A little bit extra about garlic
There are a lot of uses for garlic. It is one of the world's healthiest plants because of it's many medicinal as well as culinary uses. Containing numerous health promoting phytonutrients, nutrients found in certain plants and is believed to be beneficial to human health and help prevent various diseases, that have proven benefits against coronary artery disease, infections, and cancers. Along with the phytonutrients in garlic you will also find vitamins B6 & B1, minerals, manganese, phosphorus, calcium, and organic compounds. With all this inside a single clove you can understand why it is showcased in it's own spotlight with regards to health. It has been shown to reduce cholesterol levels and raising healthy high density lipoproteins. Also appears to lower blood pressure as well as interfere with the development of many types of tumor cells.
Both the garlic cloves and tender green tops are used in the culinary arts in a variety of recipes, especially as a garnish/seasoning. When you want to enhance the flavor of vegetables, meats, and sea foods you have come to the right place. A sign of a healthy garlic bulb is when you are unable to smell any garlic scent, even after you peel the wrapper. It only releases the smell and taste when it is damaged in some way. Only when the cellular walls are damaged or broken will the alliin and allinase that are stored apart from each other in each clove get mixed together and therefore the smell and taste of garlic.
The amount of garlic flavor in your dishes all depends on the way you prepare it. Crushing or mincing garlic gives off more essential oils and therefore a stronger garlic flavor. However when cooked it gives much softer and sweeter flavor than raw garlic. Following the above rule of thumb would also mean that if you put a whole bulb of garlic in a pot of soup you will only get a mild garlic flavor.
As for the tender green tops, you can use these much like you do scallions and be a beautiful garnish.
Hardneck garlic tends to have more flavor then their softneck cousins. It can verge on being spicey or hot. Some say they're spicier, more complex, and all together more "garlicky". Hardneck requires a longer time of vernalization (long, cold winter to be dormant so they can flower in the spring).
The hardneck variety are best when used for roasts with gamier meats, like duck or venison, as well as vinaigrettes that have hearty ingredients, like mustard or apple cider vinegar. It's also the best to use if want to make a garlic infused oil nor vinegar for more flavor.
Softneck garlic is believed to have evolved from the hardneck variety and comprises most of the garlick you see in your major grocery supermarkets. Because it lacks the flowering scape of the hardneck garlic - it produces more cloves, sometimes as few as eight and sometimes as many as thirty or more.
The softneck garlic is a good all-purpose garlic that works in almost any dish. If you want to eat or use garlic raw or lightly cooked, this would be the go to garlic. Also when making a simple salad dressing where the garlic is a featured flavor-opt for a softneck. It's a more grassy, plant like taste and doesn't have the bite of its hardneck siblings.
Most of the processed garlic foods, like garlic powder and seasoning, come from softneck garlic. Artichoke is the strain most often sold in the supermarket and silverskin is the kind most often seen braided are two varities of softneck.
Now for the garlic scapes. These are not the same thing as ramps and yet they are often confused for one another, but they are two distinct varieties of greens.
The scape is a flowering stalk that grows in the middle of the hardneck garlic bulbs. It twists and loops and often has a teardrop shaped white bulb near its end. This is usually removed so you can grow bigger bulbs rather than the garlic going to seed.
These are delicious eaten raw, or used as a base for a pesto. They can be sautéed un butter, oil, and seasoned with a little fleur de sel. Scapes give a floavor of fresh, green, and vegetal and suffused with the taste of young, fresh garlic. They are tender and yet have a crisp taste. They can be great as a side dish, steamed until tender and served in salads, or used as an accompaniment for pasta. The flavor is too delicate to flavor anything like a vinaigrette. These are in season during the spring and early summer.
Ramps tend to have a couple of wide, spade-shaped leaves and grow from four to twelve inches long with tender, pale green stems. Taste is like a cross between young garlic and spring onions pungent yet sweet. Closely related to wild garlic which, sadly, many consider a weed. The bulbs of ramps are delicious and their best season is early spring. They can work in just about anything, like scapes, whether lightly sautéed and serving alongside a main dish or used to create an extravagant and tasty pasta.