From Too Many Chefs -

May 10, 2004
My Favourite Time of the Year

My precious...
Some people cannot wait for the first onslaught of strawberries. Some watch the first asparagus arrive with delight (and a lot of them seem to be writing about it lately...). For me, it's something that I didn't even know existed when I first moved to France: fresh garlic. They may have this in the Chicago suburbs somewhere, but I never saw it when I was growing up. Wow. Ever since I first tried non-dried, fresh from the soil, juicy and fragrant fresh garlic I have been a complete convert. I use the dried stuff in 90% of my cooking the year round, but I am always secretly dreaming of the spring, when the real stuff will finally arrive.

Am I the only one to have survived some 26 years on this planet before discovering the joys of fresh garlic? Why did my friend Tom (who grew up near the garlic growing capital of the world and is the highest consumer of the stuff I know) never tell me about fresh garlic? Was it a conspiracy? I don't know, but I'm happy to have made its acquaintance now.

Fresh garlic has a more subtle flavour than the dried variety. You can enjoy it raw as easily as cooked. It's almost impossible to add too much to a dish. Peeling is no longer a chore, as the outer layers of the bulb are just as soft and juicy as the clove in the center of them. In fact, it's hard to say where the outer layers end and the clove begins (as you can see here), but you don't need to distinguish because it's all good to eat. I have heard tell that roasted fresh garlic is much, much better than the normal stuff. But I have never managed to find out because I cannot bear to risk ruining the delicate flavour. Perhaps some day I'll have a starting-to-dry head that I can use to experiment. This seems unlikely, though, as the season is short and I use them up quickly. Yesterday, we used nearly have a head on two simple pasta dishes (his and hers): a sausage, tomato, roasted onions and fresh garlic sauce for him, and a simple dish of sliced garlic gently softened in butter over a low heat and spread on spaghetti with freshly grated parmesan and pepper (hers). I came out ahead, I can tell you.

And tonight? Maybe a few slivers on those spears of asparagus that are starting to appear. (Yes, I love them too!) Or they might find their way into a crispy salad with ripe tomatoes and a dressing of olive oil and lemon juice. They might get slipped in between the leaves of an artichoke or two just before they are put in the steamer. Whatever happens, you can be sure they will be enjoyed to the utmost. If only my supply holds out until the weekend, when I can go to the market for some more...

A Few Sites about Garlic

I have tried sowing garlic with only moderate success so far, though now that I have a large terrace we'll be trying again in the fall. For tips on growing garlic (and a source to buy garlic products) try this site.

For information about the annual Gilroy Garlic Festival, held the 23-25th July 2004, click here.

For a story about fifteen people dying when a shelf of garlic collapsed (what a way to go!) read here.

And then there is the International Garlic Information Centre.

Happy surfing!

Posted by Meg in Sussex at May 10, 2004 6:22 AM | TrackBack

I've never seen fresh garlic to my knowledge. Wow. Now I'll have to seek it out.

Posted by Barrett on May 10, 2004 at 7:29 AM

Whew - I was sure you were going to come back and tell me I was blind! Good luck and let me know if you locate any!

Posted by Meg in Paris on May 10, 2004 at 8:07 AM

This sounds great. I am sure they have some here in Italy. I saw something like it, but smaller and called "little garlic" (aglietto or something like that), and I wasn't sure what it was. Anyway, I am currently writing this on my shopping list. Thanks!

Posted by Jackie Goyette on May 10, 2004 at 8:35 AM

Glad to have been of help! Actually, the first few times this was offered to me in markets in Paris, I turned it down because I couldn't understand what they were saying. A lesson in being bold and taking what you are offered!

Posted by Meg in Paris on May 10, 2004 at 8:47 AM

I might have to grow my own garlic. I seem to have a window (the pigeon window in the kitchen to be exact) that the garlic seems to like a lot. Or at least it likes to sprout if I store it there.

Posted by Barrett on May 10, 2004 at 9:05 AM

Go for it! There is loads of advice on the site I cited, and I'll bet the cats won't find the smell appealing. I've heard that garlic is a good thing to mix with other plants because it's a natural insect repellent!

Posted by Meg in Paris on May 10, 2004 at 10:04 AM

Great stuff! One of my favorite "recipes" - just half the whole head horizontally and roast it in the oven with chicken or whatever else you're cooking. Everyone is surprised that they're expected to eat a whole head of garlic and then it's always the first thing gone from every plate. Maybe I should skip the meat and just serve garlic baked in olive oil........

Posted by Dana on May 11, 2004 at 5:01 AM

Dana, the first time I had roasted garlic was at a restaurant called Bistro 110 in Chicago. (Last time I checked it was still around - Barrett?) They served it as an hors d'oeuvre with butter and bread, which is ideal to me. You might want to try wrapping it in tin foil the next time and adding a few sprigs of fresh thyme or rosemary - it's amazing on fresh bread!

Posted by Meg in Paris on May 11, 2004 at 5:09 AM

I've never had fresh garlic, but I have been to the garlic festival, and it's just nuts. They have garlic in everything, including ice cream.

It was a lot of a fun!

Posted by ladygoat on May 11, 2004 at 11:01 PM

I've heard the festival was fun - guess you must have been able to smell it miles away! In Paris, the best month to find fresh garlic is May, so maybe it was just out of season? Or maybe North America just doesn't "do" fresh garlic?! Anyway, I'm jealous you made it to the Mecca of garlic lovers!

Posted by Meg in Paris on May 12, 2004 at 7:35 AM

There was a place in London (near Carnaby Street?) I couldn't drag my dining companions to called somethign like "The Stinking Rose". It was all garlic, all the time. You could smell the place from a block away.

Must. Get. To London.

Posted by Barrett on May 12, 2004 at 1:45 PM