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Food and wine

Abruzzo

Red Garlic from Sulmona, Abruzzo: an indigenous variety that is popular abroad

07 July 2022

Among the finest garlic ecotypes in Italy, it differs from other ecotypes in size and colour. Small and slightly spicy, it has an intense aroma and is included in the list of “Prodotti agroalimentari tradizionali italiani (PAT)” (traditional Italian food products) of Abruzzo.

We’re talking about Red Garlic from Sulmona. The tunics of this garlic, as the membranes covering the cloves are called, are purple in colour, and it perfectly flavours any dish, enhancing its taste without overpowering it.

1. Characteristics: the amazing medicinal plant

White bulbs and red cloves are the two features that make this product immediately recognisable, alongside its small size: it is much smaller than other types of garlic.

What gives Red Garlic from Sulmona its uniqueness, apart from its unmistakable flavour, is the quantity of its essential oils.

It is easy to see how this plant might be used in the herbal, aesthetic and cosmetic fields.

Not only that, but its important natural antiseptic and antibiotic properties, thanks to the presence of allicin, also make it the subject of pharmaceutical attention.

Add to this its effectiveness as a disinfectant, especially for the digestive and respiratory tracts; its ability to hinder the formation of free radicals; and its anti-carcinogenic action: Red Garlic is a surprisingly powerful medicinal plant, and is also very useful for those suffering from high cholesterol and hypertension.

And to cap it all, it can be preserved for a long time. As long as it is kept in a cool, dry place, this product will remain as good as new for a year or more.

2. Area of production: the Peligna Valley, a land of ancient agricultural traditions

Red Garlic is cultivated on the Conca di Sulmona plateau, in the Peligna Valley area in the province of L'Aquila. A typically excellent Abruzzo product, it is cultivated in the autumn months between November and December, and harvested during the warm season between June and July.

3. How to enjoy it in the kitchen

We highly recommend eating fresh, raw Red Garlic, for instance rubbed on bruschetta together with a little oil.

It is suitable for many dishes, however. Perfect for seasoning sauces and main courses consisting of meat and fish, it is above all the undisputed star ingredient of a great classic: spaghetti aglio, olio e peperoncino.

However, beyond mere seasoning, Red Garlic from Sulmona is also used in the preparation of typical local dishes.

Garlic scapes, known as “tolle”, “zolle” or “crastetelli”, are perfect with the sweet and sour condiment agrodolce.

4. Curiosities and events: from an antidote to evil to the focal point of festivals

Did you know that in the past, a Red Garlic necklace was said to lead to a speedy recovery from intestinal parasites? That's right. Children were made often made to wear such necklaces.

Garlic wreaths were also hung on the doorways of houses to drive witches away. This plant is even mentioned in classical mythology: it is said that Ulysses received garlic from the god Hermes as an antidote to the flattery of the sorceress Circe.

Today, Red Garlic from Sulmona is the star of a festival that takes place every second weekend in July, in Campo di Fano, a small village of around 300 inhabitants in the Peligna Valley, in the province of L'Aquila.

This is an unmissable event for producers, food experts and representatives of the agricultural world, but also for the many guests who come from all over the region to enjoy it.

5. A leap back in time: historical evidence

The great Ovid, a Latin poet from the age of Augustus, offers one of the earliest literary accounts of the cultivation of Red Garlic.

But trade in this product is also documented by Panfilo Serafini in the first half of the 19th century.

Then there are the archives from 1917, at the height of the world war, which attest to its export. The story of Red Garlic from Sulmona is therefore an ancient one that is still unfolding today.