It’s garlic planting time – but which variety should you grow? The choice is yours so before you buy your cloves, ask yourself just what it is you’re looking for in a garlic.
Do you like strong, pungent cloves that will impart full-bodied flavour to meaty dishes of beef or lamb, or are you looking for a garlic with more a subtle touch – one which will enhance curries and vegetable dishes without overwhelming the main ingredients.
And just what are you prepared to put up with when it comes to preparation? If time is an issue, you’ll want big, full cloves that are easy to peel. If you’re a slow-foodie you’ll be prepared to invest the time it takes to clean and dice small but highly flavoured cloves.
Think about storage, too. Do you want to plait your cloves to display them in your kitchen or would you rather have them loose in a bowl where they’re easy to reach – the variety you grow dictates everything!
Hard- and soft-necks
Garlic falls into one of two main camps: hard-necked and soft-necked. The difference can be felt in the stem. When dry, hard-necked garlics have a rigid stem that is usually so tough it requires secateurs to cut through it. Because of this toughness, hard-necked garlics are not suit able for plaiting. Soft-necked garlics, on the other hand, have very pliable tops when dried. Several stems can be plaited together in one movement to create a long, decorative string of bulbs.
Printanor is a soft-necked garlic and is one of New Zealand’s most popular varieties – which makes it easy to source. This plaitable garlic is an excellent storer, often lasting right through until the next planting season before its cloves deteriorate. While the cloves of printanor are smaller than other varieties of garlic, they are plentiful within the bulb. If you don’t want your dishes to be overpowered with garlic flavour, choose this variety for its less-pungent attributes.
If you live in colder parts of New Zealand, hard-necked Rockenboli will serve you well as it enjoys cool climates. While the strong central stem means you can’t plait it, the tops can be cut off and the bulbs stored in a wire basket. Rockenboli is a particularly decorative garlic to have on display on the kitchen counter because it sports bright purple stripes. Even better, its larger cloves make preparation easy. When using Rockenboli, err on the side of caution as it is strongly flavoured. The one disadvantage with this pretty garlic is that it’s not a good keeper so it pays t grow a few longer-lasting varieties as well, for use late in the season.
Technically, this soft-necked, giant-cloved garlic isn’t a garlic at all – it’s a member of the leek family. Much milder than true garlics, it is highly disease resistant, and its large cloves are so easy to prepare. If you want just a touch of garlic flavour, you may find you need to chop only one clove! If this is the garlic for you, grow plenty as it’s a long-keeping variety.