Elephant garlic is the bulb of a perennial plant. Particularly, the Allium ampeloprasum species. Some said that it is native to China. However, history reveals that John Tradescant the Younger grew these in England in as early as 1650. Some also claim that it originated from the Eastern Mediterranean. Consequently, it reached the United States. Primarily, in the city of Scio in Oregon. In 1941, Jim Nicholls rediscovered the crop. Nicholls was the American Planter who found the wild plants in Scio. Thus, the herb was previously called Scio’s Giant Garlic. Nicholls propagated the plant and in twelve years, he was able to grow a large and disease-free strain. Soon enough, he registered it under the name “elephant garlic” and started selling it commercially.
Nowadays, elephant garlic is known for its delicate flavor that can certainly level up any dish. Thus, this bulb makes it the perfect choice for someone who dislikes the strong pungency of regular garlic.
Elephant Garlic Trivia
- Botanically speaking, elephant garlic is not a real garlic. Instead, it is a type of leek from the onion family.
- Elephant garlic was brought to the state of Texas by some German farmers prior to the Civil War; it was then used as a cash crop but it wasn’t until the mid-1960s that garlic became an edible crop in Texas.
- The bulb of elephant garlic could be as small as a golf ball and as big as a fist, having five inches in diameter and weighing one pound each.
- Elephant garlic is an excellent source of vitamins E, C, A, B9, calcium, and dietary fiber. Like the regular garlic, it also has anti-inflammatory effects.
- Elephant garlic is known to leave a potent breath odor.
- Elephant garlic is used as an amulet in many cultures; it is believed to protect humans against bad spirits.
Elephant Garlic Buying Guide
Elephant garlic can be easily found on vegetable stands, farmers markets, and large supermarkets. It is available all-year-round. The only thing you have to remember is that they are different from regular garlic. Thus, here are some tips when you are about to buy these lovely bulbs:
- Look for a gigantic garlic. Elephant garlic is a lot bigger than regular garlic; its regular size is about five inches in diameter but it could also be as small as a golf ball.
- Weigh it. One to two bulbs of elephant garlic should weigh a pound.
- Check the cloves. One elephant garlic bulb or head contains roughly 5 cloves.
- Now that you’ve found the right variety, it’s time to choose the best ones. Look for a bulb that’s firm and has a lot of dry and papery skin. Grip the bulb using your hands; it should feel a little strong and thick.
Elephant Garlic Production & Farming in Texas
This perennial plant only requires a soil that is light, fertile, and moist for it to be successfully grown. The Texas variant of elephant garlic is heat-resistant and cold-hardy. Thus, it can be planted around the summer, spring, or fall season but Texans prefer to plant elephant garlic in the late fall. They also usually plant this with the upper tip just below the line of soil. It takes about 90-150 days for it to mature. Once the bulb starts to produce green tops, the plant can scare off deers, squirrels, and rabbits. However, when it starts to bloom, the plant highly attracts butterflies and bees. You’ll know it’s ready to harvest when its flowers start to dry. Elephant garlic in its first year produces a single, large clove. Once it’s in its second year, the cloves start to multiply.
Pesticides, additives, and chemicals:
Even though elephant garlic is considered a treat for maggots in the ground, the plant has very few predators as it is resistant and resilient to most diseases and pests. And although some pesticides are used to prevent such damages, it is highly suggested that you choose organic elephant garlic instead.
Elephant garlic is commonly sold by the weight and rarely by the piece. It can be bought in pretty braids as well for easy hanging and storing. In wholesale, it can be packaged by the mesh bag, sacks, or boxes that can weigh up to 25 kg or 50 pounds.
Enjoying Elephant Garlic
Elephant garlic can be eaten raw or cooked. Asians like to enjoy this in its raw form as a side dish or as elephant garlic chips. In the U.S., it is usually enjoyed cooked. Grilling, roasting, puréeing, pickling, and stir-frying elephant garlic are the most common methods used. It is also a staple ingredient to add to any dish like sauces, pizzas, salads, salad dressings, stuffing, mashed potatoes, and more. Nonetheless, you can use elephant garlic in the absence of regular garlic. Just note that the flavor is milder so you might want to add a little bit more.
Elephant garlic is best kept in mesh bags or woven baskets to allow ventilation. It should be then stored in a cool and dry place. Although it could last up to 10 months in there, it still has a shorter shelf life than regular garlic. In addition, you can also store unpeeled elephant garlic in the crisp drawer of your refrigerator. Peeled or chopped ones, on the contrary, should be kept in a small airtight container and should be stored in the fridge, where it could last up to two weeks.
Let’s get roasting!
As we now know, elephant garlic can be enjoyed on its own in a variety of ways. So, the next time you passed by the farmers market, grab a pound or so, and let’s get roasting. Below is a quick recipe for roasted elephant garlic that you and your family will surely love:
Yield: 12 servings
- 1 lb elephant garlic (approx. 1-2 heads)
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- Salt and pepper, as needed
- Herbs and spices, optional
- Preheat the oven and set the temperature to 400ºF or 204ºC.
- Meanwhile, cut the elephant garlic heads in half crosswise. Do not remove or peel the skin.
- Make a bowl using aluminum foil and transfer the elephant garlic inside.
- Drizzle with olive oil then season with salt and pepper, along with optional herbs and spices. Make sure that all the heads are covered and well-seasoned.
- Close the aluminum foil and put in on a baking tray or sheet pan.
- Roast in the oven for 45 minutes to 1 hour. You can tell the doneness by piercing a fork through the garlic; it should be soft and spreadable.
- If you prefer a more caramelized flavor, lower down the oven temperature to 356ºF or 180ºC and roast it for another 15-30 minutes.
- Once the desired doneness is achieved, take it out of the oven let it cool down slightly. Remove and discard the aluminum foil. You may spread it on crusty bread and serve, or use it as a side dish to pasta, meat dishes, and more.