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Pink Lautrec Garlic
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Pink Lautrec garlic is a hardneck variety, meaning it develops a rigid central flower stalk. A generous portion of the stalk is kept on the garlic when it is harvested in early summer. After harvest, the rose-hued garlic is put into dry storage to cure for up to a month. Most of the translucent, papery covering is peeled away from the bulb to allow the pink cloves to show through from beneath. Pink Lautrec garlic bulbs are symmetrical, roughly 6 centimeters in diameter, with 8 to 10 smallish pink cloves per bulb. It is sweet and has a mild pungency, the uniquely robust flavor offers hints of muskiness and horseradish.
Pink Lautrec garlic is available in the mid-summer and into the winter months.
Pink Lautrec garlic, or Ail Rose de Lautrec in French, is a Creole-type variety of Allium sativum. It is named for the region in France where it is not only grown, but also where it has established a protected geographical indication (PGI). Grown outside of this region, it cannot be called Rose de Lautrec garlic. The heirloom garlic variety is the star of Lautrec’s Pink garlic soup. Whole bulbs are sold in bunches, called “manouilles”, bound together by their rigid flower stalks. In the small region where the garlic is grown in southern France, an annual festival challenges teams of 7 or 8 people to see which can create the longest bunch of Pink Lautrec garlic within 3 hours. The record stands at 22.29 meters (over 73 feet) long.
Pink Lautrec garlic is a good source of vitamins A, B, and C, as well as different sulfuric compounds (giving garlic its pungent flavor). All garlic contains essential amino acids and minerals like calcium, iron, potassium, zinc, copper and magnesium.
Pink Lautrec garlic can be used raw or cooked. When cooked, the flavor is delicate and not overwhelming to more subtle ingredient flavors. The rose-colored garlic is used to make a traditional soup from the Lautrec region, which ingredients include: vermicelli, mustard, the yolk and white of an egg, and 10 or more cloves of the Pink Lautrec garlic. Pink Lautrec garlic is also featured in recipes for sorbet, a walnut and garlic tart, and even chocolate cake. The pink garlic can be used in any application that calls for garlic, though the flavor profile may be slightly different. Pink Lautrec garlic will store longer than most white garlic varieties, and will keep for up to 6 months in a cool, dry place. Store peeled or cut garlic in the refrigerator for up to a week.
In Lautrec, France, a yearly festival held called Lautrec’s Pink Garlic Fair. It first started in the 1970s and is a two day celebration traditionally begun on the first Friday of August. The festival is the unofficial start to the marketing period for the famous garlic. Festivities include music, dancing, art arrangements made from Pink Lautrec garlic, a competition among the producers to make the longest manouilles, recipe sharing, and free tastings of the famous Lautrec’s Pink garlic soup.
Pink Lautrec garlic is grown in the southwest of France, primarily in the Lautrec region, which is part of the Tarn department. This area of France is known for its green hillsides, food and wine, and 13th century medieval-era villages. Pink Lautrec garlic is said to get its unique characteristics from the chalky, clay hillsides of the geographic area where they are grown. According to legend, Pink Lautrec garlic arrived in the region during the Middle Ages. A merchant travelling through the area was not able to pay his meal at a local tavern and instead offered the owner bulbs of pink garlic in exchange. The innkeeper was so impressed with the flavor and color of the garlic, he planted it and from there it was passed down generation to generation. In 1959, growers in the Lautrec region created the ‘Syndicat de Defense du Label Ail Rose de Lautrec’ to protect the quality and authenticity of the prized garlic variety. In 1966, the variety was bestowed with the ‘Red Label’, a guarantee of the quality of garlic grown in the area. It wasn’t until 1996 that it earned the European protection of the Protected Geographical Indication (PGI). Today, Pink Lautrec garlic is generally found in France and the United Kingdom. In the United States, only a few garlic growers have been known to grow the variety.