A couple weeks ago, after an afternoon of cooking up tasty foodstuffs to pair with scotches in a fancy-pants tasting, I was ousted from my own home. How’s that for gratitude! Actually, the whole thing had been planned: The Boy was hosting a bunch of guys for a stag party (of which the scotch-tasting was the kickoff activity!) and Maria and I had been recruited to cook for the tasting.
Being in on the activities, Maria had kindly offered to house me for the night when my house would be overrun with unruly males, although she would need to take off frighteningly early the next morning for some volunteering. Besides getting a chance to see someone else’s kitties being playful at home (and one of the kitties could give Maru a run for his money with his love for jumping in and out of boxes! So cute!) this offered me a chance at another first: attending my farmer’s market’s annual garlic festival!
Previous years we’d always been either out of town or getting married the weekend of the festival, so I was super-excited to finally be able to go! I’d made plans to get there early, wander all the stalls, and take pictures to post here: after all, I’d finally made it to the festival — I wanted to document the occasion! Well, the first part of the plan went well; I arrived at 8:15, just after they’d opened. As to the picture-taking… well… not so much. I was so excited to be running around surrounded by garlic that I completely forgot to photograph anything. Whoops. Luckily, I did buy a couple varieties, so I’m doing the next best thing and photographing that instead. That’s almost the same, right? Ahem.
First up is this Persian Star. While I made a point of trying the Music garlic everyone keeps talking about, I have to admit, I didn’t really think it was that special. It wasn’t particularly strong, but still had a sharp enough taste that it would be a little harsh to eat raw. I tried this one, however, I was amazed at the flavour: mild, almost sweet, with a tangy, garlicky kind of aftertaste. Almost no bite. If I were making tabouleh and had the chance, I’d use this in a heartbeat.
This one on the other hand, had serious bite. While I, personally, found the Carpathian garlic to be spicier than this one, the majority of the folks voting at the taste table (yes, I ate raw garlic — a lot of raw garlic — at 8:30 in the morning) seemed to rate this one the hottest of the garlics on offer. I’ll definitely concede that it’s not one I’d want to eat much of raw!
Aside from the bite, and I freely admit that I bought these partially for their colour, I chose these because I wanted to be able to taste the difference in the garlic I grow next year. With such a mild garlic, and such a kicker in the garden, I figure this way I’ll maybe learn to appreciate the subtle differences. Or maybe by next fall my taste buds will be completely fried by the Prairie Purples. We’ll see!
Between these two extremes, I also picked up a workhorse that I found to be (very, very slightly) on the sweet side: Spanish Roja. This one I’d class as slightly stronger than Music garlic, but with a nicer aftertaste. I also picked up a single bulb (for eating, because at that point all the garlic tasting and crackers were making me sad that I was shopping for my future garden, rather than my pantry) of Puslich, which was a little hotter than the Roja but not nearly one of the “spiciest” varieties.
At this point you might be thinking that wow, that’s kind of a lot of pictures and fuss, and hey, am I maybe forgetting that we’re talking about garlic for a second here? I know. I promise it wasn’t just because I was eating raw garlic samples before 10am — there really is a difference! Here I’ve got the three varieties I want to plant alongside my own Hungarian that I’d harvested a couple weeks beforehand:
See? Totally different.
While at the market I also picked up some butter tarts (The Boy and I agree: the world’s best butter tarts are to be had at our market) and shallots for planting. Oh, and another $5 bag of scapes. That I didn’t finish dealing with until yesterday. Because I have a problem. (It was over a pound! For five dollars!!) Aaaaanyway… what, you might be wondering, was the point of getting out of bed so early to get to the market if all I was going to buy was planting garlic and not garlic to eat for the coming year?! To be honest, I regarded this trip as a scouting mission: I wanted to find interesting garlic to grow for myself, and plan on buying more garlic (for eating this time) in September. Why? Partly because it’ll be cheaper (see also: scapes at $5/lb compared to $5/10 in spring) but mostly because I wanted the chance to take the fancy garlic home and get to know it before buying a kitchen stash. This sounds stupid given that I’ve already bought it to plant, but the garlic I buy in the fall is just kind of bonus anyway, given that my plants actually did okay this year:
This was my first attempt at a garlic braid, and it… isn’t very pretty. Or structurally sound. The garlic is last year’s Mennonite Porcelain, a mildish garlic that is nice because each bulb has only four cloves, so each clove is pretty big. This garlic was also sassy enough that not one, but two of the bulbs decided to shoot up scapes after I harvested them!
I got a little better at braiding with the Hungarian Rocambole (which tastes a little stronger):
These ones also gave me interesting conjoined garlic twins, and triplets, as well as uni-clove bulblet things. Not sure why, or if it’s something I was doing wrong, but so far it all tastes good!
There’s something very cheering about opening a cupboard to see garlic hanging there. I could probably think of a better place than right above the dog food bucket (since alliums are not good for pets) but for now, it can stay.