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Thai garlic produces petite bulbs with six to eight cloves that grow surrounding the central scape. The outer wrappers are tight and firm with many beige layers varying with stripes and flushing of purple and tan. The inner wrappers are a dusty rose, and these encase the creamy ivory cloves. Thai garlic has a bold, pungent flavor with an aroma equally strong. The fiery flavor increases in intensity after the initial taste and will linger on the palate. When cooked, the heat will mellow to a medium spice.
Thai garlic is available in the summer.
Thai garlic, botanically classified as Allium sativum var. ophioscorodon, is a hardneck, turban garlic. There are a handful of different varieties of Thai garlic with Purple Thai and Fire Thai being the most well-known. Thai garlic is favored for its rich flavor and heat, but it is a rare organic cultivar that has to compete with the garlic varieties being produced in neighboring China. With many of the conventional varieties from China being inexpensive, readily available, prolific growers, and the fact that China has an infrastructure for exportation, the influx of Chinese garlic in the Thai marketplace has created extreme difficulty for those that rely on growing it to support their families.
Thai garlic is an excellent source of vitamin B6, vitamin C, and manganese. Thai garlic is also known for its high allicin content which has anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties.
Thai garlic can be used in both raw and cooked applications that showcase the bold heat and depth of the garlic. Its robust flavor is at its most pungent and hot when the garlic is smashed, minced, or pressed. When utilized raw use sparingly not to overpower the other food you are highlighting. Cooking will mellow the bite of Thai garlic slightly. Roasting or sautéing are the ideal cooking methods for this garlic. Sadao Nampla Wan is a favorite Thai dipping sauce using roasted Thai garlic chips and sadao, or neen flower. Thai garlic also works well sautéed in stir-fries, chicken, and pork dishes. Consider pairing Thai garlic with bold and spicy flavors as well as rich ingredients that can work in harmony with its intense flavors. Chiles, ginger, citrus, cream, starches, soy sauce, toasted nuts, tomatoes, eggplant, grilled and roasted meats and shellfish are all favorable pairings for Thai garlic. Thai garlic will keep up to four months when stored in a cool and dry place.
Thai garlic plays an important role in traditional Thai cuisine, but every year at the annual Vegetarian Festival or Chinese Vegan Festival in Thailand the crowds abstain from consuming garlic. This festival occurs during the ninth month of the Lunar calendar and has been celebrated in Thailand since the 1780's. It's a celebration of food and a time to focus on purity, cleansing, and abstinence. During this time many Thai's abstain from meat, dairy, onions, and garlic. Onions and garlic in Buddhist culture are seen as being over stimulating and aphrodisiacs, so while normally an integral part of Thai cuisine, Thai garlic during this period of time is off limits.
Thai garlic originated in Thailand and had been grown since ancient times. It is grown predominantly in the northern areas like Chiang Mai, Lamphun, and Mae Hong Son and is distributed domestically. Thai garlic is believed to have then made its way out of Bangkok, Thailand to Canada via Salt Springs Seed Company of British Columbia and eventually to the United States. In the United States and Canada, it is specialty garlic that can be found at select farmers markets in garlic growing regions.
Recipes that include Thai Garlic. One is easiest, three is harder.
|Leite's Culinaria||Chile Garlic Sauce|