Want to spice up your dinner but aren’t sure what to add? The answer: garlic! Garlic makes everything better, which is one reason why this pearly white bulb has worked its way into kitchens everywhere and why you should celebrate knowing you can enjoy fresh garlic year-round.
If you really want to know how to spot the best garlic at farmers’ markets, spend some time talking with Curtis Millsap, owner of Millsap Farms. Curtis grows 10 varieties of garlic at his farm, but three of those have taken root in the Ozarks region dining scene: Softneck garlic, hardneck garlic and elephant garlic.
“Softneck garlic is more common and is what you will find in grocery stores,” Curtis says. “It has a longer storage life and a milder flavor.”
Hardneck garlic has a stronger flavor and is the preferred garlic when cooking—The cloves are larger and easier to peel. When shopping for garlic at the market, just look for the hard piece of stem sticking out of the top of the clove. That will indicate it’s hardneck.
Then there’s the behemoth of the garlic world: elephant garlic. “Elephant garlic is really more like a leek,” Curtis says. “It can be as big as a softball, and it has a milder flavor.” While the sheer size of elephant garlic can make it intimidating to shoppers, its impressive shelf life should make it a must-snag. One giant bulb can last all winter long. Just store it in the fridge or in a dark cabinet. If you’re a gadget person, pick up a garlic keeper. These terracotta pots give you a moisture barrier to regulate the humidity inside.
If you’re itching to grow your own garlic, you are in luck. Now is the time! You can plant garlic as late as the end of November. Just plant the cloves, and be sure to pull all weeds. Then come June, your crop of tender garlic will be ready to harvest, and you’ll be kicking up the flavor of any meal in no time.