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Let’s be real: Does anyone actually listen to a recipe when it calls for one clove of garlic?
We’re not sure who’s cooking this stuff up – but it sure isn’t us!
When it comes to the stinky stuff, our philosophy is a resounding “More is more!” And thankfully, there’s more than a few types of garlic out there to punch up our recipes – and spice up our lives.
The Spice of Life
From flavoring our foods to helping our blood pressure, garlic truly is a jack of all trades. But not many people realize how varied garlic can be.
While it’s thought that Allium sativum is native to the Middle East, forms of wild garlic grow all over the world. As such, it’s become a bedrock in many recipes from any number of cultures, whether appearing as fresh garlic, chopped up garlic cloves, garlic oil or some other form of garlic extract.
But nearly equal to its variety of uses is the variety of types of garlic out there, with hundreds of cultivars sprouting up on every continent outside of Antarctica. (Just imagine how much garlic bread we could make with all those precious plants!)
A Texture for All Tastes
Generally, garlic can be classified in one of two categories: Hardneck or Softneck.
Hardneck varieties are typically grown in colder climates, taking a longer time to mature and sprouting from a hard stem, resulting in anywhere from four to 12 garlic bulbs.
Softnecks are a bit easier to cultivate and have no such stem, giving them room to accommodate any number of garlic cloves – which is why these are typically the type of garlic you’ll find at the grocery store.
And while both hardnecks and softnecks include the much-loved and feared allicin – the chemical compound responsible for garlic’s unique odor and most of its health benefits, which range anywhere from helping with the common cold to keeping cholesterol levels low – within those broad categories lies a whole rainbow of wonderful differences.
That includes the appearance of varietals like:
Chesnok Red Garlic
This type of hardneck garlic originated in the Republic of Georgia, and is routinely rated one of the best types of garlic for baking or roasting. (Thanks again, allicin!)
Its beautiful purple stripes typically paint around 8 or 10 garlic cloves – but if you’re not a fan of the color, don’t worry. Chesnok Reds are also notoriously easy to peel.
Inchelium Red Garlic
A softback variety, these garlic bulbs sport a purple blotchy color – and an unbelievable taste.
Inchelium Reds were originally developed on the Colville Indian Reservation in Washington State, but with its large cloves’ tendency to grow smaller garlic cloves inside of them, peeling one might seem a bit more like playing with a Russian nesting doll.
We told you there was a rainbow of garlic varieties!
This colorful cultivar is a bit of a mystery, with no one quite sure of its true origins. But one thing everyone can agree on is its truly enigmatic taste.
A bit of fermentation and dehydration is responsible for giving this type of garlic its unique color, texture – a bit chewy and gummy, like a dried fruit – and flavor profile, which has been described as everything from bitter to sweet to umami to, perhaps most appropriately, je ne sais quoi.
Like the Creole culture itself, this type of garlic is in a category all its own.
Neither softneck nor hardneck, Creole garlic sport a tight clutch of up to 12 garlic bulbs robed in a beautiful deep purple-red skin. And like much else about Creole cooking, these cloves pack some serious heat. (Wonderful allicin strikes again!)
If you like garlic but aren’t completely sold on the smell, this mild softneck variety might be for you.
Susanville garlic was first developed in Northern California but is a fan of cold-weather climates generally – which makes it even more magical that this is one of the best types of garlic for roasting. What’s better than a hot oven on a cold night?
Lorz Italian Garlic
If the name didn’t already give it away, this type of softneck garlic is a classic favorite of Italian chefs. (In fact, it was an Italian family that first brought this variety to America, after deciding they simply couldn’t live without it.)
Its robust bold and spicy flavor may contribute to that devotion, with a taste said to linger long after the plate has been scraped clean.
Purple Glazer Garlic
These garlic cloves come in a royal purple – and with a taste fit for a queen.
But it’s not just what’s on the outside that counts. Renowned as one of the best types of garlic for baking out there, Purple Glazers have a wonderful lasting taste that makes a statement without being too piquant. And these garlic bulbs are also particularly easy to peel – if you ever want to rid them of their beautiful purple shells.
Early Italian Purple Garlic
Originating from – you guessed it! – Italy, this softneck variety rocks an almost tie-dye pattern of white and purple on the outside.
On the inside, it’s all classic garlic, sporting as many as 20 off-white garlic cloves, bursting with all that allicin-induced flavor, smell and goodness. Bonus: Early Italian Purples are one of the best garlics to store, lasting up to 10 months (with proper curing) after being plucked from the earth.
Persian Star Garlic
This hardneck varietal actually got its start in Uzbekistan – a bit outside of the traditional Persian Empire – but even with a slightly deceptive name, we can’t help but love this type of garlic.
Persian Stars pack less of a punch than their garlicky siblings when it comes to heat, but they’re no less tasty for it, rocking a mild, delicate flavor that makes these garlic cloves perfect for eating raw – or roasting for a sweeter taste.
But whether you prefer your garlic roasted or baked, chopped pureed, made into oil – or just prefer to take a bit bite of raw garlic, there’s nearly no way to go wrong with this superfood.