What is Elephant Garlic? Did you know that elephant garlic is not true garlic; it is in the leek family. The large bulbous plant is called a head of garlic and the pieces are called cloves. Elephant garlic is milder in flavor and a bit nutty when roasted and spread on bread like butter. It is excellent in mashed potatoes. What about the other garlic? The kind you buy in the grocery store. When we talk about garlic there is the elephant garlic and then there is Italian garlic. In the Italian Garlic family there are two subdivisions: hard neck varieties and the soft neck varieties. There are well over 100 varieties available for consumption. The flavors and pungencies vary with the number of varieties there are. It grows all over the world. The more you chop garlic up the more pungent the flavor. The soft neck varieties are good for braiding and when sold in bulk lasts 9 months. The clove configuration is like that of an artichoke, a layer of cloves another layer of cloves and another. Thus producing smaller cloves in the center of the head, which are harder to peel. The soft neck varieties have a soft supple center that allows us to braid them.  The hard neck varieties last up to 6 months and are easier to peel and usually have larger cloves. For this reason the cook in the house prefers hard neck varieties. The hard neck varieties have a wooden hard center stalk. They have a clove configuration of generally a single layer all the way around. When you buy Italian garlic you should grasp them fully and give a slight squeeze to make sure it is firm. You wont find the hard neck varieties in most grocery stores. You will find it at specialty stores and farmers markets. How do you store Garlic? All garlic heads should be stored in a dry, cool, dark place. Do not keep it in the refrigerator. Do not store in a plastic bag. It needs ventilation. Store the garlic as a whole head don’t break it up until you are ready to use it. It is absolutely fascinating that something so delicious could possible be so good for you. When eating ½ to 1 clove a day it has been shown to reduce blood cholesterol by 9%. It reduces the LDL and increases the HDL (the good kind). How do you keep garlic for more than 6-9 months? Because garlic only last 6-9 months it is important to process and preserve garlic when it is fresh. That way you will have it all year long. How to process and preserve: 1. Peel the garlic. You can break open the head of garlic and drop into boiling water for 30 sec to 1 minute, then remove to a cold bath of water. The skins are easier to remove at this point. 2. Take the bare clove and put in your food processor, chop to the consistency you like while you drizzle in olive oil.  Then transfer to small containers (size: the amount you will consume in a months time) and freeze. It will keep in the freezer for a year. You can take one container out and keep it in the refrigerator for up to 30 days safely, with no other preservatives. How do you grow garlic? It is a lot like planting a tulip.  Garlic likes well worked up soil with good drainage. (You should put triple 16 in the soil while working it up.) It goes in the ground in the fall. You should plant it two to three inches deep.  It requires fertilizer first of March then again first of April.  An all-purpose fertilizer with 16-16-16 is advisable. That is 16 nitrogen 16 phosphorus and 16 potassium. In the spring pinch out the stalk and flower head. (Be sure to take that into the house and cook with it, it has great garlic flavor.) This allows the energy to go to the head of garlic rather than the flower, thus growing a larger head. Harvest:  First week of July you will notice the stalk turning yellow in color. It’s time to harvest. Dig and hang by the stalks in a cool dry dark place, away from sunlight. It’s ready for consumption.
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