After a few months of growing concern – and following a brilliant Australian Garlic Industry Association seminar presentation by Penny Woodward, Letetia Ware and Trevor Gray – we have finally come to the conclusion that the garlic varieties (technically known as groups) we thought we bought are completely different to what we were actually sold.
There are eight main common groups of garlic grown in Australia – with another three to four uncommon groups. And with each group branching down into dozens of sub-cultivars there is much confusion about what garlics are actually grown in in this country.
The distinctive common groups consist of Artichoke – Silverskin – Asiatic – Creole – Turban – Porcelain – Purple Stripe – and Rocambole – before being broken down into cultivars, of which there are over 200 known, and confirmed, as being grown in Australia alone.
Throw into the mix growers individually naming, and selling, their garlic cultivars after the region they live in, their wives, their favourite colour, a winning racehorse and anything else that takes their fancy.
Needless to say there is much confusion about what garlic cultivar one is actually growing.
We would like to sell our garlic under the true name of what we are growing – and therein the problem lies. Without extensive and unreliable DNA testing, there is no way to truly identify which garlic cultivar we have in our paddock.
We have managed to narrow down our three main varieties of garlics into their groups – but what sub-cultivar variety do we place them in?
What we thought were Rojo De Castro (a Creole cultivar) turns out to be a Turban cultivar … of unknown origin. The “reputable source” we bought from is insistent what was delivered were Rojo’s but, from all appearances and growth habits, they are obviously Turbans. After discussing our naming concern with the above botanists, as Turban isn’t a very enticing marketing name, they declared we should just call this vibrant purple cultivar after our location. Hence the Rojo De Castro now becomes our iconic and versatile Pokolbin Purple.
Not to miss out, our Red Rocambole (a Rocambole cultivar) is now identified as a definite Creole cultivar … of unknown origin. We do suspect it is of the Rojo family but can narrow it down no further. Hence our Red Rocambole will now become the superbly spicy Pokolbin Creole.
Fortunately our Italian Red is confirmed as the Turban derivative cultivar we know and love, and will remain unchanged. The Italian Red is also known as Australian Red, and is a favourite Australian variety.
As the season develops – as the garlics grow their scapes, stretch their leaves and flesh out their cloves and bulbs – we will hopefully have our decision of “group” identification confirmed. Until then, as we stood in the paddock with our newly obtained identification chart and scratched out heads, we have decided to just enjoy the journey of discovery.
Who thought garlic could be so exciting?
Here’s to good food, wine and friends