Elephant garlic, a curiosity in the vegetable garden

Do you know Elephant Garlic ? It is an original and perpetual variety which produces an enormous bulb, weighing up to 500 grams for more than 10 cm in diameter, formed of 4 to 6 large cloves. Its flavor halfway between leek and garlic is milder than that of traditional garlic. It is a vegetable originating in Eastern Europe, a little forgotten in our country, but very popular in the United States and Canada.

In French literature, we find its oldest trace in the book “Description of vegetable plants” by Vilmorin-Andrieux in 1856 under the name of “Ail d’orient” or “Garlic on horseback”. The name “Elephant Garlic”, would be the translation of the English “Elephant garlic”. This more recent name would derive its origin from a nurseryman from Oregon (Nichols) but of Greek origin who popularized it in the United States and Canada at the end of the 1940s. Himself having had his first bulbs of a Czech farmer before immigrating with this strain to the United States!

Grow Elephant Garlic in your Garden !

The planting of cloves is done in the fall, in a rather light soil with a sunny exposure, plant them with the tip pointing upwards about 4-5 cm underground and space them 15 cm apart. As with most bulbs, in heavy soil, cultivation on a hill is preferred.

The harvest is generally done from the end of summer but the bulbs can also be left in the ground from one year to another. Easy to grow, elephant garlic tolerates cold climates very well and also tolerates periods of summer drought perfectly well. On two-year-old bulbs, elephant garlic develops bulbils around the main bulb, which also allows it to multiply, in addition to the division of the cloves.

Flowering of Elephant Garlic!

In addition, the plant is also used in ornamental form. Standing 150cm tall, the summer blooms form a huge ball of purplish pink flowers almost 10-15cm in diameter if allowed to grow to maturity, looking great in the garden or vegetable patch!

How to Harvest and Use Elephant Garlic in Cooking ?

About 5 weeks before harvesting, and as with ordinary hard-stemmed garlic, it is recommended to cut the stem if you want to increase the size of the bulbs. Then dig them up in good weather. Leave them on the ground, in the shade, for two days without rain to dry out. Then store them, as you would regular garlic, in a dry, dark place.

In cooking, it is used like traditional garlic and is used in particular to flavor vegetable dishes. It can also be paired with seafood, poultry or even red meat. Its leaves can also be cooked and eaten like those of leeks. Thanks to its very light taste, elephant garlic is perfect used raw, in salad dressings and dipping sauces for example.