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GARLIC GROWING GUIDE
The ten stages of growing garlic
One of the best things about growing garlic is having year-round home-grown garlic to eat. Historically, garlic growing cultures planted several types of garlic for home consumption not only for year-round use but also for different cooking styles.
Garlic bulb and clove skins can be challenging to remove. Some garlic types are easier to peel than others. For example rocambole has a loose clove skin (it does not store long), and most purple stripes are easier to remove than the tighter skins of some other garlic groups.
To break the cloves from the bulbs involves separation. Use your thumbs to pull the bulb apart. This might require some force and if using the entire bulb consider pushing down on the bulb using your heal of your hand. Take care not to tear the clove skins during this process.
Clove skin separation is even trickier. Place a clove down sideways on a cutting board and press firmly with your hand or the side of a wide bladed knife to break the skin and snap the inner loose. This technique might cause some clove bruising. Otherwise consider pouring boiling water on cloves sitting in cold water which will make it easier to peel. A silicon tube garlic peeler which rolls between your palms with a clove or two inside is a cheap and effective tool that is widely available too. There are also a range of online videos of other techniques to try. We find the easiest cloves to peel by hand are porcelain cloves, closely followed by the strongly bolting hardnecks.
Garlic has been used as medicine, a flavouring agent as well as a food for several millennia.
Garlic bulbs are made up of nearly 60% water, 33% carbohydrates, 6% proteins and less than 1% of fats. They contain a small amount of ten types of sugars, as well as amino acids, minerals and vitamins.
Garlic's most unique agent is associated with the organic sulphur compound that gives garlic it distinctive smell and taste. Sulphurs are known to be antibacterial and antifungal. It was not until the 1940's that scientists discovered that the antibacterial properties in crushed garlic is allicin. It is not present in uncrushed garlic.
Interestingly, scientists found the amino acid alliin which is present in the natural constituent of fresh garlic, when crushed releases an enzyme called alliinase which then converts alliin into allicin. Cooking and our stomach acids destroys allicin. Despite this crushing, chopping or slicing garlic for cooking, garlic releases a complex mix of reactions of active ingredients and health benefits.
The different garlic groups are diverse as the countries cuisine which traditionally used garlic. They are as different as the difference between French, Asian, Italian, Russian or Spanish cooking styles and ingredients. Each of these countries, over thousands of years have shaped their provincial garlic to their specific cuisine.
Garlic is versatile in the kitchen. The cloves can be eaten raw (although some types are very strong and pungent) and the best one to be used raw is the turban group. This type in Europe is often called a 'summer garlic' as it is the first to be harvested ready for summer and is less oily and more watery. Turban's are often used raw in dips or rubbed into salads compared to other garlics which contain more natural oils which protect the garlic flavour when heated. Other milder garlics like standard and glazed purple stripe or rocamboles are also good raw.
Garlics that are cooked or blanched garlics usually have a high oil content in the clove which protects the flavours during heating to make sauces, roasted smoked and put on the BBQ. Garlic can also be pickled with vinegar or dehydrated and made into a concentrated (1-3 x) powder or garlic salt.
Depending how you wish to use garlic, the cloves can be used whole, chopped, sliced, shaved, crushed or even bruised. All of these techniques will release the alliinase enzyme to produce the sulphuric aroma. When garlic is heated it breaks down alliin and gives garlic its rich flavour.
Baking whole bulbs or cloves has the least therapeutic effect, the least pungency but many enjoy the mildness that results from baking. Sautéed garlic can also bring out the aromatic flavours.
Garlic can be cold or hot smoked as well as be frozen particularly as cloves. Also another way of eating garlic is as 'Black Garlic'. This garlic is be made from standard garlic bulbs where they are heated for several weeks at a low temperature. It gives the garlic a caramelised umami flavour - it tastes weirdly nothing like garlic. Black garlic is not fermented (no bacteria or micro-organisms are at play) but uses the Maillard reaction to chemically alter the bulb with a reaction of between an amino acid and a reducing sugar. This results in a dark brown to black inner cloves and is like moist licorice. It's considered both sweet and savoury and is often used on crackers, in meals or pureed as a dressing.
Other aspects of the garlic can also be used such as garlic sprouts which are immature garlic harvested early and look a bit like spring onions and have a more mild flavour. Scapes (flower stems) can be fried particularly good in stir fries. The creole type are less fibrous making them ideal for scape pesto while marbled purple stripe and porcelain have thick scapes and are well-suited for grilling.
Bulbils can be eaten unpeeled and raw and different types have varying skin thickness and heat profiles. They can be used to spice up a dish or sprinkled on cooked meal which adds a mild garlic flavour to pizzas. They also work for salads or other foods as a seasoning. Garlic rounds (uncloved bulbs) can also be used in the same manner as cloves.
Each garlic group has different flavour characteristics.
Turban's are a fresh eating garlic usually used raw in salads and dips since they are less oily, the flavour is destroyed and muted during cooking. Eaten raw they have a crisp savoury flavour, if sautéed they offer a nutty flavour while roasted are sweet, nutty with a caramelised flavour.
Asiatic are best cooked in a stirfry or sautéed with a lasting strong nutty flavour offering good heat.
Creole garlic generally has a hot, sweet and nutty flavour and these purple stripe garlic are also full bodied garlics. The are best sautéed, slow cooked or roasted, with a gentle sauté retaining heat, while more nuttier when crisp.
The softneck garlics (silverskin and artichoke) generally are more simple to the palate and have a lack of depth of flavour and more vegetative character compared to the hardneck types. They are great for using in sweet dishes like Italian tomato receipes as they cut through the sweetness of the meal. These softneck garlics are best sautéed or slow cooked.
The purple stripes of Standard Purple Stripe, Marbled Purple Stripe and Glazed Purple Stripe have an excellent taste and not as sweet as Rocambole. Some people prefer them over the sweeter types as their flavours are intense and complex. Glazed purple stripe is best eaten raw or in a stirfry. Standard purple stripe and glazed purple stripe are best sautéed, slow cooked or roasted to increase their flavours and increase caramelisation.
Porcelains are best sautéed, slow cooked or roasted which softens their heat and brings out their richness.
Rocambole garlic is considered to have the supreme garlic taste and is a favorite of chefs with its rich, complex and sweet flavours. It has a buttery and creamy texture which coats the mouth much like garlic butter. They are very versatile and can be used raw, sauté, slow cooked and roasted which some chefs describe as earthy, floral and certainly creamy.
The colder the climate in which the garlic is grown the hotter the garlic tends to taste. Surprisingly, small bulbs well-grown in poor soils can be the best tasting and storing garlic.
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