Garlic has been cultivated for more than thousand years. Garlic or Allivum sativum is well known for its medicinal as well as culinary attributes. It is a member of the onion family. There are over 600 different varieties of garlic cultivated throughout the world. However, the garlic family is broadly classified as Hardneck garlic (Ophioscorodon) and Softneck garlic (Sativum). Hardneck garlic is also known as purple garlic. It renders slight sweetness to the dish. This variety has a rich, full-bodied taste. It can be ideally stored for up to 6 months. Purple garlic is widely grown in most parts of USA. However, the purple garlic varieties grown in West Central Texas are more resistant to seasonal damage.
Purple garlic has even-sized cloves surrounded with a thick and stiff 'neck' with purple stripes. Usually, the number of cloves varies from 4 to 12. Some varieties of purple garlic are found to be heavily blotched. Presence of large quantity of organic pigment "anthocyanidin" is responsible for the "purple coloration". Purple garlic keeps for about 6-8 months. Interestingly, most of the purple garlic varieties have originated from erstwhile Soviet Union. Purple garlic is often used for confectionary recipes and butter brickle ice-creams. In Spain, purple garlic is used for flavoring breads, pasta, pizzas, main dishes, soups and side dishes. Purple garlic roasted potatoes with rosemary is popular among wine lovers across the world. It is also used in flavoring vanilla ice creams.
Purple garlic is available in many varieties. Well-known species are:
White garlic is widely available, whereas, purple garlic is less prevalent. Softneck garlic is always white in color, much easier to grow and are hardier compared to hardneck garlic. These white species are more conducive to travel and shipping. White garlic tends to have a very powerful flavor and scent. Often, white garlic has more cloves than purple garlic. Hardneck garlic has a milder taste and odor. Purple Garlic cannot be stored for long periods like white garlic. However, hardneck garlic retains their sweet aroma even after cooking. Generally, purple garlic has fewer cloves than white garlic.
Purple Garlic is rich in powerful antioxidant resveratrol. This pigment gives a dark reddish-purple color to purple garlic. Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) practitioners treat purple garlic as one of the best nutritional supplements.
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