by Elly Blanchard of Railway Creek Farms
Garlic is one one of the most versatile ingredients used in savoury dishes around the world. In contrast with a century ago, garlic was used very sparingly in English cooking. It has come a long way in its acceptance across cultures! Garlic is added to soups, stews, casseroles, roasts of any kind, and is used in many of the new ethic dishes we've been adding to our Canadian repertoire. Garlic is prominent in Chinese, Mexican and Italian foods, but because it has such a distinct flavour it can enhance most anything, along with other herbs and spices. It can even be found in ice–cream and brownies.
Garlic originates from China and now is grown on a large scale in North America, California being the largest area of production. Although Ontario grown garlic is still hard to find in most grocery stores, it is available locally. You will find vendors at farmers markets selling many varieties of garlic.
There are several varieties of garlic grown in Ontario. Rocambole, is a red type that keeps well over the winter and has many strains; the most common strain being the Russian. Porcelain variety is whiter and holds fewer cloves but is larger overall, the most common strain is the Music. The turbans, a softneck variety, is also widely grown.
From my experience with growing garlic for over 15 years, all three varieties keep well into the early spring as long as temperature and humidity are kept consistent. A garlic braid hanging in your kitchen away from the heat of the stove will keep very well. If you choose to invest in bulk quantities, store the bulbs in a mesh bag in a cool place; similar to where you keep your onions and potatoes. A garlic pot should only be used for a bulb you are currently using to cook with. Once the bulb is cracked open, it should be consumed within two weeks as it will dehydrate naturally over the winter. In Spring, garlic will want to start growing green shoots. Don't be afraid to use those green shoots as they are garlicky anyway!
I find it very hard to pick a favourite recipe for garlic as it goes into everything I cook! I especially like adding four to six whole peeled cloves of a stronger flavoured garlic to a roast beef, pork or chicken, along with a few sliced cloves inserted directly in the roast. The whole pieces are removed from the pan, before I make gravy, which I then place on the serving dish. My family spreads the whole clove on top of their sliced meat. If your family likes the sweet juicy pungent flavour of garlic, you might try adding more cloves to your roast!
A secret in using garlic is to add it crushed in the last five minutes or so when cooking soups, stews and spaghetti sauces; this is when the flavour really comes out, and the garlic does not overcook.
I especially like using garlic in a fresh tomato salad. Chop fresh tomatoes, add the best olive oil you can afford, a pinch of salt, and as many minced cloves as you like. I prefer the milder garlic strain for raw eating, as I believe that more is better and healthier, without being too garlicky.
Don't let the pungent odour from garlic keep you from consuming this allium-rich food. Allium helps boost levels of naturally occurring enzymes that detoxify potential carcinogens, plus stimulate cancer fighting immune cells, as well as reduce the stickiness of blood platelets that can lead to heart attacks.
To find out more about the different kinds of garlic and their uses, please visit my website, Railway Creek Farms. I have 20 kinds of garlic available for all your cooking needs. I will also have planting stock available in Autumn 2014, if you'd like to grow your own garlic. And, remember that many market gardeners in Hastings County are growing garlic. Check out Harvest Hastings' website for who is growing locally search for Garlic. http://www.harvesthastings.ca/local/products?search=garlic