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  • Jere Folgert

Is Elephant Garlic Really Garlic?

Updated: Dec 15, 2019

But Its So Big!

Botanical Name: Allium ampeloprasum var. ampeloprasum

No, but Kind of... Despite the name, elephant garlic is not actually garlic. Garlic (Allium sativum) is commonly used as a flavoring for food, as a condiment, and for medicinal purposes. The milder-flavored elephant garlic (Allium ampeloprasum) is actually a leek that produces large cloves. This plant was given the name "Elephant garlic", because each bulb is about 2-3 times the size of a full-grown hardneck or softneck garlic. Elephant garlic is more closely related to leeks and onion, than garlic. Real garlic and elephant garlic share the same basic shape and root structure. Each have cloves inside a wrapped bulb. Conventional garlic heads can boast as many as 20 cloves, but elephant garlic never have more than about six. Its massive, plump cloves have a yellowish cast.

Elephant garlic produces the same flavor compounds as regular garlic when it’s crushed, and it releases the same flavor compounds produced by onions and leeks, just less of each type. For the sensitive tongue or palate, elephant garlic doesn’t taste as potent as its allium cousins. That being said, elephant garlic makes up in size what it lacks in "garlic-ness". It's flavor is diluted, and lacks the zing and shart pungent bite, but that is okay! When making raw dishes such as pesto, Elephant garlic makes the dish much more palatable and somewhat sweet. Elephant garlic is a very interesting plant. At close inspection, it produces a jurassic garlic bulb, with huge, plump cloves. Unlike hardneck garlic, elephant garlic does not have to be harvested or divided each year. Instead, it can be ignored and left in the ground without much risk of rotting. And, it has a long storage life.

Elephant garlic is probably the most widely grown Allium in Georgia, U.S., excluding sweet onions. Although elephant garlic is more closely related to leek than to garlic, it has the same growth habit and bulbing process as regular garlic. Elephant garlic can be planted at two different times of the year: spring and autumn. As with true garlic, elephant garlic is typically planted in the fall and harvested about eight-nine months later, in the following summer. Garlic and elephant garlic bulbs are hand-harvested. Soil is loosened prior to pulling using a garden fork, bed lifter or potato digger. Properly cured or dried garlic can be stored for up to three months in a standard warehouse or up to six months in cold storage. Elephant garlic prefers full sun and can be grown in temperate regions all the way into tropical zones. At our GroEat Garlic Farm in Montana, we grow hardneck garlic, including many named types of Porcelain, Marbled Purple Stripe and Glazed Purple Stripe.

Elephant Garlic Uses : Elephant garlic has a flavour of its own, and some cooks and chefs claim it should not be a substitute for true garlic. "If you want milder garlic flavor" they say, "use less of the real garlic". That being said, Elephant Garlic has many uses: Elephant bulbs can be roasted whole and used as a spread on bread. It can be sautéed, sliced and eaten raw, and minced. Roasting, baking or grilling will enhance its flavor, and its large size makes it perfect for slicing and deep frying to make garlic chips. Elephant garlic's mild flavor also makes it ideal to be used in raw dishes. For those who are turned off by garlic’s powerful pungency and characteristic, elephant garlic might be and better choice. Elephant garlic is much milder which is why it is preferable to eat for some people. It's size is attractive. Elephant garlic is huge compared to its counterparts. At close inspection, it is obvious the Elephant garlic plant has a tall and thickly built stalk with a very large garlic-like bulb at its base. It's bigger size leads many to assume that it contains more flavor and potency than garlic, but the opposite is true. The great news is that elephant garlic contains Allicin just like regular garlic does. This means you get the health benefits of garlic in elephant garlic while get the unique nutrients in leeks and onions.

Elephant Garlic Recipes

Roasted Elephant Garlic Spears

Herb-Grilled elephant Garlic

Whole Roasted Garlic

Roasted Elephant Garlic Soup

Deep Healing Chick Pea, Elephant Garlic and Kake Soup.


-- Jere Folgert is the owner of GroEat Garlic Farm in Bozeman, Montana. GroEat Farm is a small, sustainable family farm located in the beautiful Hyalite Foothills, in the shadows of the Gallatin Mountain Range.  The hardneck varieties that they grow on their farm flourish, due to the combination of the cold winters, temperate summers, moist spring, and the dynamic alluvial soils, washed down from the Gallatin Range.

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