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Chinese garlic is very distinct in its appearance. Each bulb is shaped like a swollen golf ball, rounded to near perfection. Roughly eight to ten cloves are encased in thin parchment textured layers of white and vivid violet streaked coloring. The cloves grow around the plants central stalk. The cloves are uniform in shape and size, their coloring garlic true and ivory white. Chinese garlic has a savory perfume and its flavor is rich, spicy and warm.
Chinese garlic is available year-round.
Chinese garlic, also known as Ta Suan in China, was originally classified as a sub-species of hardneck garlic known as Allium Sativum var. pekinense. In modern times it has been reclassified botanically as a form of common garlic, Allium Sativum var. ophioscrodom. All hardneck garlics grow scapes in the spring with each variety having a characteristic shape based on its genetics. When mature the plants of Chinese garlic are characterized by their woody central stalks which lengthen downward toward the bottom of each bulb and when mature bend over, similar to that of onion stalks.
Chinese garlic contains Allicin which is responsible not only for the potent aroma of crushed garlic but for numerous health benefits as well. It has antifungal, antiviral and antibacterial properties. It can also help normalize lipoprotein levels and support healthy cholesterol levels.
Chinese garlic is best suited for cooking in applications that showcase the bold heat and depth of the garlic. Chinese garlic can be used both raw and cooked and the cloves can be sliced, crushed or utilized whole. Keep in mind that crushing the garlic cloves will release more of their pungent oils than cutting or using whole. Consider pairing Chinese garlic with bold and spicy flavors as well as rich ingredients that can work in harmony with its intense flavor. Chiles, ginger, citrus, cream, soy sauce, starches, grilled and roasted meats are all favorable pairings for Chinese garlic. To store keep Chinese garlic in a cool, dry place and use within three to four months or before it starts to sprout.
In Western cultures, garlic is a culinary staple. In Eastern cultures, though, its medicinal properties take precedence. In China, garlic has millenniums of history of medicinal use for a wide variety of conditions and is still considered a cure-all. In Chinese medicine, garlic has been used to treat bronchitis and respiratory problems, gastrointestinal problems, flatulence, boils, dysentery, cramps, high blood pressure, diabetes and has been used externally for arthritis, muscle pain, neuralgia and sciatica. Though China has been practicing for centuries the use of garlic as medicine, science has finally begun to confirm garlic's long-standing medicinal benefits.
Garlic has been cultivated in China since pre-recorded history. It has experienced many states of evolution due to the ever changing elements of the topography it is grown in. Flavor, size and coloration are affected by growing conditions, particularly weather. The variety Allium pekinense was first described as such in 1930 by J. Prokhanov who believed at the time it was a mutation of cultivated Asian garlic and unique enough to be considered a separate sub-species. Its uniqueness being that unlike many other species of garlic Chinese garlic does not mature gradually, rather when they are ready their tops fall over, similar to that of onions. In 1963 and again in 1990 this theory was disputed by researchers who noted the identifying characteristics that dictated pekinense as its own unique variety could also be noted in more common strains of garlic such as “California early”. Since this time in the scientific world Chinese garlic is now considered by many to be a form of common garlic.
Recipes that include Chinese Garlic. One is easiest, three is harder.