Test Your Garlic GQ


We are continuously amazed by how interested people are in garlic. The "stinking rose" or perhaps more elegantly, "the fragrant pearl," has a long and interesting history. We have prepared a compendium of facts and figures on garlic which we hope you will enjoy. So the next time you are engaged in a stimulating evening of conversing about garlic (what else could be finer?), you should have plenty of clove factoids to sprinkle into your chatter to demonstrate your "garlic breadth."

Do you have some garlic facts, trivia or tidbits you would like to share? If you would like us to consider adding your clove of information to this compendium, just send your contribution to The Chief Clove.

How To Grow GarlicGarlic Books, Garlic Quotes, The Garlic Bibliography

How Many Kinds of Garlic are There?
According to Ron Engeland, author of
Growing Great Garlic there may well be over 450 identifiable strains of garlic.


What are Cloves, Bulbs and Bulbils?
The mature garlic plant produces a bulb, sometimes called a head of garlic, with numerous individual cloves inside the paper-like wrapper. An individual clove when planted will reproduce an entire bulb after about nine months. Some varieties of garlic also produce bulbils on top of their tall stalks (scapes). These are not true seeds, but can serve the same function. Bulbils are secondary cloves often produced in the flower cluster.

What is Hardneck Garlic?
Technically, it is allium sativum ophioscorodon, which some people call "ophios" because it's a darn site easier to say. Unlike the softneck garlic grown commercially, especially in California, this garlic subspecies produces a hard, woody flower stalk. The flower (topset or umbel) often contains bulbils. Many varieties develop partial or full coils in the stalks (scapes). Some growers pop the top of their hardneck garlics, that is, they cut off the stalk in order to increase the size of the harvested bulbs. The results vary from variety to variety. Many of the hardnecks, also called topsetters have very rich and distinctive flavors, including the much prized Rocamboles. Many chefs praise the various hardneck varieties for their true garlic flavor. The cloves are also relatively easy to peel. They do tend to have a shorter shelf life than softneck garlics.

What is Rocambole Garlic?
Rocamboles are a specific group of ophio or hardneck garlics. They are argued by some to have the best flavor of all. They are also distinguished by their unique curling scapes, coiling 360 degrees or more. Rocamboles are therefore sometimes called serpent garlic. As the plant matures, the coil straightens out and the scape can extend to a height of five feet or more. A field of Rocamboles waving their scapes in the early summer wind can be a wondrous sight. The uncoiled scapes are increasingly used in flower arrangements
(Garlic Flowers).

What is Softneck Garlic?
The are two basic types of garlic, hardneck and softneck. You can easily tell them apart in the store. If the stem at the top of the bulb is soft and papery, it is a softneck. Most of the commercially grown garlic, especially from California, is of the softneck variety. It is technically called allium sativum sativum. It does not produce a flowering stalk. Hardneck, as the name implies, has a hard stalk almost as thick as a pencil. The softnecks tend to have longer shelf lives than the hardnecks. They also tend to have more, but smaller, cloves per bulb, and are somewhat harder to peel than hardnecks.

Can You Grow Garlic from a Bulbil?
Bulbils are small secondary cloves, though not true seeds, that are formed in the flower cluster (umbel) atop the scape of hardneck garlics. Bulbils range in size from that of rice grains to peas, depending upon the variety of garlic. They can be planted either in fall or spring and will produce small garlic plants the first year. Harvestable bulbs will result in years two or three.

What is a Scape?
Hardneck garlic developes an impressive flowering stalk, called a scape, which can grow from 24 to 48 inches in height. At the top is the "seed" pod (a.k.a. topset), more properly called the umbel, which contains the flowers and bulbils. The umbel pod is covered in by the spathe, which often has a pronounced beak. Some garlic varieties give improved yields if the scape is cut before umbel development. The scapes on Rocamboles form beautiful circular curls. These are prized by floral arrangers in some countries, especially Japan. See our
Garlic Flowers section.

What is Elephant Garlic?
Technically elephant garlic is more closely related to the leek. In the past it has also been called "giant garlic" and "giant leek." The huge bulbs, with several cloves which can individually be the size of regular garlic bulbs, are famous for their rich but milder flavor. The largest bulbs can sometimes reach a weight of a half pound or more. They have tall scapes, which can reach five feet in height, with a beautiful purple flower on their top (see
Garlic Flowers). This variety was first commercially grown in Oregon, but its origin is probably from central Europe from which it was brought by immigrants. Yucca Ridge Farm grows a Rocky Mountain elephant which we call Buffalo Garlic. They are ideal for roasting (see Garlic Recipe of the Month).

What is Spring Baby Garlic?
When the shoots from a fall-planted clove start growing again in the spring, they look somewhat like green onions, but they taste just like garlic. If you harvest the plant, which at this stage has no really identifiable bulb, it makes a marvelous addition to many recipes. It can be used whenever the texture of scallions and the taste of garlic are desired.

What are the Most Commonly Grown Garlic Varieties in the U.S.?
Most commercially grown garlic is produced in the interior valleys of California. Two varieties, California Early and California Late, make up the bulk of the production. This is the kind of garlic you are most likely to find in the supermarket. However, there are an abundance of other garlic types known to gourmets and fine chefs, including the prized Rocamboles. See our
Bulbils section for how to buy bulbs and seeds in order to grow many of the interesting varieties that thrive around the country, even in the cold north.

What U.S. City is Named after Garlic?
While Gilroy, CA is famous for growing and processing garlic, the answer is Chicago, that toddling town. French explorers who first came to the region in 1687 asked the local Native Americans what their name for the place—Chicaguoa—actually meant. They said it was named for a pungent plant that grew in the woods that they used for cooking as well as to treat wounds. The plant was most likely wild garlic (although some claim it really was onions or leeks). In any case, because the French didn't speak the local dialect very well (they expected the Native Americans to learn French, what else is new), the name eventually became—Chicago. And of course there is Ajo, Arizona. Ajo is Spanish for garlic, so that little city is quite literally "Garlic USA"

Where Was the First Garlic Festival Held?
There are dozens of Garlic Festivals springing up around the United States as the "garlic revolution" continues. Remember, as recently as the 1950s, only "they" ate garlic. The Gilroy Garlic Festival, the first and most well-known of the large-scale bulb bashes, was started in 1979. It in turn was patterned after a festival held for decades in Arleux, France. The ever-so nice Chez Panisse restaurant in Berkeley, CA may have hosted the nation's first all garlic occasion in 1976. See our links to
Garlic Festivals.

How Do You Say "Garlic" Around the World?
When traveling and dining out in interesting new restaurants, perhaps the most important word to know is "garlic", so your server knows what you want to eat:

Olde English

Of course, when dining out in a foreign land, it helps to know more than one word. There is the story of the missionary couple in pre-communist China who went to a country restaurant for dinner, and took their pet dog along with them. They pointed to the dog when they ordered so that the waiter would also get some food for their precious puppy. The waiter led the dog into the kitchen, presumably, the missionaries thought, to be fed dinner. You can pretty well figure out the rest of this sad story. The pooch was apparently served with a spicy garlic sauce, however.

How do you Grow Garlic?
See our section,
How to Grow Garlic, or if you really want to dig deep into the topic, read the standard text for the garlic gardener, Growing Great Garlic by Ron Engeland, available from Garlic Books at TheGarlicStore. Garlic can be grown almost anywhere in the country, including the northernmost states.

A key item to remember. Garlic, which is a bulb, is best planted in the fall (September-October) in most parts of the country. Plant about 6 weeks before the ground freezes. Cloves should be planted about 4-5 inches apart at a depth of 2 -3 inches. The pointy side should be up, or conversely, the scab, or root side, should be down. [Note: You can plant bulbils both in spring and fall.] In colder climates it is very important to mulch the garlic bed to a depth of three inches or more. Grass clippings or seed free straw are best. It is not unusual for leaves to sprout in the fall. They will even grow slowly during the winter. They can survive unusually cold conditions with little more than tip damage. Water heavily in the fall and again in the spring when growth is fastest. Cut watering rates substantially in the four weeks or so before harvest (July into August). Nitrogen fertilization at planting should be applied at a rate of 40 - 60 pounds per acre. Foliar applications of nitrogen in the spring are very helpful. Garlic likes fertile, deeply cultivated soil, but does well in a rather wide variety of soil types and conditions. The soil should be neutral to slightly acidic with a pH of 6.2 to 6.8. Keep the garlic patch weed free. Garlic does not compete well with weeds.

How Much Garlic Do You Need for Planting?
Typically you should save one-seventh of your crop for planting stock. Break up your garlic bulb and plant the individual cloves. The bigger the clove the bigger the resulting bulb will be at harvest. Different varieties have different numbers of cloves per bulbs. One rule of thumb says that one pound of bulbs yields about 50 large cloves suitable for planting. This works out to about 40 pounds of garlic to plant a thousand square feet.

When Do You Harvest Garlic?
Our experience on the hot, dry prairies of eastern Colroado is that garlic typically matures in mid-July to early August. While some people claim one should wait for all the leaves to all turn brown, we do not find this to be the case. Typically harvest should be after the bottom-most leaves have browned but there are still five or so green leaves on the stalks. Waiting longer does not improve bulb size since growth has already stopped by this time. It is better to harvest earlier than later. Using a pitch fork facilitates the process of loosening the soil so the bulbs can be more easily pulled. Limit the exposure of the harvested bulb to strong sunlight. The bulbs can be scalded and lose quality if they get "sunburned." Do not harvest when the soil is wet, or the bulb wrappers may be dirty and discolored.

How Do you Cure Garlic?
Freshly dug garlic is not quite ready for the table. It should be cured for several weeks. The ideal is to place the bulbs in burlap sacks or onion bags and let them dry in a well ventilated shed, with temperatures in the 60s or 70s, outside of the direct sunlight. Garlic bulbs should not be allowed to freeze. Most people leave the stalks and leaves on during curing and drying.

Where Should You Store Garlic?
Just like bananas and bread, garlic should never be stored in the refrigerator! After harvest, keep bulbs in well aerated bags or baskets. The humidity should not be too high or germination will start. Relative humidities in the 30-50% range are best. Cool temperatures a little below 60 degrees are ideal. In the kitchen, keep the bulbs at room temperature in a well ventilated container. Many kitchen stores have garlic keepers. A simple cloth sack will do the job though. After harvest, bulbs will keep for several months, depending on the variety. If cloves begin to shrivel inside the wrapper, or if humidity causes sprouting, this bulb is way past its prime.

Where did Garlic Originate?
Horticulturists argue a lot about this one. But one of the better theories is that wild garlic was first domesticated in the Kirgiz desert of southern Siberia. It certainly grows there. People tend to think of garlic as a warm weather plant. In fact many varieties don't do well unless they experience cold winter weather (like tulips and daffodils). Many varieties produce hotter bulbs after colder winters. So Siberians could grow garlic and during the last century they were allowed to pay their taxes with garlic. I think if Congress ever does anything with tax reform, sending cloves to the IRS sounds like a splendid idea!

Did Ancient Peoples such as the Egyptians Use Garlic?
In large quantities. The builders of the pyramids were often paid in fresh garlic, in part to maintain their strength and stamina. Garlic was found in King Tutankhamen's tomb. Egyptian men were reputed to chew on a clove after a night of dalliance lest their wives get a whiff of their rival's perfume. Egyptian medical manuals from 1500 BCE list almost two dozen treatments using garlic.

Where was Garlic First Domesticated?
There is evidence that garlic was placed in ancient Egyptian tombs as early as 5000 years ago. There are numerous references to garlic in Chinese literature as far back as 2000 BCE. Chinese sacrificial lambs were spiced with garlic to make them more appealing to the gods. You can find garlic praised in ancient Sanskrit writings. By 1500 BCE, garlic was old hat, having spread to virtually every civilization in Europe, Asia and North Africa.

Is Garlic mentioned in the Bible?
Of course! We read in Numbers 11:5 " We remember the fish, which we did eat in Egypt freely; the cucumbers, and the melons, and the leeks, and the onions, and the garlic". There is also a Muslim legend claiming that when Satan stepped out of the Garden of Eden, garlic sprang up from his footsteps.

How Much Garlic is Consumed in the U.S. Each Year?
In the 1930s, less than 16 millions pounds of garlic were grown in the United States, mainly to serve the needs of recent immigrants from the "old country." Back then, for the most part, garlic was shunned in "polite society," probably a relic from the Victorian era. My, how times have changed. According to the Fresh Garlic Association, more than 300 million pounds were consumed in the U.S. last year, and the amount is growing each year. Much of the supply comes from California. Old Mexico, Chile and China are also major producers. Many small growers (like Yucca Ridge Farm) of varietal garlics, such as Rocambole, are popping up all around the nation.

How Should You Cook Garlic?
Chefs recommend that you dice garlic finely with a sharp knife. It is not necessary to crush garlic to release the flavor. Saute garlic at low temperature so it does not burn and takes on an acrid, unpleasant taste. The garlic does not need to brown, but should remain translucent in the pan. The garlic will also continue to cook slowly after the other ingredients are added. Some cooks also rub a sliced clove all around a warming pan to add the essential flavor, or rub the sides of the salad bowl.

How Should You Roast Garlic?
Roasted garlic cloves on toast or French bread with cheese such as a brie or a camembert, and perhaps some sliced almonds or capers, are one of life's great pleasures. While garlic roasters can be purchased in cooking stores, aluminum foil can do the job nicely. Just trim the upper quarter inch or so off the bulb, exposing the cloves. Drizzle with some olive oil and, if desired, some salt and pepper. Especially for elephant/buffalo garlic, a little cooking sherry mellows the taste. Wrap the bulbs in foil and slow cook them in a 325 degrees F oven for about an hour and a half. The treat is ready when you can easily pop the clove out of its wrapper and spread it on the bread like butter. Enjoy.

What Gives Garlic its Pungent Odor?
Fresh garlic is generally odor-free. Only when cut or crushed do chemical reactions take place which produce the glorious scent. The garlic odor results primarily from a chemical called diallyl disulphide, which is a breakdown product from allicin.

What is a Simple Remedy for Garlic Breath?
Chewing on several sprigs of raw parsley can significantly cut back on garlic breath. Of course, if everyone else has had garlic, problem solved. Besides, it's now chic to reek. The French claim red wine can also eliminate garlic breath. We are not sure about that, but we keep experimenting anyway.

How Can You Get Rid of Garlic Odor on Your Hands?
Its hard to cook with garlic without getting some on your hands. After exposure, scrub your hands with salt and lemon juice, using cold water. Then rinse off with soapy warm water.

What is the Nutritional Breakdown of a Clove of Garlic?
Everyone wants to know what they are eating these days. Reading food nutritional labels has become a national fad (well, maybe). But here is the official U.S. Department of Agriculture breakdown of a single garlic clove:

2-7 Calories, 0.2 grams protein, 01 grams fat, .05 grams fiber, 1.0 grams carbohydrate, 1.4 mg calcium, 10 mg phosphorous, .07 mg iron, 0.9 mg sodium, 26 mg potassium, .01 mg vitamin B1, .004 mg vitamin B2, .02 mg niacin, .75 mg vitamin C

Each clove is also rich in many trace elements including zinc, manganese, germanium and especially selenium plus numerous sulfur compounds. These latter are where the real health benefits may lie.

What are the health-promoting chemicals in garlic?
Aside from being low in calories at well under 10 calories per clove, being low in fat and having no cholesterol, the garlic clove may be a veritable medicine cabinet of beneficial compounds. In 1858 none other than Louis Pasteur noted the antiseptic properties of garlic. In the 1940s, a Nobel Prize winning chemist by the name of Dr. Arthur Stoll discovered the compound allicin which he felt was key in garlic's bacterial battling capabilities. As a clove is crushed or sliced the enzyme allinase triggers a series of complex chemical reactions. One of the resulting chemicals, allicin, is generally regarded as one of the key players in garlic medicine. Other substances such as adenosine and ajoene also may be of great significance. This is an area of very active research and new findings are being released almost daily.

What Ailments Has Garlic Been Claimed to Prevent and Correct?
There are numerous medical claims about the benefits of garlic. The claims range from highly controlled clinical studies all the way to borderline quackery. But there is little doubt that garlic has many therapeutic properties and nutritional science is gradually beginning to sort out the benefits. Among the ailments that garlic has been proposed to alleviate to one degree or another are:

acne, asthma, high blood pressure, elevated cholesterol, heart disease, diabetes, dysentery, baldness, arthritis, cancer, earache, eczema, emphysema, digestive disorders, heavy metal poisoning, hives, infections, intestinal worms, insomnia, evil eye, colds, influenza, allergies, toothache, warts and vampires.

Ancient Romans were reputed to use a paste of crushed garlic to try to cure hemorrhoids. During the Black Death in Europe some doctors stuffed garlic cloves into their face masks to help ward off the plague. Even during World War I, in the pre-antibiotic era, garlic juice was widely and effectively used as an antiseptic on the wounds of Allied soldiers.

The National Institute of Health has conducted a major research project on the cancer fighting properties of garlic. In 1990, Washington, DC hosted the First World Congress on the Health Significance of Garlic and Garlic Constituents.

In order to sort out the many claims we have provided sections summarizing the various books, medical literature and news stories on garlic. We here at TheGarlicStore take our daily garlic supplements and we feel just fine, thank you.

Does Garlic Lower Cholesterol?
A number of medical studies have pointed towards garlic being "the aspirin of the 90s". It has been reputed to lower blood pressure and bad cholesterol as well as sporting anti-microbial and anti-carcinogenic properties.

The director of the world famous cardiac health project, the Framingham Study, includes garlic in his listing of foods that may contribute to the prevention of heart disease.

Do Cultures that Consume Large Amounts of Garlic Enjoy Greater Health?
Separating out the impact of a single food on the health of a population is a very difficult scientific task. High garlic consumption has been claimed to be one reason there is relatively less heart disease in China. But there are a multitude of other influences. There is one famous study, however, of an Indian religious cult, the Jains. The members of one branch ate copious quantities of onions and garlic (over a pound of onions plus 17 cloves) each week. As a group they enjoyed low levels of blood cholesterol and triglycerides. A more orthodox branch of Jains, who never ate onions or garlic, had significantly higher cholesterol and triglycerides.

This may not be news. According to Jean Carper, the popular nutrition writer, Indian doctors prescribed garlic as a heart disease preventative almost 2000 years ago.

Is there Really Such a Thing as Garlic Ice Cream?
Yes. We even have a recipe for you! It is actually very good. Next time you are in San Francisco, make reservations ( a must) at the Stinking Rose Restaurant. They serve only garlic dishes. And the garlic ice cream dessert is a refreshing and very appealing treat. Garlic ice cream is also one of the mainstays of the Gilroy Garlic Festival.

And What About the Vampire Thing?
It must work. We have not seen one here at Yucca Ridge since we started growing garlic. Garlic has also been reputed to fend off the "evil eye." And it was once believed that by carrying garlic on one's person, one could drive away snakes and scorpions and other critters with an unpleasant tendency to bite.