In this post, I will discuss another type of hardneck: Porcelains, which include some of my favorite cultivars! If you are interested in consuming garlic for its health benefits, these big, beautiful bulbs are a therapeutic powerhouse. Some popular examples that you may have seen at your local Farmers Market include Music, Georgian Fire, and Fish Lake #3.
Like Rocamboles, Porcelain cultivars tend to thrive in colder climates, making them a popular choice for growers in Canada. In warmer regions this type of garlic may require a period of artificial vernalization prior to planting to help ensure optimal growth. Although Porcelains are quite hardy, they can be susceptible to both heat and moisture stress, which can cause severe growth problems if not resolved. High moisture levels are required throughout their growth, even shortly before harvest. Porcelain stalks are quite large, tall and robust with thick, broad, bright to deep green leaves. Like Rocamboles, the scapes will curl and uncurl. They are harvested mid-late in the season, after the softnecks and Rocamboles.
Porcelain garlics are the largest of the hardnecks, with thick bulbs that are heavy for their size. The bulbs normally contain four to six cloves, but as few as three and as many as 10 can be normal, depending on the cultivar. The cloves are very large and plump, encased in a clove skin that ranges in color from light tan to a muted magenta. The pale outer skins give this garlic its name, tending towards a silky all-white that is occasionally blushed with a pale purple. The umbel contains hundreds of very small bulbils. The bulbils can be planted if you are looking for a cost-effective way to increase you planting stock, since in terms of cost, Porcelains are more expensive to grow than most types due to the relatively small number of cloves per bulb. However, the tiny size of the bulbils means it will likely take a minimum of three years before you can harvest differentiated bulbs.
Alternatively, you can utilize the bulbils in cooking, sprinkling them over a variety of dishes while cooking or just before serving for a spicy, garlicky kick and a unique texture. Before curing, the clove flesh of Porcelains has a bold garlic flavor that has both a reduced complexity and a lighter, less spicy taste when compared with Rocamboles. After the bulbs have been cured, the cloves will develop a hotter, more rounded flavor. Porcelains are excellent when cooked, with many cultivars, such as Music, becoming creamy and buttery when baked or roasted. The extra large cloves also mean that you won’t have to peel or use as many! Properly cured Porcelains have a moderate storage time, around four to eight months.
If you are consuming garlic in large part for its therapeutic benefits, Porcelains make an excellent choice because they contain the highest potential level of allicin, the compound responsible for many of the health benefits associated with garlic. To ensure you are getting the most of these beneficial compounds, don’t forget to eat the garlic raw!
Read all of Andrea's posts to learn more about growing gourmet garlic.