Do you know elephant garlic? It is an original and perennial variety that produces a huge bulb, weighing up to 500 grams and more than 10 cm in diameter, formed from 4 to 6 large cloves. The taste halfway through leek and garlic is milder than that of traditional garlic. It is a vegetable originating in Eastern Europe, a bit forgotten in our country, but very popular in the United States and Canada.
In French literature we find the oldest trace in the work “Description of vegetable plants” by Vilmorin-Andrieux in 1856 under the name “Ail d’orient” or “Garlic on horseback”. The name “Elephant Garlic” is said to be the translation of the English “Elephant Garlic”. This more recent name is said to derive from an Oregon grower (Nichols), but of Greek origin which made it popular in the United States and Canada in the late 1940s. He had his first bulbs from a Czech farmer himself before he immigrated to the United States with it tension!
Grow elephant garlic in your vegetable garden!
Planting cloves is done in the fall, in a fairly light soil with a sunny position, plant them with the tip pointing up about 4-5 cm below the ground and space them 15 cm apart. As with most bulbs, hillside cultivation in heavy soil is preferable.
Harvest usually takes place from the end of summer, but the bulbs can also be left in the ground from one year to the next. Easy to grow, elephant garlic tolerates cold climates very well and also tolerates periods of summer drought perfectly. On biennial bulbs, elephant garlic develops bulbils around the main bulb, allowing it to multiply as well, in addition to dividing the cloves.
In addition, the plant is also used in ornamental form. With a height of 150 cm, the summer flowers form an immense ball of purple-pink flowers of almost 10-15 cm in diameter when you let them grow out, the most beautiful effect in the garden or in the vegetable garden!
How to harvest and use elephant garlic in the kitchen?
About 5 weeks before harvest, and as with regular hard-stemmed garlic, it is recommended that you cut the stem if you want to increase the size of the bulbs. Then dig them up in good weather. Let them dry on the ground, in the shade, for two days without rain. Then, just like regular garlic, store them in a dry, dark place.
In cooking, it is used like traditional garlic and is mainly used to flavor vegetable dishes. It can also be combined with seafood, poultry or even red meat. The leaves can also be cooked and eaten like those of leeks. Thanks to the very light taste, elephant garlic is perfect to use raw, for example in salad dressings and dips.
As a landscape architect and geographer by training, I am passionate about the plant world and its countless curiosities. Founder of the Rexania blog and activist for gardening in harmony with nature, I am also an Alsatian gardener, ardent defender of ancient, free and reproducible varieties.