Tunceli Garlic

Vegetables and vegetable preserves - Turkey

Tunceli garlic (Allium tuncelianum) is a species of wild onion that is endemic to the Munzur Valley in Tunceli, in eastern Turkey, and is used as a cultivated vegetable similar to garlic. The plant has a 50 cm tall stem carrying a rounded, tight ball containing hundreds of small, greenish-white flowers. It has a strong garlic smell and a taste similar to garlic, but sweeter, and is so used in the same way. It holds an important place in local gastronomy. Common names include Tunceli garlic, Ovacık garlic and rock garlic. Botanists have suggested this species may be a close relative of garlic, and perhaps an ancestor; but genetic analysis shows that it is actually more closely related to the leek. Tunceli garlic has a single clove structure and, unlike most garlic varieties, it can bloom and yield seeds. Its head husk has a white color and has small cloves with 2-3 husks. The head’s length varies, but in general it is 2.7-3.5 cm long with a diameter of 2.8-3.4 cm. On the head, there is a thick and protective husk, which turns into yellow when its dries. Over this protective husk, there are 1 or 2 white thin husks and between them there are 1-4 small cloves. The head can grow up to 80 grams but averages 10-30 grams. The plant is collected from the wild around August for use in cooking and sales, and is sometimes overharvested, a phenomenon that threatens the plant with extinction. Tunceli garlic is an endemic plant only found around in Tunceli and nearby areas, mainly Ovacık, Pülümür, Hozat and Pertek. It has a long vegetative cycle, and is quite popular in the local market, and therefore overharvesting in the wild is a threat to this species. Furthermore, there are fewer people actively cultivating this plant because many people in the area where it grows have left their villages to seek lives elsewhere due to terror attacks and economic problems. In order to help this plant recover, the local branch of the Ministry of Agriculture initiated a project to cultivate Tunceli garlic with about twenty producers in the early 2010s.