The idea of a life without garlic is an almost unimaginable calamity for me, but eating locally has really taught me about the seasonal nature of garlic – and like most seasonal eating, it really makes you value what you have when you can’t have it whenever you want it! Garlic starts growing in late winter or early spring – which is why the garlic you’ll find in the shops at this time often has a green stem coming up through the middle of it – and like all aliums (the family to which garlic belongs which also includes onions) it starts off looking much like a spring onion. It can be eaten at this stage (we included some spring garlic shoots in our boxes earlier in the year), but given time the bulb at the bottom will fill out and the garlic will send out a “scape”, which is a long stem on which the flower and then seeds are located. The scapes are best eaten immediately, but the garlic at the bottom can either be eaten fresh in late spring, or kept for a few more weeks to cure, during which period the soft layers of skin over the bulb become dry and papery, whilst the cloves on the inside set and become firm. The drier it gets, the longer it will keep for.
We’ve already placed an order for some delicious Tassie purple garlic from Van Diemen Garlic that’s in the process of curing as we speak, but in the interim this week Bream Creek Community Market Garden have dug, cleaned and graded almost 200 perfect specimens of pre-curing garlic for you – and the smell in the warehouse when we were packing these beauties today was mouth-watering! The whole thing can be eaten – stem and bulb – although the outer skin layers are probably better suited for slow-cooked dishes where they can break down a little as they may be a little fibrous unless cut finely.