In Treviglio, a town in the Bergamo plain, an ancient red garlic is grown which in the past was even exported outside the region and as far as Switzerland.
Treviglio red garlic is planted immediately after the feast of San Martino and is harvested in June. However, in May the plant is already able to offer a particular product that is highly appreciated in the kitchen: bigol de l’ai, or the first fruits of the floral “scappio”. When it reaches a length of about 30 centimetres, this part is cut in order to favour the development of the cloves.
Cultivation begins by planting the single bulbs in the ground that have been selected previously and very carefully; in fact, the individual cloves must be selected, so as to increase the probability of having new plants that have a good resistance to diseases. In order to do this, the garlic is divided into an equal number of cloves and then planted one by one with the tip pointing upwards. The cold of the winter favours the selection and rooting of the first plants that begin to emerge around January. The soil is cleared and once the plants reach 40 centimetres, the soil around it is built up to allow for irrigation in this very demanding phase of growth. The harvest of the red garlic takes place when it reaches full maturity, towards the end of June. The plants are uprooted and left to dry; harvested in bunches, they are finally laid out on the ground with their heads turned to the sun in order to favour the drying of the roots. After a couple of days, the bunches are gently rubbed in a way that does not damage the internal wedges and then tied by hand. Braids are made which are hung from beams.
Treviglio red garlic does not have excessively large cloves. As the name suggests it does have reddish-pink skin. It has a strong, spicy and very tasty flavour. In addition, this garlic has a good shelf life. In the kitchen it is mainly used as a condiment to flavour dishes. In addition, red garlic was particularly known as the basic ingredient of the Treviso salami. Whereas, the bigol de l’Ai was sautéed in a pan with oil or used to dress salad with vinegar.
Although in the past it represented a good source of income for local farming families, today the red garlic of Treviglio is threatened by the importation and sale of other varieties. It remains cultivated in some family gardens and rarely sales take place directly through the famer or in some city markets.
The research activities necessary for the reporting of this product in the Ark of Taste online catalogue were financed by the Ministry of Labour and Social Policies, the General Directorate of the Tertiary Sector and Corporate Social Responsibility – notice n° 1/2018 “Slow Food in action: communities protagonists of change”, pursuant to Article 72 of the Tertiary Sector Code, referred to in Legislative Decree No. 117/2017.