While its name may hint at an out-of-this-world quality, its bulbs actually deliver on that promise.
Persian Star Garlic is one of the most unique varieties of the much-beloved plant, used for everything from delivering unmistakable flavor to delivering us from illness. And it’s a type of garlic that’s definitely worth knowing a little more about.
Where Is Persian Star Garlic From?
In this case, the garlic variety’s name may actually lead us astray—but not too far.
Persian Star Garlic was first discovered at a bazaar in Uzbekistan, a country resting just East of the traditional Persian Empire boundaries. Indeed, the Middle East is where garlic is believed to have originated, though native varieties do sprout up on every continent outside of Antarctica.
The person credited with bringing Persian Star Garlic to the attention of the world at large is intrepid horticulturalist John Swenson, who purportedly spotted the unique bulbs at a market in the town of Samarkand. But that’s only where Persian Star’s international story begins.
The garlic breed is actually considered an heirloom variety, meaning its roots go much deeper than its 1989 global debut.
As the name may suggest, “heirloom” plants have long histories, and while there’s all sorts of debate over the exact timelines, most horticultural historians agree that the moniker is meant for fruits and veggie varieties that first sprouted up before World War II.
Heirloom varieties also have the distinction of sprouting from “open pollination” methods. This means the plants—and Mother Nature at large—are responsible for generating their own offspring, with no outside human input.
Heirloom seeds come naturally from self-pollination or from processes that involve other pollinators, such as birds or bees. This typically results in offspring that’s “true-to-type,” or a close facsimile to their parent plants, meaning the same types of qualities can be enjoyed for generations.
It also means that, despite its exotic origin story, the Persian Star Garlic variety probably got its true start in someone’s humble homegrown garden.
What Type of Garlic Is Persian Star Garlic?
This is where things get a bit more technical.
Aside from officially being considered an heirloom variety of garlic, Persian Star Garlic is also known as a hardneck type of garlic.
Most wild and heirloom varieties of garlic carry this distinction, which refers to the stem, or “neck,” of the garlic clove. As the name suggests, hardneck varieties have a harder neck, which also reduces the number of cloves any given bulb of garlic is able to readily sprout.
This compared to the softneck varieties, which essentially have no solid neck, allowing for a practically unlimited number of cloves to branch off of one plant.
Since hardneck cloves get a majority of their nutrition through the hard stem, these varieties don’t store for as long as softnecks, with shelf-lives as short as 3 months, compared to nearly a year for some softneck varieties.
But it’s not all bad in hardneck land. Their bulbs are famously far easier to unwrap from their tricky sticky outer cover than softneck varieties of garlic. (Ask anyone with an interest in cooking: Peeling garlic is one of the worst kitchen tasks.)
And aside from the water and nutrients needed to grow, their hard stems also deliver a number of other minerals found in the soil. This makes hardnecks much more susceptible to their geographic location, with anything from soil type to climate and weather patterns having an impact on their outcome.
Gloriously, this typically leads to a much more complex and varied flavor than your garden variety softneck garlic, and that’s especially the case when it comes to the Persian Star.
What Does Persian Star Garlic Taste Like?
When it comes to taste, texture, and even color, Persian Star Garlic stands out from the crowd.
You’ll see the difference before you get the chance to taste it. While Persian Star Garlic is on the average side of garlic bulb size, the variety comes painted in purple and white stripes so beautiful you may not even want to unwrap a clove.
And underneath its pretty exteriors, this type of garlic continues to impress. Persian Star Garlic is noted for its deeply rich and sweeter-than-usual flavor, which its bulbs will hold on to even after being sautéed or roasted. (Indeed, many chefs believe roasting this variety is one of the best ways to enjoy its unique flavor.)
And good news for those with less appetite for spice: The Persian Star is much milder than many of its more garlicy cousins, delivering more sweetness than the plant’s patented zing.
John Swenson may have thought he discovered a rare and interesting form of garlic in that bazaar, but as far as we’re concerned, he came home with a form of purple gold.