Types of garlic

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I buy garlic but never have paid much attention to the subtleties of it. Here's some interesting info on types and uses.

HARDNECK GARLICS: These have a central flower stalk that hardens to a stem in the center of the garlic head. Tricky to grow and generally much less productive than "softneck" garlics, they are always more expensive.

Examples include:

ROCAMBOLE: This is the most commonly planted specialty variety. The head is cone-shaped, with bright purple skin. The uniformly sized, wedge-shaped cloves are clustered radially around the central stalk.

The cloves easily pop out of their papery skins. It has a strong flavor but is rarely bitter.

SPANISH ROJA: Similar to the Rocambole, but with a rounded head and skin coloration that ranges from red to mahogany. Grown most commonly in the Northwest.

ITALIAN RED: A generic name given to red-skinned, hardnecked garlics of several different varieties. SOFTNECK GARLICS: These do not have a central flower stalk. These are always used for braiding. These include: MEXICAN PINK: A common variety grown in Mexico, it is characterized by cloves that splinter outwards from the main head, somewhat like leaves on an artichoke. The flavor is often quite hot.

EARLY and LATE CALIFORNIA WHITE: This is the main garlic variety grown commercially in California. It is very productive and is well adapted to growing in hot weather. It has tight skins over both the cloves and the whole head, which help make this garlic one of the best keepers.

ELEPHANT GARLIC: A cross between garlic and onion. The flavor is mild and the texture is similar to an onion.

OTHER USEFUL TERMINOLOGY:

GREEN GARLIC. Garlic harvested before the bulb has matured and before skins have formed around the cloves. It can be used like baby leeks.

The flavor is mild but distinctly garlicky.

FRESH GARLIC: Juicy, mature garlic sold before the skins have set or dried. This is perishable and susceptible to mold.

CURED GARLIC: Most garlic is cured for about a month to allow the skins to dry or set.

Sibella Kraus writing in the San Francisco Chronicle, 7/14/93.

Posted by Stephen Ceideberg; October 5 1993.

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