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Pearl garlic is a single clove garlic that averages about two inches in diameter. The mild, white to cream flesh is encased in dry, thin, papery layers, similar to that of multi-clove garlic. These papery layers can be pure white or may contain subtle striping in purple, violet or gray. Pearl garlic has a robust garlic flavor and tends to have a milder astringency and spiciness than other garlic types.
Pearl garlic is available in the summer months.
Pearl garlic, known botanically as Allium sativum is a member of the Lily family along with onions, conventional garlic and leeks. Pearl garlic is known by a number of other names including Chengdu #2, Ajo Macho, Single bulb garlic, Solo garlic, and Monobulb garlic. There is still a degree of mystery in regards to how Pearl garlic is produced and how to classify it. In China where it is believed to have originated some garlic producers say that it is a specific cultivator that grows only in certain regions of the country. Since the unique garlic has reached markets in Europe and the United States via Chinese exporters there has been a surge in research done by garlic growing enthusiasts as to how to best produce single cloved varieties of garlic. Though still a rare garlic in most regions Pearl garlic has had success in the modern marketplace and is sought after as a result of its unique shape and for its easy to peel characteristics.
Pearl garlic is believed to have the same compounds as other garlics and contains allylic sulfides which are being studied for their antibacterial properties as well as their ability to support healthy cardiovascular function.
Pearl garlic can be prepared in a fashion similar to that of traditional garlic. It can be utilized both raw and cooked. Its robust flavor is at its strongest when it is pressed, finely chopped and pureed, a process which releases the oils that give garlic its well-known flavor and smell. Pearl garlic’s unique size and shape make it ideal for roasting whole which imparts a rich, sweet and caramelized flavor profile to the garlic. Its larger size makes it ideal too for slicing thin and sautéing or frying to make garlic chips. Similar to conventional garlic Pearl garlic is best stored in a cool dry place and consumed within three to six months.
Under the name Ajo Macho, this single clove garlic plays a role in South American and Mexican folklore and cultural medicinal beliefs.
Pearl garlic is believed to have first been produced on a commercial level in the Yunnan province in Southern China. It is said by some to be an Asiatic cultivator though it also has similarities to the Turban group as well. While its exact genetic affiliation remains unknown modern research has shown that rather than being a specific cultivator it is more likely a growing method that is responsible for the unique appearance of many Pearl garlic varieties on the market today. Growers have had success in producing Pearl garlic by planting and growing the bulbils of conventional garlic varieties. There are additional factors such as planting date, harvesting date and growing conditions that come into play and effect bulb size and consistency in single bulb production. Pearl garlic can be found in China and sporadically in Europe and the United States either sold as an import item from China at major grocers or at specialty markets and farmers markets when grown locally.