Spring Garlic is Here

Spring Garlic is Here
Posted February 23, 2012

Chef Mario of Cookin' the Market says, "I'm not a big fan of dishes that use way too much garlic in them. It tends to overpower other flavors. But spring garlic has a milder and sweeter taste, yet still retains that distinctive garlic flavor. Spring garlic is simply garlic that's pulled young and before it can form much of a bulb. It looks like a slightly overgrown scallion or green onion."

Garlic, Allium sativum, is a bulbous plant related to the onion, chive, and leek. Also nicknamed the “stinking rose,” garlic resembles the common onion in size and growth habit, but its leaves have thin, solid blades rather than the tubular hollow blades of the onion. The dry bulb produces segments called cloves  and they have a strong scent and flavor. These cloves can also be used for propagation. California produces most of the garlic grown commercially in the United States in three major garlic-producing areas—south San Joaquin Valley, the Gilroy / Hollister / Salinas Valley area, and the Imperial Valley. These areas produce 90% to 95% of the commercial garlic grown in California.

Garlic Varieties                                               
California Late:  It has smooth bulbs with pinkish brown cloves and is the predominant variety grown in the Salinas Valley and Hollister areas. It makes up slightly more than 50% of the garlic grown in California.

California Early:  It has rougher bulbs and  light tan cloves. A larger more vigorous plant, it yields better and matures 2 to 3 weeks earlier than California Late, hence the name. It is grown in the desert valleys, predominating in the southern San Joaquin Valley.

Creole: In California, this variety is grown exclusively in the Imperial and Palo Verde Valleys. It makes up less than 5% of acreage. The cloves are smaller and covered with deep purplish skin. 

Peeling Garlic Cloves Peeling whole cloves requires that the papery skin be removed without cutting into the clove. The skin can be removed by pressing the clove with the flat side of a knife until the clove and skin crack. The skin can then be removed.   

Freezing Garlic Garlic can be frozen in a number of ways. 1. Chop the garlic, wrap it tightly in a plastic freezer bag or in plastic wrap, and freeze. 2. Peel the cloves and pureé them with oil in a blender or food processor using 2 parts oil to 1 part garlic. The pureé will stay soft enough in the freezer to scrape out parts to use in sautéing. Freeze immediately - do not store it at room temperature. The combination of the low-acid garlic, storage at room-temperature and the exclusion of air (by mixing with oil), can support the growth of botulism.

Drying Garlic Dry only fresh, firm garlic cloves with no bruises. To prepare, separate and peel the cloves. Cut in half lengthwise. No additional pre-drying treatment is needed. Dry at 140°F for 2 hours, then reduce heat to 130°F until dry or crisp.

Fun Garlic Facts: Did you know that one clove of garlic is ten times stronger pushed through a garlic press than one clove minced fine with a sharp knife? Did you know that the Roman historian, Pliny, lists no less than sixty-one medicinal uses for garlic? A few fun facts are:

  • Vampires flee from it.
  • Will cure a cold.
  • Will cure warts.
  • Will stop fainting spells.
  • Improves the circulation.
  • Wards off the evil eye.
  • Will grow hair.
  • A restorative for failing masculine powers.
  • Alleviates high blood pressure.

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