Choosing the Right Garlic
Do you like it hot and spicy or mellow and sweet? Garlic expert, Penny Woodward shares her tips for choosing the right garlic for your cooking.Content information
- Jun 20, 2017
It is estimated that up to 100 hundred varieties of garlic (Allium sativum) are currently grown in Australia. No two garlic varieties are the same and each one has its own distinctive flavour. Garlic expert and author, Penny Woodward, says that ‘garlics are quite similar to chilli’s in that they can range from really hot to really mild, from simple to complex and from spicy to sweet’.
To help identify each cultivar, garlics are classified into eleven Groups with most Australian varieties falling into the Artichoke, Turban and Creole Groups. Known as the ‘workhorse’ of the garlic world, varieties from the Artichoke Group are generalised as having simple, vegetative flavours and moderate heat. There are some excellent Artichoke cultivars, particularly Italian Late and Italian Red. ‘As you chew the raw cloves of these garlics there is a hit of heat that can develop into spicy, fruity undertones,’ says Penny, making them ideal for salads and dips.
A firm favourite among cooks are garlics belonging to the Turban Group. These varieties have a shorter shelf life but are well worth it for their excellent flavour. ‘Turbans have lovely big cloves and can range from mild to quite hot. The heat tends to fade very quickly and then you’re left with strong, fresh, fruity flavours.’ Penny also recommends that Turbans are ‘fabulous roasted’.
If you like things hot and spicy the Creole Group is for you. Also sold as rose garlic they have beautiful, burgundy cloves which Penny likens to ‘unwrapping a Christmas present’. Importantly, Creole garlics can be stored for up to twelve months, allowing people to enjoy garlic right through until the next season. ‘Creoles are some of the hottest garlics and they have a real complexity as you hold them in your mouth. It is a sweet, true garlic flavour that lasts,’ says Penny.
Elephant garlic (also known as Russian garlic) is actually a close relative of the leek and not a true garlic. ‘For people who are unable to tolerate garlic this is a good option and it has a mild flavour somewhere between a garlic and a leek.’ They can be eaten raw, sliced into salads or cooked as a vegetable. To add to the confusion around the name, there is also a rare cultivar of true garlic called Russian garlic and this should not be confused with elephant garlic, which has much bigger bulbs and cloves, as well as true flowers that look like leek flowers. For more information on Groups and varieties of garlic visit australiangarlic.net.au.
There are over 20 garlic producers selling their deliciously diverse range of varieties through Farmhouse. Here are a few of our early season favourites to get you started.
Italian Purple - Turban Group
This garlic recently won a gold medal at the Royal Melbourne Show Fine Food Awards in 2016. Mid-strength in heat, this garlic has an excellent depth of flavour, best appreciated crushed and eaten raw in salads and on bruschetta. Best before April.
Buy Now. Katamatite Garlic Italian Purple
Spanish Roja and Roja - Creole Group
Have beautiful white bulbs with ruby coloured clove skins and a smaller bulb that packs a punch. Perfect in curries and dishes that could use some heat. Store for up to 12 months.
Master Jack - Turban Group
Is certified organic and has won a silver medal in the Australian Food Awards. Creamy, rich and nutty in flavour this variety has no sulphurous harshness or lingering aftertaste and makes sublime garlic butter. Store for around 3 months.
Buy Now. Tasmanian Gourmet Garlic Master Jack