Sweet, sticky glorious Russian red garlic is easily one of my all time favourite finds at the local farmers’ market.
I used to think that garlic was garlic — that they were all the same. But that was before I knew better, back in the day when we could only get one kind, I suppose, unless we grew it ourselves.
That would have been the old-school silverskin garlic from China and California.
That is the garlic, you can find absolutely everywhere, moulding in giant bins at every single supermarket in the country. It is mechanically planted and grown as a commodity crop. And, once you’ve had something else, there is no going back.
The Russian red variety is a completely different animal. It actually tastes like garlic.
It’s crunchy, juicy and very sticky — the skin can be quite hard to peel but it is worth the effort.
The larger sized cloves, with an almost purple, tinge have a very warm, aromatic garlic flavour with a very sweet aftertaste, not like the harsh bitterness you get from long stored silver skins.
Because these bad boys are best consumed before they are about six months old they don’t have an opportunity to sprout that bitter green germ that you find inside the cloves of the other varieties.
All garlic naturally has that germ inside but when they are young and fresh, they stay soft and creamy like the rest of the clove but as the garlic ages the germ turns green, grows larger and becomes tough and bitter.
Hmmmm . . . sounds like some people I know.
At that point it is best to remove the germ remove from the clove before you cook it.
You will be able to find the Russian red treasure at most farmers’ markets, some specialized green grocers and farm stands this time of year.
Stock up when you find it and store it in a cool dark place.
If you’re feeling ambitious, peel a few heads so you’ve got a pile of raw cloves.
Transfer them to a small ovenproof dish and cover them with good quality olive oil. Turn them into confit garlic by roasting in the oven at 300 degrees for about an hour an a half. Remove from the oven when the gloves are soft. Store the roasted cloves in the fridge in the oil and use as needed.
Use the garlic infused oil to sauté vegetables, make salad dressings or to boost the flavour in just about anything.
This is guaranteed to keep the vampires away through most of October.
Angie Quaale is a local foodie and owner of Well Seasoned Gourmet Food Store.