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Sep 28, 2010 12:58 PM

Garlic in France

My husband & I just spent some time in France. In Dijon we loved going to the Market and going back to our flat to create some memorable meals. We were more than pleased with the quality of the meats and produce. We had one problem though and it took us a bit of time to figure it out. There was a very distinct taste to some of the dishes. Finally I was about to make some brushetta and I gave the garlic a smell. It was the garlic that was setting all the dishes off. The bulb looked perfect. But, the smell was not what we were use to. Also, garlic tends to get sweeter the longer cooked. Not this bulb. Just wondering if anyone has had this experience?

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  1. How odd.

    Like potatoes, "new" garlic, and "old" garlic are different from each other. With new garlic, available from the spring through summer in France, the cloves are fatter and stickier, the peel is softer and is more difficult to remove, and the taste is less astringent than the aged variety.

    However, this would be the same with garlic in the States, if that's where you're from.

    Also, did you remove the green shoot from the cloves? According to some, this makes garlic more indigestable and cloying.

    10 Replies
    1. re: vielleanglaise

      Yes, from the States.
      This looked to be very fresh. No green. I was really pleased when I bought it. Like all the other produce at the market it looked perfect. It took three meals before we were able to find the culprit. It was the oddest flavor.
      We were investgating the pans, did we leave soap in the pans, tap water. Never gave the garlic a thought. When I went to use it that last time I brought it to my husband and we knew that was the cause.

      1. re: joda

        The only thing I can think of is the "terroir" factor. In the same way that the same grape variety can taste different in two different soils, the flavour of a vegetable can differ also.

        Do you know if the stall holder was a "maraicher", someone who sells produce that they grow themselves, but that may have a more distinctive flavour, or would you say they came from a central wholesale market (like Rungis in Paris, or New Covent Garden in London)? Produce from a central market may often have a more uniform, or standardised taste.

        Also, I know it's confusing but "old" garlic can be fresh, and "new" garlic looks like this:

        1. re: vielleanglaise

          Anglaise, could it have been *fresh* garlic? It has a markedly different taste than the dry stuff.

          1. re: sunshine842

            It wouldn't be "fresh" garlic in late September in the Northern hemisphere. The season for that ended in late June.

            I have never had that experience with garlic in France, and can't imagine what was the cause.

            1. re: ChefJune

              That's what threw me, too, ChefJune...the description sounds more like fresh garlic, but it's so far out of season now that it sort of eliminates the possibility.

              It still doesn't sound *exactly* like fresh garlic, but it was the first thing that came to mind.

              Could the OP be referring to shallots?

              1. re: sunshine842

                No, it was garlic. The skin had a purple tint and the cloves were firm and moist. The head looked very healthy. My husband descibes old socks.
                We're still traveling about France and plan on doing more shopping and cooking. I wish I could explain the taste, best my husband and I could think of was odd.
                I had made boeuf bourgogne and a red sauce for pasta. They both had the same flavor. While cooking both smelled terrific. Upon taste it was, huh?

                1. re: joda

                  did it have a longish green stem attached?

                  1. re: sunshine842

                    No, looked like any head of garlic I would pick up at home. Other than the purple tint to the skin.

            2. re: sunshine842

              Yes, that's what I meant. "ail nouveau" = "new garlic" as opposed to the "old", or as you've termed it "dry" stuff.

      2. I suspect the difference in taste/smell will be down to it simply being a variety with which the OP was unfamiliar.

        2 Replies
        1. re: Harters

          Yes, there are many varieties of garlic, including several that have PDO (Protected Designation of Origin) status in France, such as the Rose de Lautrec.

          1. re: cheesemaestro

            Each row was a different variety at this market. I don't speak French the person selling the garlic did not speak English. Would have loved to ask about the last one we purchased. We were able to smell the bulb we bought to replace the last one.
            I think my husband explained it best. You have a bottle of wine, the wine or in our case meals tasted very good but you get a musty or corky taste that kind of takes over.