Grocery Store garlic vs. Conley Farms' bodacious bulbs....what's the diff?
Great question! Garlic has two main categories, hardneck and softneck. Hardneck averages 4-6 large cloves arranged around a center stem or stalk. Those big cloves are also big on taste, which means using less cloves in your delicious dishes. Softneck garlic has no center stalk and on average contains 8-20 small cloves. Although still tasty, those small cloves don't pack the flavorful punch that Hardneck cloves do.
Why is grocery store garlic so much cheaper?
Another great question! There are several reasons but here's the short answer. Softneck garlic seed is cheaper and their bulbs last twice as long in storage. To large scale commercial growers and grocery stores that means more profit. Though it means a lower price for the consumer it also means smaller cloves with smaller flavor and often times it also means it's been chemically treated with an anti-sprouting agent.
Ninja Garlic comes to America...the rest of the story
An exerpt from "History of Garlic" by Luke Callahan
Up until 1989, the majority of the garlic in the world resided in Europe and specifically originated from the Caucasus mountain range which divides modern day Russia and Georgia.
When the scant few varieties did make it into the United States, they usually came via Polish, German, and Italian immigrants.
The USDA knew that there was a treasure trove full of garlic varieties waiting for them in the Caucusus Mountains. They consistently asked the Soviets for permission to come get some. But, as it turns out, along with harboring the worlds most prized garlics, the Caucusus Mountains, were also home to a few of Russia’s missile bases and their spaceport. Not exactly a place that our good Soviet friends were keen on letting us “come get some garlic.”
In 1989, as the Soviet Union disintegrated, the USDA was finally invited to collect the garlic varieties. So off our government agents went, along with an armed Soviet convoy to get the prized garlic. Only allowed to travel at night (to keep from seeing military secrets, or the lack thereof), they went from village to village along the Silk Road. In each village they purchased every variety they could find and subsequently named many of them based on the village they were purchased.
Upon arriving to the US, armed to the teeth with their precious garlic, our USDA heroes worked a deal with a handful of growers to grow out these new varieties. The basic gist of the deal was, the growers would grow out a field and split the bounty with the USDA.
Over the next few years, the growers continued to replant their varieties and traded amongst each other. And this way, slowly but surely, the North American supply of garlic has grown.