Ahead of his upcoming demo, Hayden Groves talks about the many varieties of garlic available at the Market, and its omnipresence in European cooking
Not wanting to show my age, but during my childhood garlic in this country was considered something only the French used with chewy snails—a couple of slices of sad ‘garlic bread supreme’ from the high street pizza chain on a Saturday night would be as adventurous as it got. I am happy to say, three decades later, the UK now has a festival dedicated to it. We have wholly embraced garlic.
Garlic—or to use its Latin name, Allium sativum—is a member of the family that includes onions, leeks, shallots and chives. These bulbs and cloves have been used for more than 7,000 years, and not just for its culinary properties: Ancient Egyptians used it for medicinal purposes.
The most widely used European variety is grown in southern France but surprisingly, the French don’t even make the garlic growers top 10—theirs is the familiar off-white, almost grey bulb, with papery skin from being hung up to dry. In reality, there are many varieties of garlic, with differing sizes, potency and colour.
A foraged treat
In late spring, wild garlic leaves are a foraged treat. Eaten raw they are strong and pungent, but wilted in butter or olive oil they offer a mellow garlic hit with a spinach-like texture. Wet garlic is in fact ordinary garlic harvested young, before the bulb and cloves are fully formed. It is milder and has a sweeter, more delicate flavour, and can even be eaten raw in salads.
Black garlic is made by fermenting white garlic cloves under heat for three weeks, before being left to mature for another week. The fermentation process changes the flavour and consistency of the garlic, developing an almost fudgy texture with a sweet, molasses-like taste and a soft, liquorice tackiness.
Smoked garlic is now very in vogue—characteristically smoky in flavour, its astringent nature mellowed. Then there’s the single bulb variety, which is what its name suggests it is: a single giant clove, normally from 25 to 50mm in diameter, sweet, and without lots of fiddly peeling to take on.
I will be showcasing all five varieties in my demo. I love them all, and they are a larder staple in both my professional and home kitchen. Just think of the European classics—where would they be without garlic? The bruschettas and focaccias of Italy; Andalusian ajo blanco soup; Burgundian snails in garlic butter. Garlic bread, done properly. Naturally, in my charity cookbook Back in the Saddle—produced off the back of riding all three iconic grand tours in Europe last year—garlic is omnipresent.
So why not change that bulb or two of dry garlic in your basket for something black, smoked, wet or wild next time you’re at the Market? And hopefully, I’ll see you in person on the 23rd March to offer my guidance on how to make the most of your new found favourite allium.
Join Hayden for tips, tastings and recipes on Friday 23rd March in the Market Hall, 1-2.30pm
Hayden’s book, which has been nominated for three Gourmand World Cookbook awards, will be on sale in the Market Hall, with all proceeds going to towards CureLeukaemia.