Garlic is an ancient crop. It’s thought to have been domesticated in the Neolithic era and has been used for centuries as both food and medicine.
A member of the allium family, garlic is closely related to onions, shallots, chives, and leeks. Within the category of garlic itself, there are hundreds of different heirloom varieties that vary in size and flavor.
Unfortunately, most people have only ever experienced one variety of garlic.
Grocery Store Garlic Lacks Flavor and Variety
Garlic in the grocery store is softneck garlic, generally the artichoke variety, known for large bulbs that are easy to grow. Artichoke garlic has a mellow flavor—some would call it bland.
Most of the garlic that ends up in the grocery store in the US is imported from China. It arrives past its prime and stale after traveling a long distance. The flavor is not as rich as fresh garlic and the cloves have often lost water and begun to shrivel.
What is heirloom garlic?
Heirloom garlic consists of varieties with long histories and distinct flavors and characteristics. They range in flavor from sweet and mellow to very spicy.
There are two main categories of heirloom garlic: hardneck and softneck. Hardneck garlics have a stiff stem that grows out of the bulb while softneck garlic grows more flexible leaves. Hardneck garlics generally have firmer skin while softneck garlics are more papery and easier to peel.
Heirloom garlic is fresher than what’s found in the grocery store. Because it has a shorter shelf life, it isn’t designed for industrial agriculture. Instead, it is grown in home gardens or by small farmers and usually travels a short distance from the farm to your kitchen.
Fresher garlic means more flavorful garlic!
Health Benefits of Heirloom Garlic
Garlic has been used medicinally for centuries. It can protect against colds and reduce blood pressure and may lower the risk of heart disease and improve bone health.
Allicin is the main health-boosting compound in garlic. It may improve the immune system. Heirloom garlic varieties, particularly Romanian Red and Georgian Fire have more allicin than others.
Raw garlic retains the most healthy compounds, so it should be eaten raw to enjoy the most benefit. Try dicing a raw clove and chasing it with a swig of apple cider. Heirloom garlic is safe to eat raw when it is grown without pesticides and fungicides.
The fresher the garlic, the more medicinal compounds. That’s why Dragonfly Hill garlic is dried immediately after harvest, rendering it shelf-stable without impacting its full flavor or medicinal properties.
Other ways to use heirloom garlic
Cooking with heirloom garlic is still our favorite way to enjoy it. Try one of these recipes:
Garlic Parmesan Vinaigrette with Chesnok Red Garlic
Garlic Cumin Meatballs with Romanian Red Garlic
White Beans & Greens with Metechi Garlic