If you have ever wondered what prehistoric forms of garlic looked and tasted like, then try a Purple Stripe cultivar! These garlics are the closest to the original ancestor of all subsequent garlic types. A rich, robust hardneck variety that contains numerous and often diverse cultivars, common examples of Purple Stripes include 'Shvelisi,' 'Persian Star,' and 'Belarus.'
Like other hardnecks, Purple Stripe garlic requires a significant cold period in order for the bulbs to reach their full potential. They do benefit from a rich soil environment, however, they are also extremely hardy, making them a good choice for growers whose soil matrix may be somewhat poor, or for growers in warmer climates who are looking to have better success with hardneck garlics.
The plants themselves appear smaller than other garlic types due to thinner, more flexible leaves that begin branching out from the stalk closer to the ground than in other varieties. Purple Stripe garlic usually has paler medium green leaves, which are especially noticeable when grown alongside the lusher foliage of Porcelains and Rocamboles. As with other hardnecks, the scapes will curl - the number of loops determined by the particular cultivar – and then straighten. The umbels produce numerous small to medium-sized bulbils, which of course can be used to improve planting stock.
The name Purple Stripe is derived from the vibrant purple striping on the white skin of the bulbs. The thin clove skins are also striped, and come in a spectrum of pale pink to deep purple shades. As with other hardnecks, the cloves are arranged in a single layer around the central stem. The medium-sized cloves tend to be somewhat thinner and elongated compared to other varieties, usually with a curving shape. Since the cloves are thinner, the bulbs tend to contain more cloves on average than, for example, a Rocambole or a Porcelain bulb of a similar size. The number of cloves varies between cultivars, but tends to range between eight and 12.
Purple Stripe garlics are known for their outstanding culinary quality. They tend to be moderately hot, with a complex and robust garlic flavor. They are also very versatile; while being touted as one of the best roasting garlics, they are also excellent when eaten raw due to their strong, but not overpowering, heat and only mildly sweet taste. They store moderately well, approximately four to six months, but their flavor will decrease in storage so they are best consumed relatively early in the season.
In my next blog, I am going to take a detour from discussing the different types of gourmet garlic to explore scapes. We are only a few weeks away from scape harvesting time, and it is a very important step in maximizing the size of your garlic bulbs. Scapes are also delicious, and since they are only available for a few weeks each year, I’ll give you a quick guide on how to buy and cook them!