The Flavors in the Bulb

The Wonderful thing about Garlic…

…is garlic does wonderful things

it produces a chemical called Allicin

and lower cholesterol it brings…



                Garlic is a keystone of cooking.  Highly valued throughout the ages as a culinary spice, garlic is one of the oldest cultivated plants in the world. It is a hardy perennial belonging to the liliaceae family. Other members of this family include leeks, chives, spring onions and shallots, all distinguished by their pungent aroma and flavor. Used to flavor broths, sauces, meats, dressings, and the list goes on.  Not only can garlic add that flavor burst into your savory dishes but it has some health benefits as well.  Ingesting garlic daily can lower cholesterol, prevent tick bites, lower blood pressure, and lower blood sugar levels. It is an excellent source of vitamin B6 (pyridoxine). It is also a very good source of manganese, selenium and vitamin C. In addition, garlic is a good source of other minerals, including phosphorous, calcium, potassium, iron and copperWe are going to explore the different types of garlic, where it is grown and what it is used for.

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Hardneck Garlic

Hardneck garlic (Allium sativum ophioscorodon) tend to have a stronger flavor than their soft-necked cousins. They're characterized by hard woody stalks (these central stalks are discerning feature) and a long flower stalk (scape) that loops and curls. Hardneck garlic sends up scapes from its central woody stalk when it is growing. A scape is a thin green extension of the stalk that forms a 360-degree curl with a small bulbil, or swelling, several inches from its end. Inside the bulbil are more than 100 tiny cloves that are genetically identical to the parent bulb beneath. Many people call these "flowers," but they are not really blooms. If left on the plant, the scape will eventually die and fall over, and the tiny cloves will spill onto the ground. However, most never make it that far. Cutting off the scapes keeps the plant's energy from forming the bulbil and therefore encourages larger bulbs. But don't throw out the scapes. They can be a delicious ingredient in your cooking, more on these later.

Hardneck garlic generally to have 4-12 cloves in each bulb. Verging on being spicy or hot the flavor is thought to be more complex, and altogether more "garlicky." Hardneck garlic grows best in areas with very cold winters, as they require a longer time of vernalization (in order to bloom in the spring they need a long winter to be dormaint). This hardneck garlic work perfect with gamier roasts, such as duck or venison. Vinaigrettes using hearty ingredients, like mustard or apple cider vinegar are the perfect flavor profile for hardneck garlic. To spot hardneck garlic at your local farmer's market search for the garlic that have a rosy/violet cast to the flesh of the cloves and thinner skin

Softneck Garlic

Softneck garlic (Allium sativum sativum) comprises most of the garlic found in major supermarkets. Lacking the flowering scape of hardneck garlic, it produces many more cloves—sometimes as few as eight, and sometimes getting as high as thirty or more. Softneck garlic is a good all-purpose garlic that works in almost any dish. Softneck garlic is recommended if consuming raw or lightly cooked. For a salad dressing with a strong garlic flavor opt for softneck garlic, having a grassier, plant-like taste and without the bite of its hardneck siblings the garlic notes really shine through.

Most processed garlic foods, like garlic powder and seasoning, come from softneck garlic. Artichoke (the strain sold in supermarkets) and Silverskin (the kind you'll most often see braided) are two varieties of softneck garlic. Silverskin garlic is easy to grow variety has a strong flavor and stores well when dried, it will last nearly a year under the right conditions. Artichoke garlic has a milder flavor and may have fewer and larger cloves than silverskin. You can store it as long as eight months. Artichoke garlic may occasionally have purple spots or streaks on its skin, but don't confuse it with purple stripe garlic, a hardneck variety that has quite a bit of purple coloring.

Creole Garlic

Originally thought to be a variety of softneck garlic, Creole garlic turns out to be in a class by itself. These garlic bulbs tend to have up to 12 cloves and range from a beautiful light pink to an almost purple glow. Unlike the rosy varieties of hardneck garlics, the entire bulb itself tends to be pink/red/purple. Creole garlics are pretty rare and grow better in warmer climates. Creole varietals tend to have a wine reference in their name. Some varietals are Cuban Purple, Ajo Rojo, Burgundy, Creole Red, and Rose du Lautrec. This type of garlic tends to have some heat to its flavor and the pungency varies depending on the variety you buy. Definitely do the sniff test before you purchase—it'll tell you how much bite the garlic contains.

Black Garlic


Black garlic recognizably garlic at first bite, but it has rich, molasses undertones as well as a hint of balsamic vinegar. It's a little chewy, like good dried fruit, but also soft and spreadable like a fruit paste. It can take up to a month for regular garlic to reach this stage of caramelization/fermentation. A combination of fermentation, dehydration, and low heat is used to cause the Maillard Reaction over a long period of time and turn black.

Black garlic, according to some chefs, adds that rich, meaty umami flavor to dishes that might otherwise lack it. Wonderful if served it by itself as an appetizer or used it as a garnish on salads and meats. It also works well in sauces and vinaigrettes, but it's too expensive to use in anything large-scale, like a marinade. Some people use it in dessert, such as in these Black Garlic Brownies.

Shannon Clapham