A viewer wrote to ask me why I use small garlic cloves when I prepare food rather than the larger, easier to peel, elephant garlic. The reason is that elephant garlic really isn’t garlic at all, but are a bulb that is related to leeks. You know how leeks are milder than onions? Well, that’s the difference in flavor between elephant and regular garlic. Elephant garlic carries a more subtle, sweet flavor and is a poor substitute when you want the robustness of garlic. Elephant garlic bulbs can be quite large and sometimes one clove is bigger than an entire head of regular garlic.
When you’re buying elephant garlic, follow the same guidelines as when you’re shopping for ordinary garlic. Choose heads that are firm with plenty of dry, papery covering. Do keep in mind that elephant garlic is far more perishable than regular garlic so be sure to use it shortly after purchasing to maintain optimum flavor. It also has a higher sugar content so if you’re cooking with it, keep your eye on it because it will brown and burn quickly. Elephant garlic is a wonderful when added raw to salads or to soups and stews, when just a hint of garlic flavor is desired.