(Oct. 20) As the weather gets colder and the holidays approach, people turn to cookbooks for recipes that warm the soul. Help customers add flavor to their favorite dishes by promoting elephant garlic and shallots.

CARE: Elephant garlic should be kept at 23-34 degrees, with a relative humidity of 65% to 75%.
NUTRITIONAL VALUE: Elephant garlic is fat-, sodium- and cholesterol-free.
AVAILABILITY: Elephant garlic is available February through June from Chile and July through December from California or Oregon.

A member of the leek family, elephant garlic is similar to regular garlic in appearance, but has a milder flavor. One bulb of elephant garlic can weigh 12 ounces with a 6-inch diameter. It is estimated that retailers order 1,000 pounds of the garlic daily, says Alan Pollack, general manager for Cooseman’s LA Inc., Los Angeles.

Promote elephant garlic as a salt substitute because it adds flavor to dishes while being healthful. Elephant garlic contains compounds to help ward off cancer and reduce the likelihood of heart disease and strokes by lowering blood pressure and preventing blood clots.

Roast elephant garlic in a toaster oven as an in-store demonstration and squeeze the pulp onto a cracker or piece of bread. The longer the garlic is cooked, the more delicate its flavor. Tell customers to bake elephant garlic and use it as a spread or slice it raw and toss it into a salad, Pollack says.

Display elephant garlic next to salad items like tomatoes and basil because it can be used to add zest to dressings.

The single Panhandle Co-Op, Scottsbluff, Neb., displays garlic varieties with tomatoes, avocados and onions on the first table customers see when they walk into the produce department, says Brian Nagasawa, produce manager. The store sells dried elephant garlic, which sits on a 12-foot rack at room temperature.

Elephant garlic shares a 2-square-foot display with yellow onions at the single Archie’s IGA Plus, St. Maries, Idaho, says Mike Dixon, produce manager. The owner paints 18- by 12-inch signs made out of butcher paper and hangs them from the store’s ceiling to promote elephant garlic.

Carter’s Food Centers, Charlotte, Mich., uses two 10-inch round wicker baskets, with one containing regular garlic and the other containing elephant garlic, says Mike Stacy, produce merchandiser for the 20-store chain. Potatoes and onions also are tied in with the display.

At Panhandle Co-Op, customers can purchase a head of elephant garlic in a fishnet bag for $3.99, Nagasawa says. Once in a while Archie’s IGA Plus will advertise elephant garlic in its weekly circular for $3.99 a pound instead of its regular price of $5.99. When on sale, volume increases 15% at the store, Dixon says.

CARE: Keep shallots dry, and do not store in a cooler.
NUTRITIONAL VALUE: A 3.5-ounce serving of shallots contains 72 calories.

Shallots originally are from Ascalon, a town in South Palestine. They were brought to the U.S. by Hernando De Soto while he was exploring Louisiana. Known as queen of the sauce onions, shallots have a milder and more aromatic flavor than onions. In fact, shallots taste and look like garlic.

Cooseman’s Pollack says that although shallots are not as popular as garlic, they are becoming more common as they are featured on cooking shows.

Packages of shallots hang on a 12-foot standing rack at Panhandle Co-Op with the specialty items so customers see them as they walk by, Nagasawa says. They are merchandised with Chinese items like tofu and egg roll skins because Chinese use shallots in their stir-fries.

Shallots sit in a 1-foot-square wicker basket in the back of the produce department above the jars of crushed garlic at Archie’s IGA Plus, Dixon says. Freshly painted 4- by 3-foot signs made from butcher paper hang above the shallot display to attract customers’ attention.

Carter’s Food Centers merchandises shallots in 10-inch wicker baskets near the garlic, Stacy says. The store sells bulk shallots by the pound, but they’re usually in pint baskets with pearl and red onions. The store uses small signs on picks in the baskets to promote shallots, and the baskets come with a label that includes the price. Shallots are not an item that is high in demand, so Carter’s never has put them on sale. Customers can purchase shallots for $2.99 a pound.

Archie’s IGA Plus advertises shallots a couple of times a year around Thanksgiving and Christmas when people are doing more baking, Dixon says. Shallots cost $1.99 a pound on sale and $3.99 a pound regularly. Panhandle Co-Op never puts shallots on sale, but customers always can purchase an 8-ounce bag for $1.69. Nagasawa says there isn’t a big demand for shallots. The store stocks them in case anyone wants them.

Shallots should be kept dry at room temperature and watched for sprouting, Stacy says.