The Great Garlic Taste Test Of ’08

Now that the entire garlic crop has been picked and cured, it’s time to tackle that most onerous task: figuring out which one tastes best. The three contenders in today’s battle are, in no particular order:

Persian Star

Chesnok Red

German White

The methodology was as follows:

We were going to test the flavors of the three garlics in three settings — rubbed raw on toast, roasted and spread on bread, and raw in a simple bruschetta treatment. Each type was handled with uncontaminated utensils, and they were eaten in a random, blind test.

The Persian Star had a small head with about a dozen teensy cloves. The skins of the cloves were a lovely purply red, but they were a total pain in the ass to handle. I don’t have a lot of patience with wee garlic cloves.

The Chesnok Red was basically exactly like the Persian Star. Again with the wee tiny cloves. Again with the eye-rolling and me grumbling, “This better not taste that good.”

The German White, though, was much more my speed: big cloves (but not very many of them in the head), easy to peel, basically a dream to handle.

The processing was fairly simple for this test. I toasted some slices of bread with a little olive oil for the raw-rubbed test, nestled a few cloves of each in some tin foil and drizzled them with olive oil before roasting for the roasted-and-smeared test, and stirred together some finely diced Black Plum tomatoes (from our garden), the finely minced garlic, a pinch of chiffonaded fresh basil (from our garden), and a healthy drizzle of olive oil for the bruschetta test.

Then we hunkered down for some serious bread consumption.

For the raw-garlic-rubbed-on-olive-oiled-toasts test, we ended up liking the three almost equally. We started with the German White, and felt it had “a mild, not very forward flavor” and was “complimentary”, “a team player”. The Persian Star was “more garlicky”, “sharper and sweeter”, had “a flavor that lingers”, but was “more raw-tasting” and was “asking for something else” to go with it. The Chesnok Red was our winner, by a nose, for being “a garlic-lover’s garlic” and “very strong”. In a very close vote, we decided the German White was the second best, and the Persian Star brought up the rear.

The roasted-and-smeared-on-bread test was next, and the Persian Star led things off by having a flavor “where ‘sweet’ and ‘rich’ meet”; we struggled to verbalize exactly what the flavor reminded us of, ultimately agreeing it tasted like the texture of tomato paste. It had no sharp garlic aftertaste. The Chesnok Red was up next and was “a total loser”. It tasted “like if garlic and tap water were combined”. Third was the German White, “delicious”, “light and airy”, “gardeny”, “full but not heavy — tastes like spring green”, and was fresh-tasting even when roasted. The clear winner was the German White, with the Persian Star a modest second and the Chesnok Red a crushing disappointment.

The bruschetta test was led off by the Chesnok Red, which saw a strong rebound from its failures as a roaster. It “tied the flavors together nicely”, “never tasted like raw garlic”, and was “a good team player’. The Persian Star was next and was “not as peppery as [the Chesnok], more buttery” but also “almost overpowers the tomato flavor”. The German White was the last up, and had a “warm finish” with “no sharpness”, “plays beautifully with the basil” and got the rave “all four flavors [in the tomato mixture] work together the best”. We voted the Chesnok Red our favorite in this round, narrowly edging out the German White, with the Persian Star coming up short.

Overall, even though the Chesnok Red won two of the three tests, we liked the German White best overall. The failure of the Chesnok to roast well was a damaging blow to its overall standings. The Persian Star, while delicious in its own right, wasn’t a winner in any category and had teensy cloves that are impossible to peel. So there you have it: German White it is. In fact, we just placed our order with Seeds of Change for oodles of it for next year.

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15 Comments

Filed under 7. July, Garden, Harvested, Lessons Learned, Taste Test, We Grew This

15 responses to “The Great Garlic Taste Test Of ’08

  1. Douglas

    This story is good — like your almost invariably stellar IPB hockey game diaries — perhaps in part because this post, like the game diaries, details, in play by play fashion, the results of a competition. For our part, we’d much rather watch a Devils game than eat garlic, though.
    ;-)

  2. Douglas, you’re right — a garlic taste-test is no kind of substitute for a Devils game. But it’s considerably yummier. :D (I’m glad you liked this post!)

  3. Meg

    I don’t know . . . I might prefer eating garlic given those two options. ;) (Joking, sort of, but garlic is one of my very favorite foodstuffs.)

  4. Liz

    So are the big German Whites the kind that we see in the supermarkets?

    How about garlic night at the Rock? Would people’s breath melt the ice?

  5. The German White (all of these, actually) are hardneck varieties. I just looked up grocery store garlic, Liz, and discovered that softneck garlic (garlic that doesn’t grow scapes) stores considerably longer than hardneck, making it much better for grocery stores getting produce from overseas.

    I’m all over garlic night at the Rawk!

  6. Meg, garlic is one of my favorite foodstuffs, too, and if I was forced to choose to have it in my life or the Devils, I’d probably choose garlic too. (But don’t tell the Devils I said that. And I wouldn’t be happy about having to choose! :P)

    Liz, garlic night at the Rawk? SIGN ME UP!

  7. Oh, and the German White is much milder and more buttery that grocery-store garlic.

  8. Liz

    Hmmm. I think I need to surreptitiously plant some German White around my mothers yard.

  9. Does your mother’s yard have roses? Because garlic is very, very good for roses. You could claim you were just planting the garlic for the roses, and oh, is it also edible? What a nice surprise!

  10. Jim

    You must have had bad growing conditions for your Chesnok Red. It is one of the most full-bodied, rich, flavor filled garlics around. Do your research and you will see that Chesnok Red wins baking contests everywhere.

  11. Thanks for stopping by, Jim. Perhaps our Chesnok Red wasn’t optimally grown. I guess it’s a winner in baking contests everywhere… except our house. :D

  12. Jim

    Schnookie,
    Maybe your Chesnok Red wasn’t optimally grown. Maybe you just prefer other garlics baked. Send me your address and I will send you a few heads of my Chesnok Red that I grew this year. Bake it; taste it, and let me know then how you feel.

  13. Jim

    Did you do the garlic taste tests all in one day?
    Did you clean your pallet with anything between tests? I want to know because my family wants to try the same tests with different garlic: Chesnok Red, Killareny, and Spanish Roja.

  14. Thanks so much for your kind offer, Jim. We wouldn’t want to deny you any of your own grop of garlic, though — maybe we’ll just have to try again next year with growing the Chesnok Red! :D (And we’ve been eating it in lots of other preparations since this test; it’s a truly delicious garlic!)

    We’re not exactly experts in the field of taste-testing, so I think you could safely be making up your own rules. We had bread and water for palatte cleansing between tastes, and it seemed to work for us. You’ve got a great selection to be tasting — we’d love to hear how the test goes!

    Garlic is just so wonderful, being utterly delicious and remarkably easy to grow, isn’t it? It’s so hard to choose just a few types to put in the garden each year. We could easily fill our entire space with it! ;)

  15. Pingback: The garlic harvest – Part 1 « Observations from West Berkeley

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