Elephant Garlic in the Semi-permaculture Garden

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Last fall was the first time that I ever planted elephant garlic. This enormous bulbing  garlicky-tasting leek came from Nichols Garden Nursery. I planted in early fall and scattered lettuce seed over the bed to use the floor space in the spring. The garlic made fall top growth, but I left it to grow.

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This spring I had a bed full of thick, sturdy, radiantly healthy green garlic, or rather green leeks in this case. I pulled some to use as green garlic, and was delighted by the warm, mildly garlicky flavor when sautéed in butter or olive oil with a little salt. I like all green garlic, but this one was my favorite. I didn’t let myself eat much of it, though, because I had my eye on a good bulb harvest. The bloomscapes care along in early May, and they make a nice subsidiary harvest if picked right away. Cooked at this stage, they are crisp, oniony, and sweet. Leave them more than 2-3 days after first appearance and they develop adamantine, unchewable fibers in the outer layer. Then come the flowers, and the few that I let bloom were very pretty. I forgot to take pictures so here are some borrowed shots:

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I have verified to my own satisfaction that if they are allowed to bloom the bulbs will be much smaller, so keep that in mind. The individual flowers make a tasty crunchy garnish, and are adored by bees, so they help carry pollinators through the hottest part of our summer, which is much appreciated.

Finally the tops started to yellow and bulb harvest began. Digging them is great fun; the enormous bulbs give you a sense of buried treasure. One must be quite a gardener, one feels, to produce a plant like that. So much of the time gardening is humbling that a little ego-aggrandizement does not come amiss.

The kitchen use is another matter. After a few tries, I can’t take to elephant garlic cloves either raw or cooked. The flavor is weakly garlicky with a bitter edge whether raw or cooked and does no dish any good, in my opinion. One online gardener has suggested that I need to hold it for a month or two, until this quality subsides. We’ll see.

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The greens are so good that I’ll continue to grow a lot of it, and next spring I’ll let myself harvest a lot more greens. I plan to divide my elephant garlic patch in two, and try two different growing methods. In one half, I’ll continue to grow it in the standard garlic fashion, digging and dividing and replanting each fall, and in the other half I’ll just let it perennialize and pull green garlic at will and see what happens. Of course I’ll be reporting back.

 

10 responses to this post.

  1. Hi Heather,
    I can’t take elephant garlic bulbs either but have never tried the greens. BTW – what a great looking kitchen knife in the second photo.
    Azar

    Reply

    • Posted by wooddogs3 on July 9, 2016 at 8:22 am

      By the way, I should have mentioned that the greens take more cooking than you might think in order to taste their best. If sautéed in olive oil and a little salt over medium heat, it is going to take at least 20 minutes and possibly 30. When undercooked and a little crisp, they have a slightly acrid flavor. I determine cooking time by tasting, and when they begin to taste mellow and warm and sweet, they are done.

      Reply

  2. Posted by wooddogs3 on July 7, 2016 at 6:44 am

    Hi Azar, good to hear from you! That knife is my ultimate kitchen tool. For decades I refused to pay money for top-flight knives, and then my husband gave me one for Christmas and I learned that good tools really do make a difference. So I keep one very good knife, and the others are still tat.
    What are you harvesting up in the PNW right now?

    Reply

    • Hi Heather,
      The weather has been nice and cool and we’ve been eating lots of tender greens. I’ve been using young gai lan leaves in salads and soups. We ate our first tomatoes of the season this week. They taste so good!

      Reply

      • Posted by wooddogs3 on July 10, 2016 at 2:35 pm

        I just ordered some gai lan seed. For some peculiar reason I’ve never grown it before. I’m hoping to eat it before winter, although autumn here is really hot and it may not grow well.

  3. […] Source: Elephant Garlic in the Semi-permaculture Garden | My urban homestead […]

    Reply

  4. Hi Wooddog3,

    I’ll be interested to see your conclusions about elephant garlic – I found they grew like a weed and that I ended with less utility from them than I wanted. I’ve gone back to using common garlics in preference.

    I’ll follow with interest.

    Cheers,

    Frank

    Reply

    • Posted by wooddogs3 on August 4, 2016 at 5:16 pm

      I agree with you that I don’t find much culinary use for the bulbs. I did like the green garlic a lot when harvested young, and I expect to be harvesting most of it that way. I do notice that it has a somewhat “hot” flavor when lightly cooked, and it needs to be sautéed long enough to bring out the sweetness, usually at least 20 minutes for me.

      Reply

      • Yes, I found for culinary purposes, it was a bit simpler to go with standard garlics, which I quite love t grow.

        The elephant garlic started to becoem a problematic weed in my veggie bed after a while. I was less than happy about that! LOL.

        Best luck with it.

        Frank

    • Posted by wooddogs3 on August 4, 2016 at 5:17 pm

      But in view of the fact that green alliums are full of allicin and other nutritional goodies, I will continue to eat plenty of those.

      Reply

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