Garlic cultivation is said to date back to ancient times, when Etruscans inhabited the Chiana valley, and it was also present on the island of Giglio. Now two gentlemen with a lot of entrepreneurial spirit are bringing this centuries-old tradition to a new life.
A construction engineer, Alessandro Guagni, and a commercial lawyer, Lorenzo Bianchi, have devoted the past three years cultivating a special giant variety of garlic, known in Italian as aglione - literally, "big garlic". One bulb of aglione weights from 300 to 800 grams, about 10 times as big as normal garlic, and, as it hasn't a very strong flavour, it was never considered very useful for cooking, but the two growers found that it has a specific quality that can appeal a lot customers around the world. Aglione is odourless.
Last year's crop obtained an enthusiastic response by some of Italy's Michelin-star chefs. Soon, aglione will be used and served as a "kissing garlic": in other words, it will be an ingredient that brings taste to a dish, without the side effect of causing bad breath and damaging social interactions of those eating it, like traditional garlic does.
"We thought this was a typical example of Italian excellence that has been forgotten. Why? Because no one knows it and no one asks for it," said Bianchi to British journalist Stephanie Kirchgaessner form The Guardian. On top of that, the aglione they produce is a very organic one: much of the labour is done by ducks, which produce fertiliser and eat the weeds on the land but don't touch the bulbs themselves. Aglione from the two-hectares farm owned by Guagni and Bianchi in the Marche Region is likely to become a big hit on the tables of Italian restaurants this summer.