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Siberian garlic is small to medium in size, averaging five centimeters in diameter, and is round with a bulbous end that tapers to a hard, central stalk. There are numerous layers of thin, white, papery skin that can be solid or striped with pink or purple, and the skin becomes a deeper purple with each layer that is stripped away. There are 5-8 plump, medium-sized cloves and each clove is encased in a hard, red-brown skin. When peeled open, the clove is smooth and creamy white. Siberian garlic is pungent and hot, but not overwhelming, with a slightly musky aroma. When cooked, it becomes delicate, mild, and creamy with a sweet aftertaste.
Siberian garlic is available year-round, with peak season in the mid-summer.
Siberian garlic, botanically classified as Allium sativum, is an heirloom hardneck variety that is a member of the Amaryllidaceae family. Siberian garlic also belongs to the marble purple stripe category, which is known for its robust, well-rounded flavor and creamy consistency. Siberian garlic is favored for its long-term storage capabilities as it can keep for 6-7 months, and can complement a wide variety of flavors without overpowering the dish.
Siberian garlic contains vitamin B6, vitamin C, and manganese. It also contains a very high amount of allicin, which is an antimicrobial compound that helps support the body’s cholesterol levels and immune system.
Siberian garlic is best suited for both raw and cooked applications such as baking, frying, roasting, and sautéing. It can be consumed raw, chopped into small pieces and cooked, or roasted in bulbs to bring out the creamy, sweet flavor. Siberian garlic is less pungent than other garlic and can add just enough flavor without overwhelming other ingredients. It can be used as a spread on toast and added to stews, soups, dips, mashed potatoes, beans, sauces, and marinades. It can also be mixed into pasta dishes, curries, or stir-fries. Siberian garlic pairs well with spinach, potatoes, meats such as poultry, beef, pork, turkey, and fish, tomatoes, bell pepper, broccoli, asparagus, Brussel sprouts, and grains such as quinoa, barley, and farro. It will keep up to seven months when stored in a cool, dry, and dark place.
In Russia, Siberian garlic has remained a staple in local cooking, and up until the 18th century, Siberian villagers could pay their taxes in garlic. Today, garlic remains an important part of the Siberian cuisine, featured in dishes like wild garlic salads or bear paws. Siberian garlic is popularly smoked with ferns and herbs to flavor meat and is served with cowberries, cranberries, and potatoes. It is also mixed in the filling for pelmeni, which is a dumpling with pork, beef, or game, onions, and milk and is typically served with bone broth and liver.
Garlic is believed to be native to Asia, and while the exact origins of Siberian garlic are unknown, it is theorized that it came from Siberia’s Kamchatka Peninsula. Siberian garlic is said to have been brought to America in the 19th century when Alaskan fishermen traded with farmers in Siberia. Today Siberian garlic can be found a farmer’s markets and specialty grocers in North America, Europe, and Asia.