Frontier Psychiatrist

Totally Worth the Garlic Breath

Posted on: October 12, 2011

I’m currently keeping my mouth shut pretty tight.  I just ate 10 cloves of garlic in the name of science, and while I have exciting results to share from this experiment, I believe those around me (especially the vampires) are not amused.  The inspiration for my experiment sprouted from a gift of garlic, given to me by my boyfriend’s parents, who recently visited The Hudson Valley Garlic Festival.  Yes, apparently garlic festivals exist, and I’m really jealous I wasn’t there.  They were kind enough to return with 3 heads of garlic in tow: an Oregon Blue, a Polish Medium, and a German Red Medium from Piedmont Garlic Farms, NY.  Naturally, I thought a taste test was in order.  My goal?  To (a) determine if I could really taste the difference between varieties, and (b) find a new favorite garlic.

For background, I adore garlic.  I think almost any savory dish can benefit from more of it.  A friend and I once joked that homeowners should sauté onions and garlic at open houses.  What home-buyer can resist the aroma?  As partial to garlic as I am, I can’t say I was interested in just taking a bite of it raw.  Fine, I admit I did try some minced bits out of curiosity, but the flavor descriptions ranged from “my mouth is on fire” to “only burns a little”.  No, raw garlic is perhaps not where it’s at.

So I took 2 routes: I roasted several cloves of each variety to spread on fresh bread, and then I also minced a few cloves of each to sauté with mushrooms, because it’s a great combination.  Mushrooms are earthy and meaty and much mellower in flavor than garlic is, so they’re good background for a garlic tasting experiment.  Everything was executed very scientifically, from the choosing of an average garlic for comparison (“the stuff from across the street”), to the separate dishes of each variety, to the palate cleanser (the classic Sierra Nevada pale ale) between samples.

Here is an overview of my findings, in 3 categories: appearance/ease of peeling, taste when roasted, and taste when sautéed with mushrooms:

Stuff from across the street:

–          huge cloves in comparison to all the garlic festival cloves

–          roasted: sweet

–          mushrooms: mild, didn’t offer much flavor

Oregon Blue:

–          easy to peel

–          roasted: milky, the most mellow

–          mushrooms: mild, a little spicy

Polish Medium:

–          very easy to peel, reddish tint

–          roasted: creamy like butter, mellow, smooth

–          mushrooms: not much taste

German Red:

–          very tightly packed cloves, brownish tint

–          roasted: creamy, flavorful, very earthy

–          mushrooms: not spicy, but very present

Just out of curiosity, I decided to see what the experts (er, internets) had to say about each variety:

Stuff from across the street: based on some Googling, it seems like most grocery store garlic is softneck silverskin garlic because it’s easier to grow in bulk

Oregon Blue: nice hot flavor, dark green leaves, and a purple cast on the skin; stores well

Polish Medium: rich, musky, earthy flavor and a little bite

German Red: strong flavored, easily peeled, red-brown-skinned; “the spice of life”

Hm, the spice of life, eh?  In fact, the German Red was my favorite, both roasted and sautéed with mushrooms.  The Polish Medium was a close second when roasted.  To be clear, I liked all of them, but these two were the most clearly unique.  In describing the flavors I found myself drawing on vocabulary I typically reserve for wine tasting: words like grassy, buttery, and earthy.  And, like a good wine, not everyone will agree on what they taste in a garlic clove.  Just because I like the German Red doesn’t mean you will.

But the point of this whole experiment ties in to my whole perspective on food: it’s better to know where it came from.  I like to know where my berries were grown and how my chickens were raised, so why should garlic be any different?  I don’t know for sure what variety the stuff from across the street is, but my guess is that it isn’t German Red or Oregon Blue. The more you know about where your food comes from, the more deliberate you can be in your choosing your ingredients and cooking methods.  After all, not all garlics are created equal.

Freya Bellin writes weekly for Mark Bittman’s web site and alternate Wednesdays for Frontier Psychiatrist. Her recent FP recipes include Make Your Grandma Proud,  You Say ToMAYto, I Say ToMAHto, and Your New Favorite Brunch.


3 Responses to "Totally Worth the Garlic Breath"

[…] web site and alternate Wednesdays for Frontier Psychiatrist. Her recent FP recipes include Totally Worth the Garlic Breath,  Make Your Grandma Proud,  You Say ToMAYto, I Say […]

[…] Wednesdays for Frontier Psychiatrist. Her recent FP recipes include My Purple and Pink Muses, Totally Worth the Garlic Breath,  Make Your Grandma Proud. Share this:ShareEmailTwitterFacebookRedditStumbleUponYahoo BuzzDiggLike […]

[…] Her recent FP recipes include Thanksgiving, Hold the Turkey, My Purple and Pink Muses, and Totally Worth the Garlic Breath. Share this:ShareEmailTwitterFacebookRedditStumbleUponYahoo BuzzDiggLike this:LikeBe the first to […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Follow Us:

Send Us Your Music:


L.V. Lopez, Publisher
Keith Meatto, Editor-In-Chief
Peter Lillis, Managing Editor
Freya Bellin
Andrew Hertzberg
Franklin Laviola
Gina Myers
Jared Thomas
Jordan Mainzer


James Tadd Adcox
Michael Bakkensen
Sophie Barbasch
John Raymond Barker
Jeffery Berg
P.J. Bezanson
Lee Bob Black
Jessica Blank
Mark Blankenship
Micaela Blei
Amy Braunschweiger
Jeb Brown
Jamie Carr
Laura Carter
Damien Casten
Krissa Corbett Kavouras
Jillian Coneys
Jen Davis
Chris Dippel
Claire Dippel
Amy Elkins
Mike Errico
Alaina Ferris
Lucas Foglia
Fryd Frydendahl
Tyler Gilmore
Tiffany Hairston
Django Haskins
Todd Hido
Paul Houseman
Susan Hyon
Michael Itkoff
Eric Jensen
David S. Jung
Eric Katz
Will Kenton
Michael Kingsbaker
Steven Klein
Katie Kline
Anna Kushner
Jim Knable
Jess Lacher
Chris Landriau
Caitlin Leffel
David Levi
Daniel F. Levin
Carrie Levy
Jim Lillis
Sophie Lyvoff
Max Maddock
Bob McGrory
Chris Lillis Meatto
Mark Meatto
Kevin Mueller
Chris Q. Murphy
Gina Myers
Tim Myers
Alex Nackman
Michael Nicholoff
Elisabeth Nicholson
Nicole Pettigrew
Allyson Paty
Dana Perry
Jared R. Pike
Mayumi Shimose Poe
Marisa Ptak
Sarah Robbins
Anjoli Roy
Beeb Salzer
Terry Selucky
Serious Juice
David Skeist
Suzanne Farrell Smith
Amy Stein
Jay Tarbath
Christianne Tisdale
Phillip Toledano
Joe Trapasso
Sofie van Dam
Jeff Wilser
Susan Worsham
Khaliah Williams
David Wilson
James Yeh
Bernard Yenelouis
Wayan Zoey

Listening To:

Sons of Dionysus

A Transmedia Novel of Myth, Mirth, and the Magical Excess of Youth.