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Heirloom garlic consists of several cloves that can be individually separated from their paper-thin peel, that can be shades of white and purple depending on the variety. Each clove of garlic is also encased in its own wrapper, often multi-layered depending upon variety. Regardless of variety, it is best to choose garlic with supple, firm bulbs and roots still intact as this is a sign of freshness. Often referred to as the "stinking rose," whole garlic has a very mild allium scent. Once the cloves are crushed or pressed, enzyme compounds are released, producing a sulfur-based molecule known as allicin, which is responsible for giving garlic its renowned pungent aroma and flavor.
Heirloom garlic is available in the spring through fall months.
Garlic, botanically known as Allium Sativum, is a member of the lily family along with chives, shallots, and onions. Amongst cultivated plants, it is known to have one of the largest genomes. Garlic is the common name dedicated to hundreds of varieties, which can be classified as hardneck or softneck types. Softneck varieties are most common as they are easier to grow, less particular about growing conditions, slower to bolt and generally produce more cloves per bulb. They are the supermarket varieties that people simply know as garlic. Hardneck garlics are generally quite particular about their growing conditions, and once harvested, have a very short shelf-life, which is uncommon for softneck garlic. About 98 percent of common white garlic found in the supermarket is one of two types, California Early and California Late.