BOTANICAL NAME: Allium ampeloprasum (Ampeloprasum Group)
COMMON NAMES: Elephant, Russian or Levant Garlic
Elephant garlic is not a 'true' garlic but is closely related to a leek. It is very hardy with large blue-green strap-like leaves with a central rib, the flower stalk can be up to 2 m high. Large pink or purple flowers appear in spring and summer. The bulbs, weighing up to 500g, form under the soil, reaching 10 cm in diameter and consisting of 5 or 6 large cloves, surrounded by small bulblets. Plants that do not flower often form only one large, symmetrical clove known as a round, rather than a bulb. Plants grown from rounds, or from very large cloves, usually produce a large bulb with several cloves and a flower stalk. So elephant garlic tends to alternate between the production of cloves and the production of rounds and may go to seed only every second year. Elephant garlic does best in rich, deeply cultivated, well-drained soil and likes full sun. It is a useful home garden vegetable especially in warmer, more humid climates where true garlic is difficult to grow. It can grow from the tropics to temperate regions.
Food: elephant garlic has a mild, sweet flavour that is somewhere between garlic and onion. Cloves are large, easy to peel and can be eaten raw, sliced into salads. It can also be steamed or boiled as a vegetable, cooked like onions in a soup or baked in the oven. Young leaves can be sliced and added to salads or used as a garnish. It is high in vitamins A, C and E.
Pest Control: useful as an ornamental planted at the back of rose gardens to repel pests such as aphids.
When: In cool climates plant in autumn or spring, in warmer climates they can be planted in spring, autumn or winter.
Planting Depth: The tops of the bulbs should be about 5 cm below the soil surface.
Sowing Rate: Plant about 30 cm apart.
Bulbs should be harvested when the flowers begin to dry out. This may not occur until the 2nd year after planting. Dig up the whole plant and hang the bulbs to dry, with part of the stem attached, in a shady position. Bulbs will store for up to 10 months.