We had a great time with our garlic tasting, and I hope our visitors did too. We ended up with 9 folks who helped us explore 12 different varieties. As we didn’t think anyone could truly taste-test 12 types of garlic in one sitting, we divided the varieties into three different preparations. Each person then was responsible for testing two types head-to-head and taking notes, then could explore the others free of duties.
Below is a quick summary of results; we’re too tired to crunch all the numbers. Look for a more detailed set of results later in the week.
German Extra Hardy
German Extra Hardy was the clear winner in roasted, with the best flavor and texture. A few people really liked Chrysalis and Samarkand. Shvelisi was fine but nothing special.
SAUTEED IN BUTTER
(spread on fresh bread or cucumber slices)
Siberian was the runaway winner here. Everyone who compared Siberian with something else loved it, and none of the others could be consistently told apart from each other. Even tasting it again this evening, the Siberian garlic butter spread on bread has the richest, most luscious garlic flavor that none of the other three could match. Bogatyr is second in richness of flavor, and other other two are very mild. Not bad, just mild.
(infused into farm-made goat chevre)
Chet’s Italian Red
The core result of raw garlic is that preferences depend heavily on whether you want a hot/spicy or a mild garlic. Those who liked spicy garlic thought Russian Giant was fantastic, with Georgian Fire a close second. Chet’s and Tochliavri are far milder and were preferred by people who like really mild garlic. Personally, we’ve found that Chet’s is excellent for uses like slaws and salad dressings where you want garlic flavor with no heat, and little aftertaste.
Obviously there are many other preparations and combinations, which is why we’re also recruiting customers at market to buy several heads and do some taste-testing at home with simultaneous preparations. Ask at market if you’re interested in trying this.
We’ll crunch the numbers one of these hot afternoons, but the basic conclusions seem to be that raw and roasted were easier to differentiate from each other than sauteed. This is sensible, as cooking in more complex dishes would tend to cover the subtleties of flavor, whereas raw and roasted preparations allow more leeway for flavors to come through.
When it comes to choosing a variety, even for cooking, it’s also still worth looking at the structure of the head. Cooks who use only a bit at a time might prefer a variety with many small cloves, whereas cooks who really like garlic should buy varieties with large cloves so there’s less fussing with peeling and preparation. And we’re hoping that as more customers do at-home testing, we’ll have more data from other varieties in other applications. As we get more data, we’ll be able to do a better job of suggesting varieties based on customer taste preferences and plans for cooking.
One final note: one brave couple stayed on afterward and embarked on an adventure with us, tasting all twelve varieties raw one after another. It was stimulating, and reinforced the conclusion that these varieties are very distinct when used raw (such as in salads, slaws, salsas, etc.).
Other takes on the garlic tasting will be available soon, as the author of Capturing Como will be writing up her experiences, and Marcia from the Columbia Daily Tribune will have a story in the food section a few weeks from now. And perhaps some attendees who read the blog will add any comments or experiences, good or bad?