A rose-tinted French allium with a sweeter, more subtle flavour than white garlic
Up until the 1980s, garlic was something of a mystery to most British cooks: a strange ingredient, perceived as being a little too French, and avoided for its ability to generate pungent breath. How things have changed in the past 30 years. Garlic is now considered an absolute staple, with wild garlic, elephant garlic and even black garlic gaining familiarity among an increasing number of cooks. Now, a new member of this allium family is gaining converts at Borough Market.
“Pink garlic is the earliest of the French garlic varieties to be ready for harvesting and drying, around late spring to early summer,” says MJ from Turnips, as she pulls a perfect-looking specimen out of the box of newly arrived white bulbs, with rosy flushes peeking through the outer white layers of their skin. “The bulb is often very large, and its main characteristic is that it has a sweeter flavour than the white garlic people are most familiar with. It is a little more subtle, while retaining that garlic edge. This combination of flavours, along with its size, makes pink garlic great for roasting whole and simply serving on the side of the plate.”
Depth of experience
MJ explains that Turnips sources it garlic from smaller growers in France, and not some of the giant commercial producers that have entered the market. “We think that those farms are where the best garlic comes from,” she continues, “both in terms of the growing conditions and the depth of experience of the growers. For us, they produce the most flavourful garlic of all kinds, and their pink garlic is no exception.”
One of the advantages of its subtler, sweeter profile is that it can blend nicely with a greater variety of flavours. As MJ points out, white garlic can be a bit of a bully, overpowering dishes if not judiciously used. With the pink variety, it is easier to hit that happy balance where the allium brings life to a dish rather than taking it over, and it’s this inherent versality that MJ really appreciates. “If you like making simple things such as garlic bread or a bruschetta with garlic, tomatoes and basil, try using pink garlic the next time. It gives the dish a slightly different but still familiar flavour,” she advises. “But it is also nice to try this in other dishes that contain garlic and see the change it makes.”
Seafood dishes in particular might benefit from the understated nature of pink garlic. Try Tim Maddams’s grilled scallops, garlic butter & nori crumbs, Ursula Ferrigno’s roast monkfish with garlic or Leonardo Rivera Ruiz’s fisherman’s stew with toasted garlic. For a vegetarian option, it should also bring a lovely bright touch to Angela Clutton’s fettuccine with porcini, garlic & parsley.
“It is a beautiful type of garlic,” MJ says. “There are so many ways that I have used it. My best advice is to just give it a try in one of your favourites—I’m sure you will be coming back for more if you do.”