Growing garlic, along with all other vegetables that develop underground (potatoes, carrots, etc.) requires a leap of faith. I can’t check to see if everything is developing properly. I’ve grown plenty of skinny radishes, and I don’t trust those underground developers – who knows what they are up to under there? They could be taking the water I give them and slacking off. So it is always a bit of a miracle to pull something fully developed out of the soil, which I did when I harvested my garlic a few weeks ago. What a relief!
I planted two types of garlic, but in a fairly typical display of overconfidence in my ability to remember things, I failed to label which was which. In fact, I failed to write down the names of my garlic at all – which means a regretful entry in my garden notes: “Grew garlic. Tasty. No idea what kind, or where I can get more.”
Currently, my garlic is curing outside the kitchen door. I attempted to braid it into an attractive braid, such as you see in cooking magazines and “rustic” photoshoots, but failed abjectly. Now I suspect that those lovely long braids of garlic in magazines are (gasp) staged. They must use fake garlic hair. Another illusion shattered. Then again, maybe I just need to wait until the garlic stems are a little dryer.
When I started my garlic growing adventures, I consulted The Complete Book of Garlic when it came to the curing stage, and learned the following:
“Pull the bulb from the ground and loosely rub the soil out of the roots. Keep the harvested garlic out of direct sunlight. Do not wash it with water. Garlic needs to dry and cure in a well-ventilated area out of the sun. With twine, tie the garlic in bundles of six to twelve and hang to dry and cure, bulb portion downward, for several weeks until the vegetative material above the bulb is completely dry. Trim off the vegetative material to approximately 1 in. (2.5 cm) above the bulb. If the vegetative material is still moist, the garlic needs more drying time. Trim the roots, leaving about 1/4 in. (0.5 cm). Brush the soil from the roots with a toothbrush and remove the outermost dirty bulb wrapper with your thumb or the edge of the toothbrush. Use netted bags, such as those typically used for onions, shallots, and garlic, to keep your harvested garlic sorted and stored so that air can circulate.”
Good to know! Unfortunately, Ted Meredith does not address the issue of “making your garlic braid look like it does in a magazine.” But he does talk about the differences in garlic flavor:
“For salad dressings that include crushed raw garlic, I like a garlic that is richly flavored, but not overly hot. Rocambole cultivars, such as ‘Spanish Roja’, ‘Russian Red’, and ‘Carpathian’ fit the bill perfectly. Purple Stripe cultivars, such as ‘Shvelisi’, ‘Samarkand’, and ‘Shatili’ are strongly and complexly flavored, but not overly sulfurous or aggressive, and work well minced and sautéed in Continental cuisines. The large-cloved and somewhat more aggressive Marbled Purple Stripe and Porcelain cultivars such as ‘Bogatyr’ and ‘Romanian Red’ are good choices for spicy Asian dishes where a greater amount of more aggressively flavored garlic works well. These are a few examples among many, and of course, everyone has their own favorites and favorite ways of cooking.”
As someone who always believed that garlic tasted like – well, garlic – it’s interesting to learn that there are different flavors out there. If only I had written down the type I have.
Chani West-Foyle, Marketing Associate