Elephant garlic (Allium ampeloprasum) is the source of much confusion and the issue
of elephant vs normal size garlic is one with a counter-intuitive outcome.
Many people are attracted to elephant garlic and buy it simply because
of its size. They assume that it must be more strongly flavoured
than ordinary variety. In fact the opposite is true.
What Is Elephant Garlic?
Elephant garlic is probably more closely
related to the leek than to the normal stinking rose. The bulbs are very large
and a single bulb can somtimes weigh over a pound each. A single clove of elephant garlic can
often be as large as a whole bulb of ordinary garlic. That's a lot of garlic - but is it a lot of flavour?
In terms of strength, I describe elephant garlic as being to garlic what
leeks are to onions. The flavour is much less intense and rather sweeter.
It has been described - somewhat unkindly - as "garlic for people
who don't like garlic".
When buying elephant garlic, follow the same guidelines as usual: look for heads that are firm with plenty of dry,
papery covering. Elephant garlic is more perishable than the ordinary type
so it doesn't keep as long and needs to be used rather than stored.
When cooking with elephant garlic, remember that it is not
a substitute for the ordinary form. Instead it should used where
a subtle hint of garlic is wanted without overpowering the rest of the
food. Treat it as a "similar but different" ingredient when creating or experimenting with recipes.
There are many uses for elephant garlic. It's often served raw
in salads or it can be sliced and sauted in butter (be careful when cooking, it browns
very quickly and can turn bitter). It's also frequently used to give
a hint of flavour to soups and stews. Have fun inventing your own signature dish!