Like the onion, garlic is a pungent member of the Allium, or lily, botanical group. The variety known as Artichoke Garlic is the large, white heads most commonly available. The Purple Stripe, named for the bright, vertical streaks on the bulb’s wrapping, has a rich flavor that takes well to roasting. Elephant garlic, with heads as large as oranges and a surprisingly mild flavor, is actually a variety of leek. Garlic harvested during the middle of the summer will be the freshest and most flavorful.
Green garlic, harvested just before the plant begins to form cloves, is available in the spring. Resembling large green onions with a tinge of pink at the bulb, green garlic has a milder flavor than regular garlic and is excellent in soups and sauces and with roasted vegetables.
Choose plump garlic heads with smooth, firm cloves and creamy white to purple-tinged skin. Pass up those with soft, withered spots or green sprouts.
Whole garlic heads keep well when stored in an open container in a cool, dark, well-ventilated place for up to 2 months. Store green garlic in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
Keep garlic in large pieces when adding it to long-cooking braises and roasts. Minced garlic has a hot, more volatile flavor that will disperse quickly. Crushing garlic will release much more of its aromatic oils. Cooking in oil will bring out the flavor of garlic but avoid scorching, as it will taste unpleasantly bitter.
Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Cooking from the Farmers’ Market, by Tasha DeSerio & Jodi Liano (Weldon Owen, 2010).