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Keeper garlic bulbs are large with an average of 5-9 plump cloves that grow surrounding the garlic's scape in a circular pattern. The outer wrapper is heavily layered and earthen white. The cloves are ivory with each individual clove wrapped in a thin, papery, and purple-hued layer. Keeper garlic has an initial sweetness that builds in heat. It is memorably spicy and has a pungent aroma with matching flavors.
Keeper garlic is harvested in the early to mid-summer months.
Keeper garlic, botanically classified as Allium sativum var. ophioscorodon, is a weakly bolting hardneck, which is garlic that has a less woody stalk making it bend and curl. Also classified as a creole garlic, this unique group is unlike other garlic regarding clove configuration, color, and growing conditions. Creole garlic is considered to be the most expensive and rarest of the all the garlic varieties. Although they were formerly thought to be a sub-group of silverskin garlic, 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 an excellent source of manganese, vitamin C, vitamin B6, iron, copper, and potassium.
Keeper garlic can be utilized in both raw and cooked applications. Raw Keeper garlic should be used sparingly considering its spicy tendencies. Crushing, chopping, pressing, or pureeing raw Keeper garlic releases its essential oils and provides a sharper, more assertive flavor than slicing or leaving it whole. It is popularly enjoyed raw in salads. Slow roasting Keeper garlic allows it to develop a rich flavor and caramelized sweetness that can be used in savory meat dishes. Pair Keeper garlic with bold flavors that can work in harmony with its intense flavor. Cream, citrus, tomatoes, chilies, basil, starches such as pasta and potatoes, grilled steak, seafood and roasted meats are all favorable pairings for Keeper garlic. Keeper garlic will store up to seven months when kept in a cool and dry place.
Garlic has a rich history of use for medicinal purposes and has been utilized by many cultures such as Greek, Egyptian, Roman, Spanish, and Chinese. Garlic was brought back to Europe via the crusaders and was used to fight infections, food poisoning, and influenza. It is commonly listed in European medicinal texts and was brought on Spanish voyages to the new world to be used as a source of food and medicine for the explorers.
Creole garlic was originally cultivated in Spain and was brought to the New World via explorers where new creole varieties such as Keeper would be developed. Though the creole garlic exists in both the Old and New World, they remain scarce. Keeper garlic thrives in western and southern climates of the United States and Mediterranean climates with mild winters. Today it can be found in specialty grocers and farmers markets in Europe and the United States.