Jan Bilton cooks with garlic
Talking to garlic grower Richard Cato at my local Farmers’ Market was a revelation.
Firstly there are hundreds of varieties but many are suited to specific terroirs. Each has its own characteristics and flavours but the one commonality is the colder the winter the more intense the flavour.
Waikato has a good garlic-growing climate, but, Richard says, it’s harder to dry after harvesting than in other climates such as Marlborough and Central Otago. Also, “You enjoy a much better crop if you keep your own seed.” Cato’s seeds are spray-free. Their four varieties include:
Ajo rojo is a hard-necked red Spanish variety. A good roasting and pesto garlic with a powerful, sweet flavour. It also provides an extra benefit: In spring a scape (flower bud) pops up that is excellent stir-fried with asparagus and other vegetables.
Kakanui, first developed in the South Island, has a softer flavour than Ajo Rojo but is still relatively pungent.
Takahue, originally brought in by Dalmatians, thrives in the North Island and also has good flavour.
Printinor, mostly grown in Marlborough, is an all-purpose white garlic with larger cloves and a softer flavour.
The health benefits of garlic include allicin a natural antibiotic. Once it is stabilised, research has shown allicin is anti-cancer, helps to lower cholesterol and blood pressure plus prevent strokes. When tested, Cato’s Ajo Rojo garlic was naturally high in allicin.
Boiling the garlic makes it sweet and less pungent. Get the recipe
Roasting the garlic turns it soft and sweet. If fresh spinach is unavailable use frozen spinach or finely sliced kale. Get the recipe
For best flavour, rest the garlic for 10 minutes after crushing. Get the recipe