Garlic’s power over vampires is debatable. What’s not debatable is garlic’s overwhelming aroma, powerful enough to ward off others. When you are preparing a meal for your family or friends, consider which type of garlic bulb you peel and add. Some have deeper, hotter flavors, while others are milder. If you want a pleasant meal, use a bulb everyone will enjoy.
Softneck and hardneck are the two main types of garlic available, according to Ron Smith, a horticulture specialist, and Julie Garden-Robinson, a food and nutrition specialist at the North Dakota State University Agriculture and University Extension website. The two garlic types differ in growth, storage and flavor. Softneck garlic does not grow a seed stalk or flower, also known as a scape. The flavor of these varieties are generally the mildest. You can easily incorporate the cloves from these bulbs into most dishes without upsetting anyone’s palates too much. An artichoke garlic bulb, a softneck type, is the one you will find in most grocery stores. Creole, another popular flavor, is so mild you can eat it raw or cook it in most dishes. For an aesthetically exciting option, look for New York white or red toch, which have red and purple hues. Other mild softneck options include silverskin, silver rose, Italian late and Susanville. Because the stem of softneck varieties are soft, you can braid them, to bind the bulbs together, hang them and let them dry. They keep well for months. Softneck garlic bulbs are the ones you want to have on hand for anyone coming to dinner.
Alternatively, the hardneck varieties produce a tough stalk, which creates a seed-bearing flower. This makes it nearly impossible to store the garlic with the traditional braiding. More notably, hardneck garlic bulbs taste much more robust and hot. If you and your guests love hot garlic flavors, experiment with hardneck varieties. Rocambole, German red, Spanish roja and Krasnodar white and red are hardneck options. Some hardnecks, including Korean red and purple stripe, have red and purple hues. Use these hardnecks bulbs sparingly; cook them thoroughly as you start out. Don’t let your guests bite into a raw clove. That might ruin your entire dish. As you become more comfortable with the intensity of flavor and heat, you can increase usage.
Elephant bulbs are celebrated for their large cloves. It would seem to be a worthy investment to buy these bulky bulbs. The Iowa State University Horticulture Department explains, however, that elephant garlic is not actually garlic, but rather a type of leek. It looks and cooks like garlic, however. Most importantly, it tastes like a mild garlic, with a onion flavor at the end instead of a garlicky bitterness.
- garlic image by Maria Brzostowska from Fotolia.com