Artichoke Garlic
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There are two major types of Garlic subspecies in the world: Soft-Neck Garlic (A. sativum sativum), sometimes called Braiding Garlic, Common Garlic or Italian Garlic and Hard-Neck Garlic (Allium sativum ophioscorodon). The major, botanical difference between the two is whether the particular Garlic forms a hard flower stalk (Garlic Scape) or not. In the kitchen, the differences are in flavor, shelf life, and clove size.  Softneck Garlics tend to have smaller, more numerous Garlic Cloves that have a hotter, straight forward flavor. They have the reputation of lacking some of the taste complexity found in Hard Neck Garlics.

Soft Neck Garlic gets its name from the creamy white, multilayered sheath, or “paper,” that covers the entire bulb, up to the neck, where it forms a soft, pliable stalk that is suitable for braiding. The outermost layer of Soft Neck cloves will be the largest. As the cloves get closer to the center of the bulb, they become smaller and more pungent. 

Softneck Garlics are further broken down into two major categories: Silverskin Garlics (they have a smooth, silver-white, parchment-like sheath) and Artichoke Garlics where the overlapping cloves, contained in a coarse, thick sheath, resemble the leaves of an Artichoke and make for an outsized, lumpy bulb. Artichoke Garlics can contain 12-20 cloves in 3-5 layers. The outer cloves tend to be irregularly shaped but fatter and rounder than the inner cloves.

Season

Artichoke Garlics are a mid-season Garlic. Depending on the variety of Artichoke Garlic, the bulbs are harvested in early to mid-Summer. Artichoke Garlic does store well though, up to 10 months once cured, and is not really thought of as a seasonal Aromatic.

Availability

Because it can be cured and stored, fresh Artichoke Garlics are available all year long. It is also available in many different forms (see Purchasing).

Cultivation

Artichoke Garlic variants are very vigorous plants. They are shorter than Hardneck Garlics and have a tendency to spread. Their leaves are also wider than many other Garlics.

Artichoke Garlic “heads” or bulbs are larger and often irregularly-shaped or lumpy. They grow underground and are made up of sections called cloves which are encased in a paper-like membrane and which are basically a unique, miniature, self-contained plant. Because modern, domesticated Artichoke Garlic reproduces “vegatatively,” this means that each Garlic clove is essentially a seed.

A single bulb can produce many Garlic plants but we strongly advise against popping a few of the Garlic cloves leftover from your last meal into the garden. The primary reason is that the grocery store Garlic may be the wrong type for your area. Different strains of Garlic are better suited to different climates. Artichoke Garlic, like most Softneck Garlic, does better in milder climates.

The secondary reason is that the store bought Garlic may have been treated with various agents that reduce fertility in an effort to improve its looks or shelf life (see Production). If you plan to grow your own Garlic, consult with a local nursery (or mail order seed house) about what types grow best in your region.

With your type selected, planting just before the first cold snaps in October is recommended for most Garlic in North America. Plant the Garlic clove pointy side pointing up. It is possible to plant Garlic in the late winter as soon as the ground can be worked, but the bulbs tend to be bigger and more flavorful if they spend the whole winter in the cold ground. 

Properly harvesting your Artichoke Garlic anywhere from the early summer to mid-summer is a matter of timing. Harvest too early and the Garlic cloves will be underdeveloped and small (useable but not as savory as possible). Harvest too late and the over-ripened bulbs will start to dry out in the soil and will loosen as they cure (also useable, but they won’t store as long or as well).

How to get it right? Each Artichoke Garlic type has a preferred growing period and will mature at different rates depending on your area, the weather, the soil, etc. Unlike other vegetables and fruits almost all of the growing “action” takes place underground and out of sight, leaving us blind as to their progress.

Strange as it may seem, the number of leaves on the plant stem, corresponds to the number of layers of protective paper wrapped around a Garlic Bulb. Watching the health of the leaves indicates how the bulb is doing down below. When roughly half of the leaves have died off and gone brown (they die from the bottom up) and half are still green that means you are about a week away from harvesting. At this point, stop watering and use the week to dry out the ground so that rot is minimized and the digging is easier.

Just like we use Visual Clues and various tests to check for doneness in the kitchen. It's a good idea to peek in on your growing Artichoke Garlic, before committing to bringing them forth. You can do so by gingerly digging around the top of the bulb(s) without damaging them and peeking to check their size and formation. If the Garlic bulb is too small, pat the soil back down and wait a few days before you check again. No harm. No foul. If the Garlic bulb looks sizeable with a tight paper wrapper and nicely shaped cloves, you are good to go.

When you are ready to harvest your handiwork, loosen the soil around the base of each plant carefully. Gently, pull out the bulbs by the “neck” with the stalk attached. Softly, knock off any clinging dirt but try to keep everything (bulb, cloves, wrapper, leaves, etc.) intact. The bulb will continue to receive sustenance (and some anti-fungal & pest protection) from the plant material until all of the moisture evaporates. Work carefully to avoid bruising the Garlic. Also, don’t worry if some dirt remains, it won’t hurt the Garlic during the curing process and washing them won’t help them dry out.

If you are excited to sample some of your Artichoke Garlic fresh from the garden, go ahead and use some of your harvest right away (see Culinary Uses). For the bulk of your crop, you may want to cure it before storing it for later use (see Production).

Planting Garlic has its obvious benefits but it is also a good companion plant for your garden because it can act as an insect repellent. Garlic is an insecticide. Conventional agribusiness farmers are also starting to use Garlic as a pesticide against aphids, thrips and even difficult pests such as bollworms and certain nematodes. Environmental friendly Garlic sprays are usually combined with an oil to make them stickier so they adhere to leaves.

Set aside your most beautiful heads of Artichoke Garlic and those with the biggest cloves to use as your seed stock, for the following season.

Production

Artichoke Garlic is ready for harvest when the tops become partly dry and start bending towards the ground. Fresh Garlic was traditionally harvested by hand because Garlic bulbs are sensitive to impact, and can break up easily. Squishing, bruising, or otherwise damaging, the Garlic bulb during harvest, curing or storage can allow rot to set in and leave the product too blemished for the grocer’s produce section.

Once the Garlic is harvested, depending on how it will be prepared for market, it can be cured, broken into cloves and peeled, or dehydrated. If the commercial Garlic bulbs are to be broken into cloves and peeled instead of being stored for sale as Fresh Garlic, they are usually transported to another workspace where compressed air is used to separate the cloves and peel them. Peeled Garlic is one of the biggest sellers in the category.

If they are to be cured, commercial Garlic is usually left in the fields in its natural state (windrowed) for a day or two before being put into bags or bins for final curing in a curing shed. Curing in a shed protects the Garlic from hot sun and bright light, which can lead to sun scald and greening.

Essentially, curing Garlic involves dehydrating it, the old fashioned way, in a shady, airy, dry place. If you have seen those quaint Garlic braids, they are plaited while some of the leaves are still green and pliable, and left to hang in a dry shady spot to cure the Garlic. By the way, braiding only works with Softneck Garlic.

At home, braiding would be a nice touch but you don’t have to go old school and get ornamental to cure your own Garlic. You could tie the tops of five or ten stalks together and hang them bulb-side down in a dry, shady, cool, well-ventilated place. Under a tree or on a porch would work. You could also hang them in a mesh bag, woven basket or potato sack. Even laying them out individually on a screen would work, as long as the container is breathable and the environment stays dry. A shady place is important because Garlic can get sunburned (and lose flavor as it is cooked by the sun). Ventilation is important so that the circulating air prevents mold and rot.

In a month, or maybe two, the brown roots will be dry and bristly, there will be several layers of papery wrapper and the whole stalk will be totally dry and brown. The Garlic is ready for cleaning and storage. Commercially, the tops may be removed by propane flaming and then flailing.

To clean up the garlic for storage, you would trim off the roots and leaves so they are only ¼ inch or ½ inch long. More dirt will dislodge and a couple extra layers of bulb wrappers may flake off, giving you a nice and neatly packaged bulb. Remember not to remove too many wrappers in case you expose the cloves.

Today, due to a combination of market forces and product mix, mechanical harvesters (often as simple as a Potato Digger) are more widely used by domestic producers, as are automated scales, packaging lines, etc. The machines help combat Chinese competition by lowering costs but more blemished bulbs result. To improve their yield, domestic farmers had to rethink their product offering, which lead to selling jars of pre-minced Garlic where bruising and blemishes are not an issue. The jars of prepped Garlic have a higher perceived value and thus a higher price point, making them a better product.

The list of potential production problems surrounding commercial Garlic is long because about half of our Garlic comes from China where their farming rules (and oversight) are less stringent than our own. Europe does not, as of this writing, accept imported Chinese Garlic but the U.S., Canada and Australia do. Potential problems with foreign garlic include: Food Irradiation, bleaching with chlorine, sanitizing with Methyl Bromide, etc.

Across the board, we don’t want any of these techniques (used for extending shelf live and reducing pests and Pathogens) impacting the Garlic we use. Because the truth of foreign practices and oversight is so murky, we choose to just avoid imported Garlic all together. Buying domestic and organic is your best bet.

Varieties

There are many types of Artichoke Garlics, with new ones being bred all of the time. Some of Artichoke Garlics include: Serbian Mali Garlic (medium strength), Thermadrone Garlic (medium strength), Red Toch Garlic (mild), Siciliano Garlic, Early Italian Red Garlic, Applegate Garlic, Inchelium Red Garlic (mild), Italian Late Garlic, Kettle River Giant Garlic (medium strength), Lorz Italian Artichoke Garlic, Transylvanian Artichoke, Chinese Purple Artichoke, Sicilian Gold Garlic, Viola Francese Garlic, Ann’s Italian Artichoke, Atwater Garlic, Mount Currie Garlic, Formidable Garlic, Susanville Garlic, etc.

The thing to remember is that each type will have a slightly different flavor and you may want to experiment until you find a variety that is just right for you. Since we all have different body chemistry, it’s not surprising that we all prefer different types of Garlic.

Purchasing

When buying fresh Artichoke Garlic, look for bulbs with firm, plump cloves.  They should have plenty of papery sheath surrounding them. They may be a little lumpy and irregular looking. That is OK. The irregular shape is caused by the arrangement of the cloves which look like the leaves of an Artichoke.

If the cloves appear soft, crumbly, spongy or shriveled we would pass. We would also avoid any that are brownish, have black powder (mildew), appear dried out or have green shoots sprouting out of them.

The elephant, or “Elephant Garlic,” in the room, when discussing purchasing fresh Garlic, is “Country of Origin.” 138 million pounds (62,595,747 kg), more than fifty percent of our domestic Garlic consumption, is imported product from China.  If you don’t recall any of the news stories about tainted baby formula, adulterated pet food, etc. let’s just say that China has a different point of view than ours when it comes to food safety. Even “organic” Garlic is often from China, where the People’s Republic’s standards are the ones that count towards organic certification. 

Not to be alarmist but there have been reports of Chinese Garlic producers using all of the following: Food Irradiation, chemical and hormonal growth inhibitors, chlorine bleaching, fumigating with Methyl Bromide, etc. We don’t want ANY of these techniques impacting the Garlic we use. Because the truth of foreign practices and oversight is so murky, we choose to just avoid imported Chinese Garlic all together. Buying domestic AND organic is your best bet. In fact, the whole continent of Europe agrees with us and does not, as of this writing, accept imported Chinese Garlic at all.

The quick check list for determining if the fresh Garlic that you are reaching for is a domestic product or imported Chinese product includes:

·         Country of Origin Label

·         The Absence of Bristly Root Material

·         The Weight

·         The Flavor

·         Uniformity of Perfectly White Color

·         The Brand/Reputation

In a perfect world, just looking at the Country of Origin label would answer this question. If it said “Product of USA” it would be a domestic product. In the real world, the label can be “gamed.” There is such a disparity in pricing between China and America that a lot of unscrupulous importers have an incentive to skirt American rules and get their Chinese product into the U.S. often re-labeled as domestic produce. In fact, in 2013 the Customs and Border Protection Service estimated that Chinese firms had accumulated roughly $541 million in unpaid penalties for mislabeled, imported Garlic.

If we can’t completely trust the Country of Origin Label, we have to work our way down the list. The next most helpful clue is the presence (or absence) of bristly root material.

According to Bill Christopher, the president and CEO of Christopher Ranch, the largest domestic garlic producer, “In Chinese Garlic they cut the root plate off flat, with no brush.” They do so to speed up the drying process and to prevent any bit of potentially infested Chinese soil from clinging to the Garlic Bulb which will be exported. Ostensibly each imported Garlic bulb is inspected by U.S. Customs for any clinging, potentially infested soil. Domestic producers don’t have to worry about the soil so they can leave a little bit of “brush” on their Garlic.

That being said, the presence of a little brush is not proof positive of the origins of a particular Garlic bulb. Some imported Chinese Garlic might have a bit of brush. Though unlikely, it is possible. After the label, and the presence of some brush, check the heft of the Garlic and its aroma. American Garlic is denser and heavier than Chinese Garlic. It is also more aromatic and flavorful, with a higher Brix flavor score, scientifically tested at 40 out of 40 by the National Food Laboratories. Chinese Garlics tested only scored 28 out of 40.

If the Garlic in question comes from a pile of perfectly white, perfectly shaped Garlic we would also be suspicious. Domestic Garlic producers don’t bleach their product so there will be some variation in color between individual Garlic specimens.

Raw, less-fresh Garlic can also be bought in glass or plastic jars in various convenient, “pre-prepped” forms such as: Peeled Garlic, Chopped Garlic, Minced Garlic, Puréed Garlic, etc. The obvious benefit is the labor and time saved. The potential problems are flavor and texture.

With Raw Garlic purchasing covered, we have to point out that 75% of the Garlic used in America (including imported Chinese Garlic) goes into all of the ancillary Garlic products and forms and is often used as an ingredient in processed foods or in food service. More than ever, today there are a host of choices about how to purchase your Garlic. Some of the alternative forms include: Dehydrated Garlic, Garlic Salt, Garlic Flakes, Garlic Powder, Instant Garlic, Garlic ExtractGarlic Juice, Garlic Bread, Garlic Butter, etc.

Storage

Store fresh Artichoke Garlic bulbs unwrapped at room temperature in a cool, dry, well-ventilated place like your pantry. Sunlight, except for strong direct sunlight which can scorch Garlic, is not much of a consideration. You should store your Garlic away from other foods. The Garlic’s aroma can cloud the taste of its stored neighbors.

We like to hold our Artichoke Garlic in mesh bags, but you can use anything that breaths like a paper bag or even a terra cotta pot. If you want to get technical, the ideal storage conditions will be between 55° F and 65° F with good air circulation and only around 60% humidity. Be mindful of the humidity. Too much moisture can cause fungus and mold. Too little moisture can cause the Artichoke Garlic to dry out. Artichoke Garlics are the longest lasting in storage and can keep up to a year from the time they are harvested and cured. How long they last for you is dependent on how long they have been in storage before coming to retail. 

Our working rule of thumb is that, properly stored, whole Artichoke Garlic bulbs can be kept up to 10 weeks, though they will begin to dry out toward the end of that time. Once broken down from a bulb, the individual Garlic cloves will keep refrigerated for a week to 10 days.

The refrigerator is not the best choice for storing fresh Garlic bulbs, because the moisture in the refrigerator can cause the Garlic bulb to sprout. The pungent Garlic can also infuse other food items with its scent. We purposefully use the word “bulb” throughout because keeping the bulb together helps keep the Garlic cloves fresher longer.

There are a few good ways to freeze Garlic. One is to Chop the Garlic, wrap it tightly in a plastic freezer bag or in plastic wrap, and freeze.

Culinary Uses

Artichoke Garlics are used like normal Garlic, except that their cloves are a bit larger and their flavor is milder.

Though we tend to think of Garlic as a Spice, Seasoning or Condiment, it is technically a Vegetable, one that is used, principally, to augment and enhance other foods. Because Garlic pairs very favorably with so many other ingredients (Tomato & Olive Oil for example), Garlic is one of the most widely used Vegetables in the kitchen.

Flavoring Vegetables like Garlic are called Aromatics (so are Herbs, Spices, Wines, VinegarsZests and anything that boosts a dish’s flavor). Ironically, Garlic Bulbs don’t have much scent sitting on the shelf. Garlic only starts to smell once the cell walls are ruptured and the Garlic’s sulfur compounds are released by being bruised, cut or crushed.

Releasing the flavor compounds is the reason why we almost always Peel Garlic for use and then break it down to release the flavor. Crushing the Garlic or Pressing also expands the surface area and helps release the Garlic’s healthful nutrients.

Each Artichoke Garlic Bulb is made up of a number of Garlic Cloves (typically 8-10), which are the basic units of Garlic use. The major exception, when Garlic doesn’t need to be peeled, is when we bake or Roast Garlic and sometimes simplicity is best.

Garlic is used both Raw and cooked. Raw Garlic has a very pungent, hot, bitter/spicy taste that can pack a sulfuric, allium punch. Even if you love Garlic, it may still be a lot in its natural state.

The traditional method of managing the bite is to use appropriate cooking techniques to cook the Garlic. Cooking heat mellows the clove’s sulfurous compounds and makes the Garlic taste much sweeter. The longer the Garlic cooks the milder the flavor will be.

Secondary methods to manage the bite include clove size and clove preparation. Larger cloves are typically milder than smaller cloves.  Choosing larger cloves for your dish will yield less heat when it is served. Different Varieties of Garlic also have differing levels of heat.

If you want as much assertive Garlic flavor as possible, release the Garlic’s Volatile Oils before use by crushing, bruising, Chopping, Mincing, Puréeing, etc. the cloves. This will cause them to have a sharper, more aggressive flavor than either neat slices or whole cloves.

On Smart Kitchen’s Home Plate Artichoke Garlic is: Raw, Tough, Thin, Dry, & Lean. We consider Garlic “Raw,” because it is safe to eat raw. It is “Tough,” because it has density and texture to it. It is “Thin,” because a Garlic Clove is usually under an inch and a half tall (3.8 cm). We consider it “Dry,” because Garlic is about 60% water which is decent in nature but considered “dry” in the kitchen. Finally, Garlic is considered “Lean,” because it is only 0.15% Fat. In Smart Kitchen’s Home Plate™ shorthand, Garlic would be (R, T2, T3, D, L).

Dry Heat Cooking Methods, usually with Fat Added, are preferred when cooking Garlic because the Dry Heat allows the Garlic to Caramelize and for the Maillard Reaction to begin. Garlic cooked with a Dry Heat Method such as Roasting Garlic works as a standalone dish, or turns a good ingredient into a great one, adding a smooth, rich, nutty, allium taste to other items such as Sauces, Soups, Stews, Salad Dressings, etc. Overcooking, always a bad plan, is worse with Garlic because too much heat destroys the delicate compounds that give it its nutritional properties. Cooking it lightly is the best advice. Roasting Garlic, Baking it or Stir Frying it will protect the nutrients.

Moist Heat Methods don’t showcase Garlic the same way which is why chefs don’t spend a lot of time regularly steaming, poaching or boiling Garlic. If you do plan to Stew the Artichoke Garlic, you can add it near the end of the regular cook time to protect its healthful qualities.

Fresh Garlic’s unique flavor is one of the main reasons why it is widely used in so many different cuisines, but is especially associated with Italian Cuisine, French Cuisine, Spanish Cuisine, Mediterranean Cuisine, Caribbean Cuisine, Indian Cuisine, Asian Cuisine, Mexican Cuisine and South American Cuisine.  Its uses in cooking are so varied as to be nearly impossible to list here, but some recipes you might be familiar with that use Garlic are Aioli, Tzatziki, Pesto Sauce, Roasted Garlic Mashed Potatoes, Hummus, Skordalia, Tomato Sauce, Stir Fry’s, Pickled Garlic (another of the uses where it stands alone), etc.

Garlic is also used liberally to flavor and augment Meats like Beef, Pork, and Chicken, Sausages, Soups, Stews, Sauces, Salad Dressings, Stuffing, Legumes, Rice, Vegetables, and even Desserts.

Cloves of fresh Garlic may be the best option according to chefs everywhere, but it is not the only option. Garlic comes jarred in many convenient forms, including Peeled, Chopped, Minced, etc. The obvious benefit is convenience. The less obvious drawback is the deterioration in flavor experienced by many discerning palates.

The Garlic Bulb isn’t the only part of the Artichoke Garlic plant that is edible. The Garlic Flower is edible, as is the stalk, also known as the Garlic Scape. Even the Green Garlic (the leaves) is edible. 

Smart Kitchen has a number of exercises and recipes that use fresh Garlic including: Peeling GarlicMincing GarlicPureeing GarlicRoasting GarlicRoasted Garlic Mashed PotatoesGarlic RiceRoast Chicken with Rosemary, Shallots and Garlic, Fettunta, Braised Round of Beef with Vegetables and Garlic Greens.

If you are not exactly a Garlic fan, but want to use a hint of Garlic Flavor, use Elephant Garlic. It is much milder than standard Garlic.

*When you cut, bruise, or crush a Garlic Clove, alliin (an odorless, sulfur-containing amino acid derivative) reacts with Alliinase (an enzyme) to form Allicin and other compounds. The Allicin breaks down into diallyl disulfide, which is the primary component of Garlic’s odor.

Portion Size

Allow 1-2  t of Artichoke Garlic per person.

Substitutes

If you are not exactly a Garlic fan, but want to find a hint of Garlic Flavor, use Elephant Garlic. It is much milder than standard Garlic.

Nutritional Value USDA
GARLIC,RAW
Amount Per 100g
Calories 149
%Daily Value*
 
0%
Total Fat 0g
0%
Saturated Fat 0g
Polyunsaturated Fat 0g
Monounsaturated Fat 0g
0%
Cholesterol 0mg
0%
Sodium 17mg
8%
Potassium 401mg
11%
Total Carbohydrate 33g
8%
Dietary Fiber 2g
Sugars 1g
Protein 6g
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your Daily Values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.
Gluten Free

Yes

Low Fat

Yes

Low Calorie

Yes