Garlic comes in many varieties. The two main categories are hardnecks (Ophioscorodon), which have a hard central stalk, and softnecks (Sativum), which have flexible stems. The Ophioscorodon family includes the Purple Stripe, Rocambole and Porcelain types; the Sativum family includes the Artichoke, Silverskin and Creole types. Some garlic varieties are better eaten raw, while others are better roasted. Choosing a garlic bulb with the best flavour can make the difference between a good meal and a great meal. Read on for tips about which garlic bulbs have the best flavour.
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Among hardneck garlics, Purple Stripe varieties typically have rich flavours without being hot. Bob Anderson, of Gourmet Garlic Gardens, says the Chesnok Red is a "full-flavoured garlic with a mellow aftertaste." Skuri #2 is a very strong-flavoured Purple Stripe garlic, while Siberian is very mild. Chesnok Red and Persian Star make some of the sweetest roasted garlic. They are so sweet when roasted that Anderson says, "You can add roasted Purple Stripe garlic to vanilla ice cream and refreeze it and it will have the taste and texture of butter brickle ice cream." Metechi and Bogatyr are some of the hottest Purple Stripe garlics, and they have a lingering, warm aftertaste.
Rocambole garlics are highly prized for their strong, rich, very deep flavour. Anderson says they have "an earthy muskiness." Rocamboles are hot garlics--particularly hot varieties are Korean Red, Amish Rocambole and Spanish Roja, while particularly rich Rocamboles include German Red and Killarney Red. Carpathian, Purple Italian and Italian Easy Peel are also Rocamboles.
Porcelain garlics are hot, strong, musky richly flavoured garlics. Georgia Crystal and Music are mellower Porcelains. Romanian red, Georgian Fire, Zemo, German Stiffneck, German White, Northern White and Polish Hardneck are all very strong, robust garlics with an aftertaste. Rosewood and Wild Buff are very strong and can be overpowering.
Artichoke garlic is the type that appears in your local supermarket. According to Anderson, most processed garlic at the grocery store is California Early, and most of the garlic bulbs are California Late. Red Toch, a mild garlic, and Siciliano, a zestier variety, are great raw, such as in salsa or pesto. Award-winning Inchelium Red is medium-garlicky and medium-hot and is one of the most popular Artichoke garlics for home gardeners. Simoneti, Red Toch, Chet's Italian Red and Applegate are very mild; Anderson recommends Simoneti for people whose stomachs are irritated by stronger garlic.
Silverskin garlics are the bulbs that are easiest to braid together, and Anderson says you can store them longer than other garlics. They are usually hot and strong. Nootka Rose has burgundy-coloured cloves and a full flavour; Anderson calls S & H Silverskin "rich and musky, but not hot." Rose du Var is a bold, strong, visually appealing French Silverskin.
Creole garlics have a rich, full flavour but are not hot, making them some of the best garlics for raw eating, according to Anderson. Burgundy has a rich and full, but mild, flavour; Ajo Rojo is similar but a bit hotter. Creole Red is garlicky, earthy and medium-hot. Cuban Purple and Germinador are very rich and garlicky but have little or no heat, so they are great raw. Rose du Lautrec, a French variety, is medium-hot and more robust than Germinador. Rose du Lautrec is loved for its unique flavour, which Anderson describes as "a deep sort of muskiness but with an influence of dijon mustard or a hint of horseradish."
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