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Pearl garlic is a single clove garlic that averages between 2-5 centimeters in diameter. The mild, white to cream flesh is encased in dry, thin, papery layers, similar to that of multi-clove garlic. These thin layers can be pure white or may contain subtle striping in purple, violet or gray. Pearl garlic has a robust flavor and tends to have a milder astringency and spiciness than other garlic varieties.
Pearl garlic is available in summer.
Pearl garlic, botanically classified as Allium sativum, is also known as Chengdu #2, Ajo Macho, Single bulb garlic, Solo garlic, and Monobulb garlic. While its exact genetic affiliation remains unknown, modern research has shown that rather than pinpointing a specific cultivator, it is the growing method that is responsible for the unique appearance of many Pearl garlic varieties on the market today. Still rare in most regions, Pearl garlic has had success in the modern marketplace and is sought after as a result of its unique shape and for its easy to peel characteristics.
Pearl garlic is an excellent source of vitamin B6, vitamin C, iron, and manganese.
Pearl garlic can be prepared in a fashion similar to that of traditional garlic and can be utilized both raw and cooked. Its robust flavor is at its strongest when it is pressed, finely chopped, and pureed, a process which releases the oils that give garlic its well-known taste and smell. Pearl garlic's unique size and shape make it ideal for roasting whole which imparts a rich, sweet, and caramelized flavor to the garlic. Its size also makes it ideal for slicing thin and sautéing or frying to make garlic chips. Pearl garlic will keep up to 6 months when stored in a cool and dry place.
Under the name Ajo Macho, this single clove garlic plays a role in South American and Mexican folklore. It is widely used to make Ajo Macho candles, which legend has it are used to ward off evil in the house that it is lit. In Mexico, Ajo Macho is also used as a symbol to bring good luck and wealth to the person who carries it with them in their pocket or purse.
Pearl garlic is believed to have first been produced on a commercial level in the Yunnan province in Southern China. It was then spread to markets in Europe and the United States via Chinese exporters. Today, Pearl garlic can be found in China, Europe, and the United States at specialty stores and farmers markets.