What can I say…today is National Garlic Day and in my opinion a day without garlic is like a day without sunshine.
I’ve always been a fan of garlic. When I was growing up I would never eat pizza without a good dose of granulated garlic on the top…and I was never one to turn down a piece of browned bread slathered in butter and garlic. A favorite dish of mine was (and still is) shrimp scampi with the tender sweet shrimp gently simmered in butter and garlic. Put garlic on anything and I will eat it.
I don’t know where I would be without garlic…you laugh, but that’s a true statement. Never thinking about how my garlic consumption would impact my dating life I continued to consume mass quantities of garlic while in college. Well one night before heading out on a date …after eating dinner with lots of garlic (of course) I realized I had a severe case of garlic breath. I scrubbed my teeth and rinsed with mouthwash not sure how much the effort was helping…well my date asked if all that preparation was in anticipation of a kiss. Who knew that the first kiss was a result of loving garlic? And who knew that these many years later the relationship continues in spite of my continued mass consumption of garlic. Almost every evening when my husband walks thru the door after work he gets the aroma of…you guessed it garlic.
Not all garlic is created equal. The garlic found in most grocery stores is the softneck variety. This is because softneck garlic is easier to grow and plant mechanically and also keeps for longer than hardneck varieties of garlic. Softnecks have the common white papery skin and an abundance of cloves, often forming several layers around the central core. It’s the softneck variety that you see braided too. Almost 90% of the softneck garlic is grown in Califonia…but do watch out because China is now growing garlic and importing it into the US.
The other type is the hardneck garlic. It is this garlic that you will frequently see at farmer’s markets. The varieties of hardneck garlic are numerous and the flavor is great. Hardneck garlic varieties have a “scape” – or stalk which coils from the top. On the top of this scape grow a number of bubils which are often mistakenly referred to as garlic flowers. There are fewer cloves with this type of garlic but the cloves are larger than the softneck variety. There is also less wrapping or paper around the bulbs and sometimes none at all. Hardneck garlic is much more sensitive to handling and has a shorter shelf life…that’s why you generally don’t see it in grocery stores.
Quite often early in the summer you’ll find garlic scapes at the farmer’s markets. The scapes are cut from the hardneck garlic to increase the size of the bulbs. Scapes can be used in stir fry and also make one heck of a good pesto! Next time you see hardneck garlic buy a bulb and try it…they are so much more flavorful than the white ones from the grocery store.
This is the first year I’ve successfully planted garlic. A few years ago I tried to plant some cloves from the garlic I bought at the grocery store. For some reason this garlic did not grow and I wouldn’t recommend anyone trying it. Last summer two of my farmer friends who grow phenomenal garlic, Larry Howell from Larry’s Family Farm in Mendon, Utah and Farmer Peter from Sandhill Farms Mountain Garlic in Eden, Utah gave me garlic bulbs to plant this past fall. The cloves were planted on Columbus Day in October and I’m happy to report as of today the garlic plants are 12 inches tall and healthy. I am so excited!!!
So in honor of National Garlic Day I want to share a recipe with you…it is hard to choose which recipe but this is an easy recipe that I’ve wanted to share for a while and what better time than now.
The recipe is adapted from The Seasons of Parmigiano-Reggiano , a cookbook published in 1998 by Tutela Consorzio del Formaggio Parmigiano-Reggiano (Consortium for the Preservation of Parmigiano-Reggiano) and the Italian Trade Commission. Don’t be turned off by the name of the recipe…it isn’t really ice cream it just looks like ice cream when you scoop it onto the plate.
Oh, before I forget do check out the movie “Garlic is like ten mothers”, a documentary about garlic directed by Les Blank. My husband and I saw this movie when it was first released. The premier, at the Ogden Theater in Denver, was in “smell around”…the theater’s personnel walked up and down the aisles carrying pans with sautéed garlic to fill the air with the aroma of garlic…just to get the patrons in the mood for the movie.
I hope you have a great National Garlic Day and now you know why I celebrate the holiday. Enjoy!