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Keeper garlic produces large bulbs with an average of six to eight hefty sized cloves that grow surrounding the garlic's scape. The garlic's outer wrappers are heavily layered and earthen white. The cloves are the color of ivory, each individual clove also wrapped in thin, papery, purple-hued layers. Keeper garlic is memorably spicy and has a pungent aroma with matching flavors. This pungency mellows with time and with cooking.
Keeper garlic is harvested in the early to mid-summer months.
Keeper garlic is a hardneck garlic variety botanically known as Allium Sativum var. ophioscorodon. It is also classified as part of a unique group of garlics known as creole garlics along with Ajo Rojo and Burgundy garlic. They are unlike other garlics in terms of clove configuration and color as well as preferred growing conditions. Although they were formerly thought to be a sub-group of silverskin garlics, modern DNA studies show them in a separate class by themselves. As with all creole varieties, Keeper garlic is known for its long storage quality and flavor improvement as it ages.
Keeper garlic is rich in sulfur based compounds which are responsible not only for the garlic’s characteristic flavor and aroma but for its medicinal qualities as well. Scientific studies have shown that garlic may be beneficial in supporting healthy cholesterol levels, lowering blood pressure and can inhibit the growth of pathogenic organisms in the body.
Keeper garlic can be utilized both raw and cooked. Raw Keeper garlic should be used sparingly considering its spicy tendencies. Crushing, chopping, pressing or pureeing raw Keeper garlic releases more of its essential oils and provides a sharper, more assertive flavor than slicing or leaving it whole. Slow roasting Keeper garlic allows it to develop a rich flavor and caramelized sweetness. Pair Keeper garlic with bold flavors as well as rich ingredients that can work in harmony with its intense flavors. Cream, citrus, tomatoes, chiles, basil, starches such as pasta and potatoes, grilled steak, seafood and roasted meats are all favorable pairings for Keeper garlic. To store, keep Keeper garlic in a cool, dry place and use within six to seven months.
Garlic has a rich history of use not only for its culinary attributes but for medicinal purposes as well and has been utilized by a plethora of cultures such as Greek, Egyptian, Roman and Chinese. Even still today it is used in the three predominant healing systems of the world; Chinese Medicine, Ayurveda and European Medicine.
Creole garlics were originally cultivated in Spain. In time Spanish explorers would bring creole garlic to Europe and later the New World where new creole varieties such as Keeper would be developed. Though the creole garlics exist in both the Old and New World, they remain today very rare. Keeper garlic thrives in western and southern climates of the United States and Mediterranean climates with mild winters.