Garlic is Just Garlic, Right?
Have you ever stopped to think about the garlic you buy? Like tomatoes, like peaches and like potatoes, there are many different varieties of this pungent vegetable too.
Some are mild and some are stronger. Some bulbs have two rings of small cloves, whilst others just have one ring of larger, fatter cloves. Here, from left to right, we have:
1) The Lorz italian, a pre 1900 heirloom.
2) An Inchelium red garlic from an Indian Reservation in East Washington.
3) The "Red Toch" from Tochliavri in Georgia.
I bought these three garlics from the Small Potatoes/Juicy Garlic stand at the San Francisco Ferry Building Farmers Market last Saturday. I was at the market early, before it was too crowded and was able to have a little chat with the farmer, Wallace Condon, about his garlics. He explained to me that he supports Seed Savers, a non-profit organisation who save and share heirloom seed. Seed Savers have several different varieties of garlic available. Condon explained to me that most commercial garlics are what are called "softnecks" but that "stiffnecks" are more interesting with a better flavour. Unfortunately the stiffneck yield is low which is why they are less common. All of the garlics Condon has for sale are the softneck type.
Since I had three stale ears of pain epi from Acme left over from the weekend, I decided that Fred and I should conduct a garlic bread tasting test with the three different varieties of bulb. Here are the results:
Garlic Bread: Hot patches on the tongue, moderate level of pungency.
Raw: Very strong, very hot. A long, long hotness and after-taste.
Smell: Very mild and green.
Garlic Bread: Mild taste but with aftertaste. Slight fishiness in the flavour.
Raw: Hints of green, hot but short burn and long-lasting pungency.
Smell: Extremely mild, barely detectable garlic smell.
Garlic Bread: Almost transparent as far as garlic goes, no bite, slightly sweet.
Raw: Slightly hot when tasted raw with a longer-lasting burn.
It has been an interesting excercise to compare and contrast these garlics and have the opportunity to judge which dish would benefit from which garlic. Often we don't have a choice or this kind of information at our fingertips when making our garlic purchases. Condon, of Small Potatoes, told me that he probably had only about two weeks worth of garlic left for sale at the market. So... you'll have to get in there quick if you want to taste the differences for yourself.