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  • Writer's pictureJere Folgert

Eating Garlic Roots

Updated: May 14
Hardneck Garlic Roots

Ah, the hardneck garlic root – the unassuming, earthy understudy to the star clove. Often discarded as mere leftovers, this subterranean secret harbors a surprising depth of culinary delight and scientific intrigue. Dive with me, dear reader, into a world where roots rock and taste buds tango!

Forget boring, limp carrots – here's a root with attitude. Crunchy, garlicky, and boasting a subtle sweetness, hardneck roots have a texture akin to water chestnuts, with a hint of asparagus thrown in for good measure. Toss them raw into salads for a surprising pop, roast them alongside their clove brethren for a caramelized explosion of flavor, or pickle them for a punchy, pungent snack.

But the fun doesn't stop at taste. These humble heroes are nutritional powerhouses, packing a hefty dose of allicin (garlic's famed antioxidant and antimicrobial champion) alongside prebiotics to keep your gut flora happy. They're even a sneaky source of potassium and manganese, quietly boosting your electrolyte game.

And now, the science gets spicy! Hardneck garlic roots boast a unique cooling molecule called alliacine, distinct from the allicin that gives cloves their bite. This alliacine is a champion at lowering body temperature, making it a natural, edible air conditioner – perfect for beating the summer heat with a garlicky grin. If you harvest your hardneck garlic, don't toss those roots! Embrace their potential, unleash their culinary magic, and experience the science of delicious, cooling rebellion. Remember, sometimes, the best treasures are found underground, waiting to be unearthed and devoured.

Garlic roots can be used in both raw and cooked dishes. Not surprisingly, roots taste similar to the mild flavor of garlic scapes and green garlic. Roots can be added to fresh salads or used as a garnish for raw dishes such as hummus and guacamole. Roots can also be fried or dehydrated to give them a crunchy texture. Garlic roots can add a subtle nutty flavor to recipes, served raw as a garnish or incorporated into a fresh salad for that magic garlic firework display. The flavor of garlic roots is garlicy, though it's sweeter and not as strong as garlic cloves. Cooked garlic roots become soft over time and develop a hint of nutty sweetness.

A Symphony of Flavors: From Mellow to Nutty

The true magic of garlic roots lies in their organoleptic profile. Unlike the pungent kick of the bulb, these roots offer a mellow, sweet, and subtly pungent melody, reminiscent of green garlic. Imagine a whisper of garlic's essence, a gentle foreshadowing of its bolder sibling. Upon culinary coaxing, their texture transforms into an ethereal crispness, yielding to a nutty-sweet crescendo.

A Culinary Chameleon: From Salads to Stir-fries

Garlic roots are a culinary chameleon. In their raw state, they elevate green salads, add a welcome crunch to sandwiches, or crown hummus and guacamole with a touch of elegance. Feeling adventurous? Infuse them into oils for a subtle garlic whisper, or pickle them for a tangy condiment.

Beyond the Raw: A Sauteed Symphony

Fire ignites a new dimension in the garlic root's repertoire. Lightly sauteed alongside vegetables, they transform into a savory side dish. Imagine them glistening in butter, a perfect accompaniment to delicate seafood.  Their versatility extends to soups, legume dishes, pasta, and even rice-based creations. The long, delicate structure of garlic roots adds a touch of artistry to your culinary canvas. Their ethereal crispness provides a playful counterpoint to softer elements, while their visual intrigue sparks conversations on the plate.

A Historical and Cultural Delicacy

Garlic roots are not a recent fad, but a treasured ingredient with a rich history. For millennia, Chinese cuisine has embraced them, featuring them prominently during New Year festivities.

Aligning with Tradition: A Symbol of Balance and Renewal

Traditional Chinese medicine values garlic for its ability to warm the digestive tract, promoting detoxification. During the opulent feasts of New Year, garlic roots serve a dual purpose. Fried to a delightful crisp, they offer a balanced counterpoint to richer dishes. Symbolically, they represent a cleansing element, aiding digestion and promoting renewal after celebratory indulgences. The garlic bulb, a symbol of prosperity, often hangs in doorways during this time, a reminder of the plant's multifaceted significance.

(Exposed Garlic Roots After Harvest. GroEAT Farm - Montana)

Native Americans from the plains would often hunt and eat buffalo (American Bison). Apparently, every part of the buffalo was used, from the bones to the meat to the hide. The skin and fur made excellent coverings for living and traveling in the cold snow, and the food was revered and respected. Finding unique ways to prepare and eat each portion of our vegetables not only prevents waste, but it also shows them respect. This approach promotes savoring and appreciating each and every part of the plant. Some plant parts are poisonous; the leaves of rhubarb come to mind so this approach cannot always be followed.

When the large hardneck garlic is harvested at the GroEat Farm in Montana, the massive, stringy roots attached to bulbs are always impressive! The roots typically have a length of seven inches, though some extend to eleven inches. After the bulb is extracted from the soil, soil can be washed away easily, revealing beautiful white or cream-colored strands and have the appearance of angel hair pasta.

Garlic roots really are amazing; They do so much! Roots are the bottom part of this vascular plant and their primary functions are anchorage of the plant, absorption of water and dissolved minerals and conduction of these to the stem, and storage of reserve foods. The bulb and its roots contain allicin which has antifungal and antibiotic properties that can be used to treat bacterial infections and even bee stings.

(Harvesting Garlic at GroEAT Farm - Exposing the Roots)

Description/Taste Garlic roots are the taproots of an individual garlic bulb. These taproots descend from the underside of the clove during garlic's growing cycle, anchoring the plant and continuing to act as the plant's food biological pump, absorbing nutrients from the soil, and pumping the nutrients to the rest of the plant. Garlic roots extend from all sides of the underground bulb's flat plate and can extend up to 10 inches in length. A mature garlic plant has over 50 roots. The roots are typically hairless and are white with hues of yellow, beige, black and even red, a reflection of the soil they are grown in.

Similar to the bulbs of the garlic plant, garlic roots contain allicin which has antibiotic and antifungal properties.

A Culinary Ingredient

Garlic roots may seem like an unusual and unknown culinary ingredient, only because the roots are typically trimmed from the bulb and discarded after harvest. The focus of most growers is on the prize-winning bulb. Though garlic roots are considered a secondary crop for some garlic growers. Garlic roots are available from most conventional garlic growers - all you need to do is ask. If you are interested in garlic roots, make requests with garlic growers for a special harvest. Roots can occasionally be found at farmer's markets.

How to Incorporate Garlic Roots in to Recipes

Comparable to the mild flavor of garlic scapes and green garlic, roots can be incorporated into fresh salads or used as a garnish for guacamole and hummus. Garlic roots can be used in both raw and cooked applications. Garlic roots can also be combined with chicken, tofu, salmon, soups, pasta, legumes, and potatoes. They can be fried in oil or butter or dried / dehydrated to give a crunchy texture. The dried roots can be tossed into salads, pastas or soups as a finishing touch.

To enhance and complement the taste of spring vegetables, couple garlic roots with radish, kale, herbs or wild mushrooms. One of our favorites is to cook asparagus in butter and sprinkle dried garlic roots on top for a crunchy aftertone. Try chopping the roots finely and include them in bean chili, Cucumbers with Ajo Blanco Sauce, Zucchini-Herb Fritters with Garlic Yogurt, Broccoli and Garlic-Ricotta Toasts with Hot Honey, Slow-Cooked Halibut with Garlic Cream and Fennel, Garlic bread, or Herby Pasta with Green Olives.
Hardneck Garlic Roots on Asparagus

GroEat Farm, LLC is a small, sustainable family farm located in Bozeman, Montana.  We’re located in the beautiful Hyalite foothills, below the Gallatin Mountain Range.  The hardneck varieties that grow at our farm (Ophioscorodon) flourish here, due to the combination of the cold winters, temperate summers, moist spring, and the dynamic alluvial soils, washed down from the Gallatin Range (comprised of Archean metamorphics, Paleozoic and Mesozoic sedimentary rocks, and Eocene volcanics).  Not only are the GroEat Hardneck garlic healthy and beautiful, the flavor’s are robust and delicate.


Our mission at GroEat Farm, LLC is to grow premium hardneck garlic, preserve garlic varieties for the future (through propagation), and to provide others with the opportunity to grow garlic from our seed.   We help home gardeners, chefs, small-scale commercial growers, gardeners, plant nurseries, and anyone else looking for better hardneck garlic.  We are continuing a very long tradition of growing quality gourmet and seed hardneck garlic.
Hardneck Garlic Farm

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