Tasting garlic

With 2/3 of our 2,000+ heads of garlic harvested and hanging in the barn, we’re looking ahead to the sales season for our 12+ varieties. How different are they from each other for culinary uses? And which varieties are best for which use? Most of our answers to these questions have come from the catalog descriptions of the original source of our seed garlic (Seed Savers Exchange). But most of these varieties have settled in with the conditions of our farm for two or more years, especially as we move to saving more and more of our own seed stock, and variety characteristics can drift over time as well as with location. So, for the stains that we’re growing, we want to know whether these varieties are truly distinct from each other in a culinary sense, and which varieties are best for various uses (raw, sautéed, roasted).

Doing a side-by-side comparison of all of these at once overwhelms the senses. Comparing two at a time generates >60 pairings, and given that different preparation methods (raw, sautéed, roasted) bring out the strengths of different varieties, there are around 200 paired combinations worth trying. So, we need help!

We’ve been discussing various options for doing this. One is hosting a garlic-tasting event on the farm for those brave and serious foodies who want to explore many of these at once; we’d prepare the varieties in different comparable ways, such as in batches of garlic-flavored goat cheese or as roasted cloves, and have people attempt to note qualities and characteristics before their taste buds burned off. This would be similar in structure to our last tasting event, which seemed to be well-recieved.

Another idea involves recruiting customers to purchase multiple varieties and do controlled tests at home of certain preparations (roasted, salsa, raw pesto) which they would report back to us; participants would receive some reward like a discount on future garlic purchases, or an invitation to a private event on the farm later in the year.

So for now, I’m looking for feedback from readers and customers. Would you participate in any of these? Have other ideas? Comment or email so we can move forward on this; we’re thinking of hosting a tasting event on Sunday July 18 and starting to arrange the customer tests around the same time, when all the varieties are cured and ready to go.

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