- Elephant garlic bulbs grow up to four inches wide.Garlic image by bayu harsa from Fotolia.com
Although it is actually a perennial member of the leek family, elephant garlic looks like a larger version of regular garlic. The large cloves offer a subtle garlic flavor that is much milder than normal garlic and are somewhat sweet in flavor. It is also the ideal garlic to grow at home if soil conditions are cool and damp.
- It is best to plant elephant garlic during autumn months so that they will grow quickly in the spring. Just before planting, break each garlic bulb into cloves and drop each clove into a small hole two inches deep with pointed ends up; cover and pat firmly. Each clove should be separated by about 10 inches. The cloves should be watered every week during spring and only withheld when the plant tops begin to dry during the late summer.
- Elephant garlic should be harvested when the leaf tops dry and bend downward. It is important to pull random bulbs before harvesting in order to make sure they are mature, which is indicated by their size--they should be at least double the size of regular garlic. The garlic should be harvested by hand and soil needs to be loosened before pulling. This can be done using a garden fork, bed lifter or potato digger.
Storage and Purchasing
- While elephant garlic will not store as long as regular garlic, it can still last three months at room temperature or six months in cold storage, if cured properly. If purchasing elephant garlic bulbs, pick firm heads that are without browning or signs of softness. Bulbs should also be covered with plenty of dry, papery skin.
- The mild flavor of elephant garlic makes it perfect for diners who do not enjoy the strong bite of regular garlic. It is great if added raw to a dish in order to give it a delicate garlic taste. It cannot be used as a substitute for regular garlic, unless a lot more is used than called for in the original recipe. The sweet flavor of this vegetable is enhanced by roasting. It also tastes great when sauteed in butter, though keeping it too long over heat will cause it to brown and turn bitter.