The best garlic varieties


Porcelain garlic

The classic, pearly white garlic, with a stiff neck and figure-hugging skin. It holds just four or five uniform cloves. The neck is the remains of the bulb’s shoots, a snaky tangle known as the “scape” which can be used in cooking. White garlic is beautiful to look at, simple and strong in taste.

Rocambole garlic

Purple-streaked, loose skinned, a big-flavoured garlic that doesn’t keep long. Hot and full of flavour, they are a chef’s favourite. High in sulfenic acid, which gives garlic its chilli-like burning taste, but quickly dissipates. (If you want to conserve this heat, treat the garlic gently – don’t crush the clove, and cook it less.)

Spanish or red garlic

Gorgeous purple colour, almost fig-like and often very large. Some varieties can be mild, others, such as the chesnok, are high in sugars and have been declared the best for roasting.

Artichoke or Italian garlic

A group of bulgy, many-cloved types. Taste varies wildly with age and type, and green shoots may appear early in some of the cloves. These can be easily removed if you slice the clove in half from the top.

Black and smoked garlic

More fashionable in recent years, both are modern inventions. Black garlic is fermented at high temperature to give a sweet, yeasty taste that some cooks use to boost flavour.

Smoked garlic is generally made, like smoked fish, with oak chips – the process doesn’t add any extra life to the bulb. But, roasted, its good spread on toast as a bruschetta.

Wild garlic

The lush sword-like leaves that grow in damp patches in British woodlands from early spring are the product of a different species of allium. But they’re a lovely taste of the new season. You can use them, or the little white flower heads that arrive later in salad, stuff a roast chicken with them, or crush them into a pesto sauce with some basil and olive oil.


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