Not all garlic sold globally is safe to eat. Some farmers fail to follow the best standards of safety in the growth, harvesting, and packaging of garlic bulbs. Such garlic is a danger to human health and should not be consumed.
With supermarket shelves loaded with plenty of packaged and enticingly branded food products, many people do not pause to consider whether the products we are buying are safe to eat. Some fruit and vegetable retailers also fail to properly label where food items such as garlic are sourced from.
Garlic by Types
In order to understand what kind of garlic is grown in Spain, it is important to outline the distinguishing features which serve to differentiate one garlic variety from another. Garlic is one of the most diverse cultivated crops. While it thrives mostly in subtropical climates, some varieties of garlic thrive in the cold temperatures of temperate climates while others are best grown in the hot and humid conditions of equatorial regions of the world.
Hard-neck and Soft-neck Garlic
Garlic bulbs are mainly classified as either hard-neck or soft-neck. Soft-neck garlic varieties are the most widely grown as they are much easier to take care of and mature a lot quicker. In addition, they are less affected by climatic and weather conditions. In general, they also produce a lot more cloves per bulb.
Hard-neck garlic varieties are very particular about growing conditions. Once harvested, they have a very short shelf life too. This means you are unlikely to find hard-neck garlic stocked up on supermarket shelves unless it is at the height of their harvest season.
This is a special variety of garlic bulbs of several individual cloves encased in a single paper-thin outer skin. Heirloom garlic is also colloquially known as the “stinking rose” as they contain a goodly amount of allicin, the compound responsible for giving garlic its characteristic pungent flavor and aroma.
Check the Origins of Garlic to Assess Its Quality and Suitability for Your Meals
Whether it is safe to eat garlic or not largely depends on where it was grown in the first place. Farmers in certain countries and regions are known to follow the best safety and quality assurance standards. However, in some countries, this is less so.
Before buying garlic at the supermarket or from local vendors, you should check where the crop was grown, harvested, and packaged from. This is not only essential for assessing the safety and quality of the bulbs, but it will also inform you about garlic’s suitability for different recipes.
What Kind of Garlic Is Spanish Garlic?
Before we can examine the question of the health and safety of garlic imported from Spain, we need to establish just what kind of garlic is grown in the Iberian country. While it is available throughout the year, you can get it most easily after the start of the Spanish harvest season, which kicks off in May.
The Garlic Capital of Spain
Spanish garlic that is available on the export market is mainly grown in the province of Cuenca to the east of the country and neighboring Valencia. There are many villages and commercial farms in Cuenca where garlic is grown for domestic consumption and export.
Most of the garlic exported from Spain is grown in and around the town of Las Pedroñeras in central Cuenca. Las Pedroñeras is indeed known as the garlic capital of Spain. Every year in the summer, Las Pedroñeras hosts the International garlic Congress.
Ajos Morados, the Purple Garlic
Garlic from Spain is known as Ajos Morados, which translates to purple garlic. It is a garlic that is distinguished by its large bulbs featuring purplish cloves.
Spain’s ajo morado garlic is considered a connoisseurs’ variety of garlic. It is widely used to make distinctive Spanish dishes such as gazpacho and garlic shrimp. Compared with other garlic varieties, ajo morado has a distinctive flavor that is less sharp and borders on the citrusy in terms of flavor.
A Less Than Stellar Reputation
Historically garlic has an infamous reputation in Spain. Since antiquity, the vegetable has been considered poor man’s food. In what is arguably the most famous work of literally work from Spain, Do Quixote, the eponymous protagonist of the tale, advises his squire, Sancho Panza, not to partake of onions or garlic as they make his character evil.
Safety Qualities of Spanish Garlic
Spanish garlic grows longer and has a higher percentage of moisture in the cloves, even after it has taken months from the time of harvest. This quality guarantees better quality and is a key reason why gourmet chefs prefer it to other alternatives.
Comparing Spanish Garlic With Other Varieties
Here is a look at other varieties of garlic grown around the world to rival Spanish garlic.
Chinese garlic is mainly grown in the province of Shandong. As a result, most of the garlic consumed around the world is grown in this eastern region of China, earning Shandong the moniker of the world’s garlic capital.
You will often find Chinese garlic packaged in five-piece packaging. It has the added advantage of being available all year round. The Chinese garlic is light with a mild flavor.
Chinese garlic lacks much of the quality and organic qualities associated with other varieties of garlic imported from overseas. In addition, some of the imported Chinese garlic is known to be grown using untreated sewage water, leading to an accumulation of highly hazardous compounds such as lead and sulfites.
Another issue that compromises the health and safety of Chinese garlic is that Chinese law mandates the use of chemical pesticides in order to control the proliferation of harmful insects on Chinese farmland. By Chinese law, garlic farmers have to spray their crops with insecticides containing methyl bromide. But even if methyl bromide helps fight insects, it is also harmful when consumed by humans.
California garlic is mainly grown around the city of Gilroy. Located in the San Francisco bay area, well over 100 acres of land in and around Gilroy are dedicated to growing garlic. Indeed the economy of Gilroy is so influenced by the garlic crop that the city is mostly famous for the annual Gilroy Garlic Festival and prides itself as the undisputed garlic capital of the world.
California garlic is available throughout the year. It has a medium spicy flavor, and its bulbs are firm with a soft neck. Garlic in California is grown to a high agricultural standard and is almost always guaranteed to be fresh when you see it on the produce shelves.
Peruvian garlic is grown in the southern reaches of the country. It is mainly grown by small-scale farmers on the slopes of the Arequipa mountains in the Peruvian Andes. It is distinguishable by the purplish tinge of the cloves. Also known as purple fire, this unique appearance comes from the rich soils of Peruvian highlands.
No other variety of garlic is grown at such precipitous altitude as that harvested in Peruvian highlands. These Andean farms are located between 3,000 and 4,000 meters above sea level. Other than the distinctive light purple coloring of its cloves, Peruvian garlic is known for its bulbs’ firm texture and hard-neck structure. These features make it easy to peel off the cloves for hassle-free preparation.
Dishes cooked with Peruvian garlic gain a strong spicy flavor. Many chefs also consider Peruvian garlic to be a lot juicier than other varieties. The only drawback is that the garlic is only available between May and September, the height of the Peruvian garlic harvest season.
How Safe Is Spanish Garlic Compared to Other Varieties?
Comparing Spanish garlic with the other varieties mentioned above, it is clear that it is a very safe and healthy variety. In addition, garlic farmers in Spain do not spray pesticides on their crops. Therefore, consumers should have no reason to suspect that eating Spanish garlic will lead to health complaints.
With its long shelf life, you can be certain that you are getting fresh garlic suitable for a variety of cuisines when you buy Spanish garlic. Moreover, when you eat Spanish garlic, there is no danger of contracting life-threatening illnesses due to pesticide residue on the cloves.
Compared to other varieties, garlic imported from Spain is not only high quality but also has great flavor. Most of the garlic grown in Spain, especially Spanish white garlic, is available throughout the year. Therefore, it is one of the highest-rated varieties of imported garlic you can buy today. Owing to its superior quality, it doesn’t matter if you get the Spanish garlic as raw garlic cloves as they were harvested on the farm or as minced garlic in a jar ready to go to your meals.