On Tuesday, July 24, 2018, we began a newsletter series on garlic which will span 8 newsletters in total, and by the end of this series you will have learned all you ever wanted to know (and then some) about garlic. For those of you who are about to click on the Unsubscribe Button, please don’t! The reason we are dedicating so much writing to garlic is that it can be grown almost anywhere in the US, it is easy, dependable and fascinating to grow, and it is one of the healthiest vegetables you can consume. In grocery stores and health food markets, you can only find a few different kinds of garlic, so it is best to grow your own.
The Porcelain and Turban horticultural groups of garlic were basically unknown in the US until very recently. They are both very distinctive, but for different reasons. They are both hardneck varieties, so it is essential to plant them in the fall.
The Porcelains can best be described with one word – impressive. The plants are huge, with incredibly thick stems up to 1 inch in diameter and statuesque. They can reach a height of 7 feet, but mine never have. My Porcelains are usually about 3 feet tall. You should probably leave more distance between these plants – 9 inches between cloves and 2 feet between rows.
Without a doubt, though, the most impressive characteristic of the Porcelains is their bulb size and their clove size. Bulbs can be nearly the size of a baseball, and the cloves can be the size of small eggs. They are simply gigantic. The bulbs wrappers are glistening white, hence the name ‘Porcelain’ and the clove wrappers vary from glistening white to buff with pink blushes.
Porcelains are the largest garlics under cultivation today. They also produce the highest yields of allicin, the compound credited with giving garlic its highly nutritional benefits. Each bulb usually has 3 to 6 cloves in a single layer. Because the bulbs produce so few cloves, they are very expensive to produce commercially which is why you will rarely see them at the grocery store or the farm stand. Their flavor can be strong when raw but becomes quite subtle when cooked. For a hardneck, this garlic type stores quite well, usually lasting 4-6 months.
Porcelains are among the most cold hardy of the garlic groups, but they, surprisingly, can tolerate warmer climates as well. During their spring growing season, they must have good moisture or their size will be significantly compromised.
Polish Hardneck (pictured above) came originally from an Ontario garlic grower, John Yovanov, but was collected by Rick Bangert of Idaho. The flavor is among the best of the Porcelains and the plants and bulbs and cloves can be huge. Polish Hardneck is also an excellent storer,