Taste of the Week: Heirloom garlic @ Wee Bee Farms

Korean Red Hot garlic from Wee Bee Farms
John Lehndorff

Garlic is just garlic, right? If you’ve tasted one garlic, you’ve tasted them all. 

“First, the average garlic you pick up at most supermarkets is most likely Chinese-grown, selected for shelf-life. It’s been stored for nine months to a year so it gets much more bitter tasting,” says Susan Beeman, a farmer who has sold garlic for 25 years at the Boulder Farmers Market. She grows about 30 varieties of garlic annually at her Wee Bee Farms in Hygiene. Bulbs are dried and cured for about a month before selling, Beeman says.

“Fresh garlic is like a whole different vegetable. It’s juicy, it tastes way better when it’s fresher. Many of the varieties you can eat raw. They are full of flavors but less intense. I slice raw cloves very thinly on crackers,” she says. 

Beeman always liked garlic while growing up—“Mom made spaghetti and meatballs”—but she didn’t start on her path to becoming Boulder’s “Garlic Queen” until a friend from Oregon sent her six different kinds to plant on her then-new farm. “I got hooked. They’re all so special and unique with different colors, shapes and sizes and flavors,” she says. 

Beeman illustrates with four varieties she grows and sells: 

Chesnok: “This is the most popular variety because it’s best for sautéing. It has a bite and keeps the flavor through cooking. It’s good for roasted garlic and pickling.” 

German Extra Hardy: “It’s my favorite. You can put it raw in guacamole, pesto or hummus without it burning your mouth. It will lose flavor if cooked too long.”  

Korean Red Hot (Asian Tempest): “An intensely flavored garlic that is good for roasting, making kimchi and quick stir frys. 

Inchelium Red: “This variety was discovered on the Colville Indian Reservation in Washington. It is the sweetest and mildest garlic I grow. You can eat it raw in salads.”

Beeman likes to compare garlic to wine. “The first time you taste wine it’s like ‘Oh, wine,’ but after a while you see there’s a difference between red wine and white wine. Then you start to see a difference in different types of red wine,” she says. 

Some varieties are highly prized for their health benefits for being extra high in allicin, an antimicrobial component that inhibits bacteria and has been used as a lung ailment treatment for several millennia. 

Beeman’s says her final Boulder Farmers Market of the year will probably be October 9 when she expects to run out of this year’s crop of garlic for cooking and planting. 

P.S.—Don’t use that questionable bottled chopped garlic. Buy a cheap garlic press and use it to make fresh garlic butter, etc.

Culinary calendar 

Postcard image of pies being sliced at the Pumpkin Pie Days in Longmont in the early 1900s. Photo: St. Vrain Historical Society

In the early 1900s Longmont locals would bake more than 5,000 pumpkin pies to serve visitors at the annual Pumpkin Pie Days. While those pie feasts are gone, pumpkin pie is still on the menu at the 51st annual Pumpkin Pie Days Vintage & Antique Market, October 9 and 10 at the Boulder County Fairgrounds. Proceeds benefit Longmont’s St. Vrain Historical Society . . . Longmont Restaurant Week, October 8-17, features meal deals at $18.71 and $28.71 at Blue Corn Tacos, Outworld Brewing, Longmont Public House and other eateries. Menus: longmontrestaurantweek.com.

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