Garlic is not only bursting with flavor but with health benefits as well!
Garlic is not only bursting with flavor but with health benefits as well; each clove is full of health-protective nutrients, including manganese excellent for bone, skin and blood sugar, vitamins C for immunity and skin health, and B6 which helps metabolize carbohydrates. Garlic is thought to have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that may contribute to heart health by reducing cholesterol levels. It is also a good source of prebiotics, which are beneficial for gut health. Garlic can be used in a variety of dishes, but did you know there are many different varieties of garlic to choose from ranging from sweet and mild to very hot and spicy?
First off, there are two subspecies; Ophios, hard necked and Sativum, or soft necked garlics. And there are five very different hard neck varieties: Porcelain, Purple Stripe, Marbled Purple Stripe, Glazed Purple Stripe, and Rocambole. Three varieties of weakly bolting hard necks that often produce softnecks - Creole, Asiatic and Turban, plus two distinct soft-necks: Artichoke and Silverskin.
The Hard Necks:
Porcelains are among the most beautiful garlics. Their bulb wrappers tend to be very thick, luxuriant and parchment-like and tightly cover their few but large cloves - typically only five per bulb. They are generally strong tasting with a few exceptions and can store for up to eight to ten months or more at cool room temperature.
Rocamboles tend to have thinner bulb wrappers and lots of purple striping and splotches. They are not as white as other ophios and seem to have a brownish cast to them. What they lack in beauty, they make up for in taste. Many people consider them their favorite garlics - they are very, very flavorful and most of them very hot. They have usually eight to ten cloves arranged in circular fashion around a central scape and have few or no smaller internal cloves. Their primary drawback is that they are among the shorter storing garlics.
Purple Stripes are ophios (hardnecks) and are usually vividly striped with purplish vertical stripes decorating the bulb wrappers, hence their name. In between the purple stripes, their bulb wrappers are usually very white and thick. Some sub-varieties are even heavily splotched with purple. They tend to be rather rich in flavor but not overly pungent though some are milder and store fairly well. Standard Purple Stripes (Chesnok Red and Persian Star) make the sweetest roasted garlic.
The Soft Necks:
Artichoke garlics are the kinds of garlics seen most in the supermarkets in our part of the country. California Early and California Late are grown in huge quantities around Gilroy, California and shipped all over the country and are the generic garlic that most people think of when they think of garlic. They have lots of cloves, usually somewhere between 12 and 20 with lots of smaller internal cloves. Artichokes are generally very large, store well and have a wide range of flavors. Artichoke garlics are the commercial growers favorite because they are easier to grow and produce larger bulbs than most other garlics. Artichokes are often called red garlics or Italian garlics despite the fact that most are neither red nor were ever grown in Italy.
Silverskins are usually, but not always, the ones that you see in braids. Silverskins are generally the longest storing of all garlics and have a soft pliable neck that lends itself to braiding and holds up over time better than the artichokes whose necks tend to deteriorate. They are fairly hot, strong garlics with very few cultivars being mild. They have more cloves per bulb, on the average, than the artichokes but are not nearly as large.
Creoles are a unique and truly beautiful group of garlics. They are like a mix of hard neck and soft neck - as are the Asiatic and Turban varieties. They are amongst the easiest eating raw garlics with a rich, full taste but are only very moderate pungent, though Creole Red is noticeably stronger and Ajo Rojo is a very hot garlic. They have eight to 12 cloves per bulb, and the bulb wrappers and the clove covers have a beautiful vivid rose color.
Have you heard of garlic scapes? If you love garlic, you’ll love garlic scapes, which are the flower bud of the garlic plant. They are removed in late June to encourage the bulbs to grow more robust. Scapes taste just like garlic and can be used in exactly the same way as garlic in any recipe.
The varieties mentioned above are just a few of the various types of garlic that would be an excellent flavor and health boosting addition to any meal!