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.
Few Americans have a great depth of understanding or knowledge of garlic. The garlic they encounter in the grocery store, usually California Select, or the braided garlics they purchase at harvest festivals are they garlics that they know. Americans who have frequented garlic festivals have a slightly broader knowledge, and when they think of Heirloom Garlic, they are reminded of the striking, purple streaked bulbs that belong to the Striped Garlic family of cultivars. In America, the Striped Garlics are synonymous with Heirloom Garlic.
The Striped Garlics comprise a numerous collection of cultivars which have been organized into three groups: Glazed Purple Stripe, Marbled Purple Stripe and Purple Stripe. The Purple Striped garlics are the most primitive of the striped groups. The Glazed Purple Stripe garlics are a distinct group of striped garlics not a subgroup of Purple Striped garlic. The Marbled Purple Stripe group, like the Glazed Purple Stripe garlics, is a distinct group of garlics not a subgroup of the Purple Striped garlics.
Purple Striped garlics are genetically closest to the origins of the garlic species. They are the ancestors of all the other garlic species. They are hardnecks. Unlike most other garlic cultivars available today, some Purple Striped garlic can produce viable ‘seed’ (bulbils) and these garlics evidence the greatest genetic diversity. All garlic species known today originated from the Purple Striped garlics.
Purple Striped garlics derive their name from the beautiful purple striping on the bulb wrappers and clove skins. The cloves are smaller than Rocamboles or Marbled Purple Stripes. The cloves are not difficult to peel, but their clove skins tightly wrap the cloves. This tightness protects the cloves and causes the Purple Striped garlics to last longer in storage.
It is important to know that Purple Striped cultivars must have their scapes removed as soon as they appear. Leaving the scapes on Purple Striped plants will dramatically compromise the size of the bulb.
Purple Striped garlics are among the finest culinary garlics we have. They possess magnificent flavor – strong, complex and richly garlicky. Generally, they are recognized as the best garlic for roasting.
|Chesnok Red, also known as Shvelisi, was collected in 1985 from the village of Shvelisi located in the southern Republic of Georgia. It is highly productive and when nurtured in the home garden can produce exceptionally large bulbs with exceptionally large cloves.
Chesnok Red is an extraordinary culinary garlic. It is best when sautéed, but also makes a great baking garlic, and when eaten raw in salad dressings, the flavor is memorable. In general, the cloves are arranged in a single layer around the stem, but in particularly large bulbs an inner layer of smaller cloves may develop.
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|Persian Star is also known as Samarkand. In 1989, it was found in a bazaar in Samarkand, Uzbekistan by the famed garlic collector, John Swenson. Though not long storing, this garlic has rich flavor similar to Chesnok Red. Throughout the US in Hardiness Zones 1-5, this garlic is a strong performer and reliable.
The Glazed Purple Striped Garlics, generally have larger cloves than the Purple Striped. Like the Purple Striped garlics, the Glazed Purple Striped garlics are hardnecks. The ‘glazed’ term comes from the look of the bulb wrappers which have a glazed, metallic appearance, silvery purple with occasional gold tones. The clove skins are shiny with a purple blush. Little genetic research has been done with this group, but what DNA evidence has been collected shows that there is a close genetic heritage shared by both the Glazed Purple Striped garlics and the Asiatic garlics.
|Purple Glazer was collected in 1986 at Mcadidzhvari near the town of Dusheti, Mtskhera-Mtianeti in the east central Republic of Georgia. Like Persian Star, this garlic is a very dependable producer across Hardiness Zones 1-5. The flavor is very good, but it stores like most hardnecks for no more than 6 months.|
|Red Rezan is a beautiful garlic, often with deep burgundy clove skins and satiny, glazed bulb wrappers. The flavor is very good, but mild. This garlic was collected in 1986 by Klaus Pistrick from Rezan, Russia, a town south of Moscow.
The most notable feature about the Marbled Purple Stripe garlics is their clove size. The cloves are the largest of the Striped garlics, but not as large as the Porcelains. However, the flavor is richer than the Porcelains, but not as rich as the Purple Striped. The scapes can be enormous – sometimes reaching to 6 feet.
Surprisingly, Marbled Purple Stripes store quite well AND do well in warmer climates. This is very unusual for the Striped garlics. Both of the Marbled Purple Striped garlics discussed in this newsletter have been grown for decades in Texas.
|Metechi is a conundrum from a flavor perspective. In some gardens it produces cloves with great heat. In others, the heat is mild. There does not appear to be a consistency of environments to explain the differences. For years, in the autumn, we would put on garlic tastings for our local customers. Metechi always won these tastings. Perhaps it was the lack of raw heat, perhaps something else.
This garlic, for a hardneck, produces very well in warmer climates. The bulb size is very large as is the clove size. In both northern and southern climates this is a very reliable garlic.
|Pskem is a wonderful garlic. The bulbs are not gigantic, but the cloves are very large, easy to peel and great to cook with. Raw, this garlic is hot, but the heat is lost when the garlic is cooked and its rich flavor then dominates.
Pskem was collected in 1989 by John Swenson, a name you have seen frequently mentioned in this series on garlic. Swenson found this garlic in the mountains lining the Pskem River Valley near Pskem, Uzbekistan. On this trip, he also found a garlic named Kitab about 250 miles from the Pskem location. The two garlics closely resemble each other and may be the same.
It is not entirely clear that Pskem is a Marbled Purple Stripe. It may be a Purple Stripe or somehow related to the Porcelains, but who cares. What we know is that it tastes good and is easy to cook with. In general, it can be relied upon to produce well year after year. What more could you want from a garlic?
Today we have discussed six Striped garlics, but there are many, many more. I suggest you try these over the years and many others. The Striped garlics are such a pleasure to grow and eat for many reasons. If you are going to grow garlic some striped cultivars should be a part of your collection.
|Saturday, August 25, 2018 we will finish The Garlic Chronicles with our 8th installment. The final newsletter in this series will look at the best storing garlic varieties – The Silverskins. This newsletter will also summarize how to plant, grow and harvest garlic grown in the backyard garden. We hope you have enjoyed this series and that each of you has learned something new about growing garlic.
All of the garlic varieties discussed in this newsletter are available on our website. Please visit our website and purchase some garlic for your garden. We sell out of garlic quickly, so if you are thinking about ordering, please do it soon.
|On Tuesday, August 21, 2018, Harvesting History will be at the Dutchess County Fair with seed garlic, Heirloom seeds, Heirloom Citrus Trees, plants and classic garden tools. Please make sure you come to visit our booth if you are planning to attend the fair. Like the NJ State Fair and Sussex County Horse Show, the Dutchess County Fair is an old fashion harvest fair with great exhibits and competitions. Events like this are rare today, so make the effort and attend. If nothing else, you will learn a lot.|
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