Barbara Spencer of Windrose Farm grows far too many varieties of garlic to remember all of the seedling specifics. But she's always quick to clarify what she and her husband, Bill, don't grow on their Central Coast farm. “No California whites,” she says, referring to the dominant grocery store Gilroy cultivars, California Early and California Late. The couple support a more diversified garlic community. Their two dozen rotating cultivars often include Kettle Rivers from the Pacific Northwest, Italian Violas, Tuscans and Sicilians, and almost always a Chinese garlic variety or two. At Windrose's Santa Monica Farmers Market stand, you'll find more shelf-stable “softneck” varietals nestled alongside “hardnecks” (the latter sprout a green onion–like scape from their core), bulbs with creamy-colored papery skins and those with a faint amethyst or rosy pink glow. Their garlicky flavor profiles are just as varied: Applegates are revered for their raw subtlety; others stand up best to a long weekend pasta sauce simmering. If you're still dependent on your California Whites in the kitchen, the Spencers can lead you down an entirely new garlic tasting path. Wednesday Santa Monica farmers market, Arizona Avenue between Fourth Street and Ocean Avenue, Santa Monica. (805) 239- 3757, windrosefarm.org.
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