My friend Ben is pretty into garlic. Obsessive, you might say. He grows 50 varieties and estimates that he plants six or seven HUNDRED garlic plants each year on the tenth of an acre he's carved out on his family's property in East Orleans.
I should clarify: Ben doesn't farm for a living. You might know him as Dr. Chung: self-proclaimed Dentist-by-Day, Farmer-by-Night. He's originally from Taiwan, but he's lived on the Cape for a while—long enough to have six kids and become a regular at the Orleans Farmers Market.
At any rate, this week for the Local Food Report, Ben and I talked garlic. He told me about when to plant garlic (now), how he likes to eat it (raw), and what varieties he likes best for the Cape. He's written a whole book on the topic: Grow Good Garlic on Cape Cod, which he's selling at his market stand. It's a superbly funny and very informative read.
In the meantime, in case you're itching to get some garlic in the ground, here's some info on what Ben likes to grow:
Chinese Pink: Ben says this variety comes about a month ahead of other hardneck varieties, so it matures in mid June rather than mid to late July. With white outer skins and pinkish inner skins, it's pretty, and has a nice mellow flavor too.
Russian Red: This hardy variety does very well on the Cape. It's got beautiful purple blushes on the skin and stores well into winter. It has a rich, musky flavor and is very spicy when you eat it raw. Ben likes it thinly sliced with some pan fried sausage. Yum!
German White: Excellent storage variety, and few but large cloves per bulb. Easy for chopping! Medium on the spice index.
Elephant: The name says it all. Big, big garlic! Ben's record is .86 pounds and about the size of a softball. Elephant garlic likes our cool northern climate and the flavor is pleasantly mild.
It's time! Check your farmers market for seed garlic. Tomorrow's task around here is to get ours in the ground.