For many of us, garlic is garlic. Depending on whether you like its strong flavor, that's either the best or worst thing about it.
But Ron Stidmon wants you to know there isn't one kind of garlic, any more than there is one kind of apple. "There are garlics that are sweet, and garlics that are pungent," says Stidmon, a Manhattan refugee who founded Enon Valley Garlic with his wife in 2003. "Garlics that are hot on the tip of your tongue, and garlics that are hot on the back of the tongue."
His Beaver County farm grows 40 garlic varieties, ranging from the purple-striped bogatyr to the spicy inchelium red. Enon Valley's products are almost as varied. Along with the bulbs themselves, the farm sells products ranging from garlic tapenade to garlic dog biscuits.
"We actually make wine from garlic," Stidmon says.
Stidmon, who was once a business consultant, says a boutique market is taking shape, "like the explosion of heirloom tomatoes, or hot peppers."
Unlike tomatoes, though, garlic was long a victim of Cold War politics. Many varieties were available only in Russia, and Westerners couldn't close the garlic gap until the glasnost years.
Today, Enon Valley caters to cooks and gardeners alike — though since garlic grows over winter, this is your last chance to plant some for next year. "We're running out of stuff fast," Stidmon says. But next year, he expects to have more varieties than ever.
"I've always said I'll stop at 50 varieties," says Stidmon. "But who knows?"