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.
Of the 10 garlic horticultural groups (Artichoke, Asiatic, Creole, Glazed Purple Stripe, Purple Striped, Marbled Purple Stripe, Porcelain, Rocambole, Silverskin, Turban), the Rocamboles are considered by many to be the best.
There are a number of secondary factors which contribute to the Rocamboles’ outstanding reputation, but the primary factor is their flavor. Raw, the Rocamboles have good, but not overpowering heat, but the heat is matched by the intensity and complexity of the flavor. Rocambole flavor is often described as sweet, and the cloves are incredibly fragrant. It is the fragrance that accentuates the sweet flavor. When raw garlic is called for as in salad dressings, Rocamboles should be the first choice. When cooked, the heat subsides, but does not disappear and the flavor remains intense and complex. There are a few (very few) cultivars from other garlic horticultural groups that have flavor equal to the Rocamboles, but there are none that surpass the Rocamboles in flavor.
Rocambole bulbs are generally medium sized. The cloves are medium sized and arranged in a single layer. Despite their smaller size when compared to garlics like the Porcelain group, Rocambole cloves are the easiest of the garlic groups to peel. The clove wrappers loosely fit the cloves. This makes the Rocambole cloves great for cooking.
The most significant negative about the Rocamboles is that they are notoriously poor storers. Usually, they last no more than 3 months, but despite their poor storage capability, they are worth growing.
Another significantly negative factor about Rocamboles is that they are not good for southern climates. They require an extended period of cold exposure (vernalization), and without it they do not develop.
The best known Rocambole garlic cultivars are German Red and German White. Throughout the Northern US, these two cultivars have been grown for decades. They are dependable producers with fairly large bulbs and cloves, but they cannot compare to the two Rocambole cultivars we are going to discuss in this newsletter.
|Ontario Purple Trillium (pictured above) is one of the earliest maturing of the Rocamboles, and in my garden it is the best tasting garlic that I raise. Raw, it is very hot, but it loses most of this heat when cooked. The flavor is unimaginably delicious. Just writing about it here in this newsletter makes my mouth water. The bulbs are average size, but the cloves are usually fatter than most Rocamboles. Each bulb contains 6-9 cloves.
Little is known about this garlic’s history. We believe it came from Canada and the ‘purple’ may refer to the clove wrappers, but ‘trillium’ is a mystery. There is no mystery, however, about its outstanding flavor. Ontario Purple Trillium is clearly the best of the best.
|Spanish Roja may very well deserve the title of the “Grande Dame of Garlic”. This Rocambole cultivar was introduced into the US via Portland, Oregon before 1900. It is also known as ‘Greek’ or ‘Greek Blue’. It has an exquisitely sweet, complex flavor that has earned for it the reputation for being the garlic by which all other garlic cultivars are judged.
In 2002, famed garlic collector, Chester Aaron, conducted a series of 50 nationwide garlic tastings. Spanish Roja consistently ranked among the top two or three.
Unfortunately, Spanish Roja will not tolerate mild winters and warm climates. Only Hardiness Zones 1-5 are blessed with being able to grow this remarkable plant.