Spanish Roja garlic is a gourmet heirloom rocambole hardneck garlic variety known for its top-notch, authentic garlic flavor. Grown in North America since at least the late 1800s, it is celebrated for its spicy bite, easy-to-peel cloves, and rich history.
Introduction to Spanish Roja garlic
Spanish Roja, a popular member of the rocambole family of hardnecks, is often celebrated as the epitome of true garlic flavor. This hardneck variety is known for its impressive height of up to 4 feet, and carries a distinctive spicy bite complemented by its easy-to-peel nature.
A particularly hardy variety, Spanish Roja thrives well in the northern states. Its wide, blue-green leaves make it a visual delight in gardens. Its bulbs, characterized by a light purple tint on mostly white wrappers and reddish-brown clove wrappers, generally hold between 8 to 12 cloves.
While it’s a must-have for garlic aficionados, growers should note that rocamboles, including Spanish Roja, have a shorter shelf life than many other garlic types – roughly 5 months. This limited storage capability is attributed to their loose skins. However, this very feature is what makes them a chef’s favorite – easy to peel and loaded with flavor.
For optimal growth, Spanish Roja requires a period of cold weather, a process known as vernalization. The bulb’s cloves, which have a tan to brown hue, are generously sized and set around a hard stem, with a typical bulb yielding 6-10 cloves.
Spanish Roja’s unique taste profile, historical roots, and stunning appearance make it a prized possession for gardeners and chefs alike. Whether used raw, sautéed, roasted, or blended into dishes, Spanish Roja promises an unmatched taste experience, truly embodying the essence of garlic in every bite.
Spanish Roja garlic flavor profile
Spanish Roja garlic sets the gold standard for authentic, robust garlic flavor. Its taste is characterized by a bold initial bite that gives way to a deep, rich undertone, delivering a medium-to-hot intensity that lingers. Renowned for its classic “true-garlic” essence, this heirloom variety offers an exquisite balance of spiciness and warmth, making it an esteemed choice among chefs and culinary aficionados.
How to grow Spanish Roja garlic
Here is a guide to growing hardneck garlic cultivars, including Spanish Roja:
Prepare the soil a few weeks before planting if time allows. Remove any dead plants or other debris from the area. Use a soil test kit to determine the pH and amend accordingly (garlic prefers a well-draining soil with a pH of 6.5 to 7 if possible). Incorporate organic matter like well-decomposed compost or aged manure into the planting area to enrich the soil. This improves soil structure, fertility, and drainage. For dense soil, you can till it to loosen it up to a depth of at least 12 inches. This helps in root expansion and ensures proper bulb formation.
Finding seed garlic cloves
Purchase certified disease-free bulbs from a reputable nursery or seed provider.
Before planting, break apart the garlic bulbs, but keep the papery husk wrapper on each individual clove.
Planting your garlic
Plant your garlic in early-mid fall. Ideally, it will be in the ground for about a month before the ground freezes. Plant cloves with the pointy end up, about 2-3 inches deep. Space cloves about 6 inches apart. Water deeply after planting. Once planted, cover the area with a 4-6 inch layer of organic mulch like straw or leaves. This insulates the soil, retains moisture, and suppresses weeds.
The garlic will establish roots over winter, even if you don’t see any top growth. The cold period, or vernalization, is essential for hardneck varieties like Spanish Roja to form nicely-sized bulbs.
As the weather warms, you’ll notice green shoots emerging. This is your garlic’s aboveground/top growth. Keep the planting area free from weeds. They compete with garlic for nutrients. Water regularly, ensuring the soil remains moist but not waterlogged. Remember, garlic roots are quite deep, so deep watering is more beneficial than frequent shallow watering.
Removing garlic scapes
Hardneck garlic varieties produce a curly stalk known as a scape. While it’s edible and delicious, it’s a good idea to snip it off once it completes a curl. This encourages the plant to divert energy to the bulb, resulting in bigger garlic heads.
Harvesting garlic bulbs
Spanish Roja garlic is usually harvested in late spring or early summer. When the lower one-third to half of the leaves turn yellow-brown, and the rest remain green, it’s typically time to harvest. Use a fork or shovel to gently lift the bulbs from the ground. Pulling them can damage the stem, which can reduce storage life.
Curing and storage
Let the harvested bulbs dry and cure in a well-ventilated, shady spot for about 3 weeks. Lay them flat or hang them up, ensuring bulbs don’t touch each other. After curing, trim the roots. You can either cut the stalks or braid them for storage. Store in a cool, dry place. Ensure good air circulation to avoid mold. Use any bulbs that show signs of damage or rot first, as they won’t store as long.
Origins of Spanish Roja garlic
Originating from the Pacific Northwest of the USA since at least the late 1800s, Spanish Roja is steeped in history. There are accounts of it being introduced to Northwest Oregon before 1900 or so. Some gardeners refer to Spanish Roja as Greek or Greek Blue garlic.