Purple Glazer Garlic
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Purple Glazer garlic develops a single, somewhat squat bulb with very large cloves. The bulbs measure up to 8 centimeters in diameter with between 6 and 10 cloves fitted around a central flower stem. The bulbs are wrapped in thin, bright white parchment-like coverings. Beneath the top layers, the easy-to-peel wrappers have a satiny, silvery finish and are streaked with purple. Each layer removed reveals more intensely purple colored wrappers, eventually exposing almost entirely purple cloves. Environmental conditions can influence not just the size, but also the intensity of the color for this variety. The clove covers are a golden brown streaked with maroon and sometimes may be much lighter beige with only a few streaks of purple. The cloves have tips extending up to 3 centimeters long, a characteristic entirely unique to this variety. Purple Glazer garlic is described as having a rich flavor, that is mild with a hint of sweetness. Cooking can bring out a distinctly leek flavor.
Purple Glazer garlic is available in the summer and through the early winter.
Purple Glazer garlic is a hardneck variety of Allium sativum, from an area of Central Asia just west of what’s known to experts as the “garlic crescent”. It is a very visually appealing variety that has fewer, larger cloves than the more common garlic varieties. Known as Mchadijvari #1 in the Republic of Georgia, Purple Glazer garlic is one of only a few cultivated varieties from the ‘glazed purple stripe’ group of garlics. This group was named for their satiny, glazed wrappers and purple cloves, though DNA studies have confirmed these characteristics to be unique to the group. There are several other cultivated varieties related to the Purple Glazer, including “vekak” and “red rezan”.
Purple Glazer garlic, like other garlic varieties, is an excellent source of B6, manganese and vitamin C. It is a great source of copper, selenium, iron and calcium. Purple Glazer garlic contains antioxidants in the forms of the purple pigments in the clove wrappers. All garlic contains sulfuric compounds, which once the garlic cloves are crushed or chopped, convert to a volatile compound called allicin. Research has demonstrated that allicin has antibacterial, antiviral, and antifungal properties. It has been found to inhibit a certain enzyme in the liver, thus reducing cholesterol production. The purple streaks on the garlic cloves demonstrates the presence of the phytonutrient anthocyanin, which offers antioxidant benefits.
Purple Glazer garlic is known for being a good baking garlic. Its flavor will sweeten with roasting, which according to some is the best way to showcase this variety. Bake whole bulbs in the oven, wrapped in aluminum foil to trap the aroma. Because Purple Glazer garlic is a mild variety, it is also ideal for raw applications. Use in pesto, garlic butter, or hummus. In the Republic of Georgia, a dish from the Racha region calls for chicken cooked in milk and crushed garlic. Add chopped or whole garlic cloves to soups and stews. Purple Glazer garlic can be used in any recipe that calls for garlic, especially if a milder garlic flavor is desired. Store Purple Glazer garlic for up to 10 months in a cool, dry location. Refrigerate any unpeeled or cut garlic for up to two weeks.
Purple Glazer garlic is not the only variety to have been discovered in the Republic of Georgia. At the end of the Cold War, and the fall of the Soviet Union, American researchers were permitted to enter the region to confirm what their Soviet counterparts had known for a while – that the center of origin for garlic is Central Asia. At one time, botanists believed that the Caucasus Mountains, which border Southern Russia and northern Georgia and extend into Armenia, Turkey and Azerbaijan, were the area of origin for garlic. Studies conducted on wild strains of garlic concluded that the ‘center of origin’ for garlic was the Tien Shan mountain range located in western China and what is now Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. However, once molecular research could be done on wild strains of garlic, Georgia was included in the region experts dubbed as the “extended garlic crescent”.
Purple Glazer garlic is native to the Republic of Georgia, located in a region of Central Asia between the Black and Caspian Seas, which originally thought to be the center or origin for all known garlic species. It was first collected in 1986, from Mchadijvari, in the eastern central portion of the country. Purple Glazer garlic grows best in areas where the winters get cold, allowing the colors to develop in the wrappers and for the flavor to fully develop. Outside of its native region, Purple Glazer garlic may be spotted at farmer’s markets through small, local farms or growing in home gardens.