come from German Red or Spanish Roja, but grows better than both. Flavor is rich, robust, and HOT.
So why not support a local producer or grow your own? Garlic is a fairly easy, low-maintenance crop to grow.
If those aren’t options? Look for garlic with the roots and stem still attached. Although not always an indicator, Chinese farmers often remove roots and stem to reduce weight and save on shipping.
Look, Ma! No chemicals!