Thursday, September 17, 2015


The tasting party ‘scene’.

So you love garlic – but what flavor? Do you prefer mild, earthy, herby, rich, pungent, mellow, or woodsy?  Hot, hotter or ‘ouch’ hot?  How about a hot bite that mellows out after a few seconds? Or a mild bite that has an increasing zing?

Patti O’Neal, Jeffco Ext. agent, hosted a palette-stretching event in mid August starring 10 different kinds of garlic that were harvested in the Horticulture Research and Demonstration Garden at the Jefferson County Fairgrounds.  

1.      There were 10 ‘official’ stations  - all labeled – with 2 plates at each: one had slices of raw garlic cloves and one had slices of roasted cloves. To cleanse our palettes there were slices of lemon and lime to suck on, sprigs of parsley and small pieces of baguettes.   
2.      With our spreadsheet in hand, we made our way around the stations tasting the raw cloves – making comments on flavor, texture, spiciness, tongue appeal and aroma.  Think wine tasting!  After the 4th or 5th indulgence, we started loosening up.  Is this because we were dying to know if everyone else was as amazed at how varied the flavors were or because we were quickly getting inebriated on the garlic? We then ranked our favorites in the raw category.  Piece of cake (HA!), although if you were super sensitive to spiciness, this was much easier.
3.      We then tasted the roasted cloves.  Ahhh, relief!  Roasted garlic is usually, sweeter, mellower, richer and more full bodied = complex.   The ranking of roasted cloves followed. Fortunately our senses were so saturated with garlic that we were numb to the stress of discriminating between each ranking.
4.      This adventure was followed by a luncheon, which included roasted garlic soup, salad with a vinaigrette dressing (hold the garlic!), and garlic cookies (oh so mild – was this because we were becoming numb to garlic in general?).

THE RESULTS:  Chesnok Red won 1st place (purple stripe heirloom).  My personal favorite in both categories was Italian Late, a softnecked, late season garlic that had a slow build of  zinginess when raw and was rich, balanced, and full with no after bite as roasted.  Some #1 favorites when raw were the least favorite when roasted and visa versa. Every variety received at least one vote for 1st place in each category. Were our taste buds confused, choosy, or just extremely educated and sophisticated? 
FACT:  If we weren’t discriminating about garlic before this event, we left with a widely expanded ‘taste bank’ of garlic on our tongues, down our throats, in our stomachs and coating our memories. 

Green garlic scapes.
Hardnecks (produce a few large cloves around bulb):  Basque, Khabar, Romanian Red, Chesnok Red, Music, Killarney and Gottlieb’s Arvada Garlic that has been growing wild in the Gottlieb yard for over 40 years!
Softnecks (several layers of cloves around bulb):  Italian Late, Inchelium Red, Killarney, Susanville, Lortz and Khabar
This month they will be adding Spanish Roja and Georgian Chrystal to the planting.

Ø  Hardneck varieties are more cold hardy, although they store for 3 – 4 months instead of a year.  Hard-neck garlic produces woody ‘corkscrew’ scapes that are delicious when chopped up in stir frys or salads.
Ø  Plant the largest cloves, root down, mid September – early October (4 weeks before first hard frost) in loose, rich soil about 2-3” below ground. Cover with 6+” of mulch.  I use compost, dead leaves and straw.  Water well.
Ø  At 8,800’ my garlic was ready to be fertilized in early May and harvested in early – mid August - when leaves are 2/3 brown and scapes start to straighten out.  We starting using the garlic right away, although the flavor strengthens and heats up after a month. You can also harvest the ‘green’ garlic earlier, when it looks like scallions.
Ø  ORDER NOW – from The Garlic Growers Sustainable Farmers Association.

Garlic harvested early August.
NOW START EATING GARLIC and maybe you will be as strong and courageous as the Egyptian pyramid builders in 2900 B.C. who ate garlic!

READ MORE: Garlic Growers Sustainable Farmers Association Choosing and Growing Adapted Vegetable Varieties at High Altitude

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