You're walking down the produce aisle, or strolling through a farmer's market*, when something wonderful catches your eye. Oh la la! That must be the largest garlic ever! Those cloves are big as a whole head of regular garlic and that means, that means - less peeling, more garlic!

Well, wait. That garlic isn't really what you're thinking. You should know elephant garlic (also called buffalo garlic) is actually Allium ampeloprasum, not our good friend allium sativum: still of the lily family, allium genus, but more closely related to leeks. Now, leeks are good folks, just ask the Welsh, but they don't pack the ka-pow! you look for in garlic. Aside from being large, the other notable characteristic of this elephant is its mildness.

My first reaction to that was, ah well. Science has done to the garlic what it did to the strawberry: made it large and bland, and in no time at all people will become used to it and forget what real garlic is all about. But no! Elephant garlic is no Frankenstein monster. It's "thought by some to be the wild ancestor of the leek," and it has charms of its own.

Now while the site of one retailer stretches my credulity by claiming that elephant garlic is healthier than regular garlic because you can eat more, it is true that elephant garlic is much easier to eat raw. Indeed, it's so mild that you don't have to be hardcore at all to slice it on salads. It's good for roasting, too, and in recipes that are more subtly seasoned where ordinary garlic might overwhelm. Serve it to the sensitive types and maybe they'll be inspired to move on to the real thing.

So, really, while it's not my dream garlic, it's not quite the swindle i took it for. As a matter of fact, there's even an Elephant Garlic Festival (perhaps so fans of this bulb don't have to suffer derision at the one in Gilroy). Go figure. There's a subculture for everything!
* Probably in California or Chile, where most elephant garlic is grown.

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