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Thai garlic produces petite bulbs that carry about six to eight cloves that grow surrounding the garlic's central scape. When harvested at maturity, the cloves are encased in tight, firm wrappers varying in stripes and colors of purple and tan. The cloves themselves are creamy in color with a shallot rose colored hue on their surface. Regardless of size, their flavors are bold, pungent and aromas equally strong. Their fiery flavor will mellow with cooking.
Thai garlic is available in the summer months.
Thai garlic, botanically known as part of Allium sativum is a hardneck variety of garlic. Additionally it is part of the sub-group of hardneck varieties known as turban garlic. There are a handful of different varieties of Thai garlic with Purple Thai and Fire Thai being the most well-known. Thai garlic is a variety whose name simply suggests its growing region of origin. It is a rare organic cultivar that has to compete with many conventional varieties from neighboring China that are inexpensive, readily available and prolific growers.
Thai garlic like all garlic varieties is rich in alliinase and alliin, compounds which are responsible for the garlic’s robust flavor, aroma and for many of its nutritional properties as well. When Thai garlic is crushed the combination of the two come together to create the sulfur compound allicin which has been shown to have antibiotic properties and is being studied for its ability to ward off certain cancers and promote healthy cardiovascular function.
Thai garlic is best suited for applications that showcase the bold heat and depth of the garlic. It can be utilized both raw and cooked and like most garlic varieties its robust flavor is at its most pungent and hot when the garlic is smashed, minced or pressed. Cooking will mellow the bite of Thai garlic slightly. When utilized raw use sparingly so as to not overpower the other food you are highlighting. Roasting or sautéing are the most ideal cooking methods for this garlic. Consider pairing Thai garlic with bold and spicy flavors as well as rich ingredients that can work in harmony with its intense flavors. Chiles, ginger, citrus, cream, starches, soy sauce, toasted nuts, tomatoes, eggplant, grilled and roasted meats and shellfish are all favorable pairings for Thai garlic. To store keep Thai garlic in a cool dry place and utilize within three to four month.
An annual festival in Thailand known as Vegetarian Festival or Chinese Vegan Festival occurs during the ninth month of the Lunar calendar. Celebrated in Thailand since the 1780’s it’s a celebration of food and a time Thai people focus on purity, cleansing and abstinence. During this time many Thai’s abstain from meat, dairy, onions and garlic. Onions and garlic in Buddhist culture are seen as being over stimulating and aphrodisiacs and while normally an integral part of Thai cuisine during this period of time are off limits.
Thai garlic originated in Thailand where it has long been grown and played not only an important role in Thai cuisine but has provided a means of earning a living for generations of Thai farmers. In Thailand garlic is grown predominantly in the north in areas like Chiang Mai, Lamphun and Mae Hong Son and is distributed for the most part domestically. The influx of inexpensive Chinese garlic in the Thai marketplace has proposed a threat to Thai garlic and those that rely on growing it to support their families. Under the 2003 Thai-Chinese free trade agreement a certain quota of Chinese garlic can be imported with no tariffs and between 2004 and 2007 local garlic production in Thailand dropped from 96,000 tonnes to 75,000 tonnes. Thai garlic is believed to have first made its way out of Bangkong, Thailand to Canada via Salt Springs Seed Company of British Columbia. In the United States and Canada it is a specialty garlic and can be found at select farmers markets in garlic growing regions.
Recipes that include Thai Garlic. One is easiest, three is harder.
|Leite's Culinaria||Chile Garlic Sauce|