"There are many miracles in the world to be celebrated and, for me, Garlic is the most deserving." -- Felice Leonardo (1924 - 1998)
Garlic
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Garlic is a miracle, at least according to Felice Leonardo Buscaglia, who said "There are many miracles in the world to be celebrated and, for me, garlic is the most deserving."

Garlic (Allium sativum), also known as “The Stinking Rose,” is, ironically, a member of the Lily family, in the Allium group, which makes it a cousin to Onions, Chives and Shallots. Garlic has been cultivated for thousands of years.  No one knows Garlic’s exact origin, but it is believed that Wild Garlic, its ancestor, was first grown in south-central Asia by semi-nomadic tribes more than ten thousand years ago.  The name “Allium sativum” means “cultivated onion,” which suggests that was the original Latin name for Garlic, making its use very old indeed.

Garlic was considered sacred in Ancient Egypt (used in swearing oaths and burials) and was even found in King Tut’s tomb. It was also eaten by the laborers building the Great Pyramids to give them strength. There are references to Garlic in the Old Testament, such as when the Israelites lamented its absence after their exile from garlic-loving Egypt. Some scholars even think that Garlic was the original “bitter herb” of Passover.

The Ancient Greeks eschewed Garlic, but unsurprisingly Roman soldiers ate it with gusto, believing it made them better fighters.  During the 1600’s, Garlic was an ingredient in “Four Thieves Vinegar,” which was thought to be a preventative for the Black Death.

In Shakespearean times, Garlic was considered vulgar (because of its smell) and in most of northern Europe only the peasants consumed it.  The word “Garlic” is comes from Northern Europe, from the Anglo Saxon “garleac” and means “spear-leek.” The leaves of the Garlic plants are pointed and spear-shaped, while those of the Leek are similar except that they are shaped more like broadsword (broader and fatter).

The part of the garlic plant we use most is the underground bulb.  The long green stalk that appears above ground is called a garlic scape or whistling garlic, and though its season is very short, it is delicious when harvested young.  Scapes have a mildly garlic flavor and can be used much as you would garlic itself, and are also excellent roasted or grilled as a side dish.

The Garlic bulb is composed of cloves, varying in number according to the type of garlic.   Each clove houses a potential plant, a new young shoot in its center.   In reality, each clove of Garlic is a leaf, swollen to provide protection and food for the embryonic plant. The young shoots of the Garlic plant are often discarded, as they can taste somewhat bitter.

Today Garlic is grown and eaten throughout the world.  Nearly every culture has dishes in which it plays a leading role.  Its flavor raw is described variously as sharp, hot, pungent, spicy—basically, it packs a wallop.  When cooked, the many sulfurous compounds which make it so potent raw combine to make it taste much sweeter.  It is used in multiple ways, both Raw and cooked.

Season

Depending on the variety of Garlic, Garlic Bulbs are harvested in the summer or late spring. The earliest varieties may be harvested in May with the latest one being ready for curing in July. Garlic does store well though, once cured and is not really thought of as a seasonal Aromatic.

Availability

Because it can be cured and stored, Fresh Garlic is available all year long. It is also available in many different forms (see Purchasing).

Cultivation

Garlic “heads” or bulbs grow underground and are made up of sections called cloves which are encased in a paper-like membrane and which are basically a unique, miniature, self-contained plant. This means that each Garlic clove is essentially a seed.

A single bulb can produce many Garlic plants but we strongly advise against popping a few of the Garlic cloves leftover from your last meal into the garden. The primary reason is that the grocery store Garlic may be the wrong type for your area. Different strains of Garlic are better suited to different climates. Generally, Hardneck Garlic grows better in cold climates. Softneck Garlic does well in a variety of conditions. The secondary reason is that the store bought Garlic may have been treated with various agents that reduce fertility in an effort to improve its looks or shelf life (see Production). If you plan to grow your own Garlic, consult with a local nursery (or mail order seed house) about what types grow best in your region.

With your type selected, planting just before the first cold snaps in October is recommended for most Garlic in North America. Plant the Garlic clove pointy side pointing up. It is possible to plant Garlic in the late winter as soon as the ground can be worked, but the bulbs tend to be bigger and more flavorful if they spend the whole winter in the cold ground.  

Properly harvesting your Garlic anywhere from the late spring into midsummer is a matter of timing. Harvest too early and the Garlic cloves will be underdeveloped and small (useable but not as savory as possible). Harvest too late and the over-ripened bulbs will start to dry out in the soil and will loosen as they cure (also useable, but they won’t store as long or as well).

How to get it right? Each Garlic type has a preferred growing period (Early through Late) and will mature at different rates depending on your area, the weather, the soil, etc. Unlike other Vegetables or Fruits almost all of the growing “action” takes place underground and out of sight, leaving us blind as to their progress. Plucking the Garlic bulbs from the dirt at the right time depends on reading the tea leaves, err the Garlic leaves.

Strange as it may seem, the number of leaves on the plant stem, corresponds to the number of layers of protective paper wrapped around a Garlic Bulb. Not every Garlic plant has the same number of leaves, but, for example, five leaves on the stem would indicate five layers of “paper” wrapper surrounding the buried and growing Garlic Bulb. Watching the health of the leaves also indicates how the bulb is doing down below. When roughly half of the leaves have died off and gone brown (they die from the bottom up) and half are still green that means you are about a week away from harvesting. At this point, stop watering and use the week to dry out the ground so that rot is minimized and the digging is easier.

Just like we use Visual Clues and various tests to check for doneness in the kitchen, it is a good idea to peek in on your growing Garlic before committing to bringing them forth. You can do so by gingerly digging around the top of the bulb(s) without damaging them and peeking to check their size and formation. If the Garlic bulb is too small, pat the soil back down and wait a few days before you check again. No harm. No foul. If the Garlic bulb looks sizeable with a tight paper wrapper and nicely shaped cloves, you are good to go.

When you are ready to harvest your handiwork, loosen the soil around the base of each plant carefully. Gently, pull out the bulbs by the “neck” with the stalk attached. Softly, knock off any clinging dirt but try to keep everything (bulb, cloves, wrapper, leaves, etc.) intact. The bulb will continue to receive sustenance (and some anti-fungal & pest protection) from the plant material until all of the moisture evaporates. Work carefully to avoid bruising the Garlic. Also, don’t worry if some dirt remains, it won’t hurt the Garlic during the curing process and washing them won’t help them dry out.

If you are excited to sample some of your Garlic fresh from the garden, go ahead and use some of your harvest right away (see Culinary Uses). For the bulk of your crop, you may want to cure it before storing it for later use (see Production).

Planting Garlic has its obvious benefits but it is also a good companion plant for your garden because it can act as an insect repellent. Garlic is an insecticide. Conventional agribusiness farmers are also starting to use Garlic as a pesticide against aphids, thrips and even difficult pests such as bollworms and certain nematodes. Environmental friendly Garlic sprays are usually combined with an oil to make them stick better to leaves.

Set aside your most beautiful heads of garlic and those with the biggest cloves to use as your seed stock for the following season.

Production

X. Marcel Boulestin (1878-1943), a famous French Chef is believed to have said "It is not really an exaggeration to say that peace and happiness begin, geographically, where garlic is used in cooking." We are not sure if the assertion holds, but the largest global producer of Garlic is China. They produce about 75% to 80% of the world’s supply. According to X. Marcel, China should be very happy.

Since the 1990’s, when trade was liberalized between our countries, they have exported a significant amount of their crop to the U.S. (not without controversy). In 2015, Chinese Garlic made up about half of the United States’ consumption of Garlic. We import about 150 million pounds a year. We will discuss Chinese Garlic and Chinese production methods in more detail in Purchasing.

India is the second largest producer of Garlic, and not surprisingly South Korea is the third largest by tonnage. The United States ranks fourth in global volume, with the bulk of our domestic production coming from California (90%).

Oregon and Nevada are the second and third largest Garlic growing states in the U.S. In fact, Gilroy, California is known as the garlic capital of the United States and they host an International Garlic Festival each July. The link goes off site to the festival’s website. 

Christopher Ranch of Gilroy, Ca. sponsors the festival since they are the leading Garlic operation in California and the United States. They produce about 50% of California’s Garlic crop and also grow a significant amount of organic, heirloom Garlic (the Monviso Garlic variety originally from Italy).

A lot of land near coastal Gilroy is planted in Garlic, in fact the town smells like Garlic as you pass through, but more Garlic is actually grown in California’s Central Valley where the land is cheaper. Depending on the variety, planting Garlic can yield anywhere from 5,000 to 17,000 pounds an acre.

Garlic is ready for harvest when the tops become partly dry and start bending towards the ground. Fresh Garlic was traditionally harvested by hand because Garlic bulbs are sensitive to impact, and can break up easily. Squishing, bruising, or otherwise damaging, the Garlic bulb during harvest, curing or storage can allow rot to set in and leave the product too blemished for the grocer’s produce section.

Once the Garlic is harvested, depending on how it will be prepared for market, it can be cured, broken into cloves and peeled, or dehydrated. If the commercial Garlic bulbs are to be broken into cloves and peeled instead of being stored for sale as Fresh Garlic, they are usually transported to another workspace where compressed air is used to separate the cloves and peel them. Peeled Garlic is one of the biggest sellers in the category.

If they are to be cured, commercial Garlic is usually left in the fields in its natural state (windrowed) for a day or two before being put into bags or bins for final curing in a curing shed. Curing in a shed protects the Garlic from hot sun and bright light which can lead to sun scald and greening.

Essentially, curing Garlic involves dehydrating it, the old fashioned way, in a shady, airy, dry place. If you have seen those quaint Garlic braids, they are plaited while some of the leaves are still green and pliable, and left to hang in a dry shady spot to cure the Garlic. By the way, braiding only works with Softneck Garlic.

At home, braiding would be a nice touch but you don’t have to go old school and get ornamental to cure your own Garlic. You could tie the tops of five or ten stalks together and hang them bulb-side down in a dry, shady, cool, well-ventilated place. Under a tree or on a porch would work. You could also hang them in a mesh bag, woven basket or potato sack. Even laying them out individually on a screen would work, as long as the container is breathable and the environment stays dry. A shady place is important because Garlic can get sunburned (and lose flavor as it is cooked by the sun). Ventilation is important so that the circulating air prevents mold and rot.

In a month, or maybe two, the brown roots will be dry and bristly, there will be several layers of papery wrapper and the whole stalk will be totally dry and brown. The Garlic is ready for cleaning and storage. Commercially, the tops may be removed by propane flaming and then flailing.

To clean up the garlic for storage, you would trim off the roots and leaves so they are only ¼ inch or ½ inch long. More dirt will dislodge and a couple extra layers of bulb wrappers may flake off, giving you a nice and neatly packaged bulb. Remember not to remove too many wrappers in case you expose the cloves.

Today, due to a combination of market forces and product mix, mechanical harvesters (often as simple as a Potato Digger) are more widely used by domestic producers, as are automated scales, packaging lines, etc. The machines help combat Chinese competition by lowering costs but more blemished bulbs result. To improve their yield, domestic farmers had to rethink their product offering, which lead to selling jars of pre-minced Garlic where bruising and blemishes are not an issue. The jars of prepped Garlic have a higher perceived value and thus a higher price point, making them a better product.

The list of potential production problems surrounding commercial Garlic is long because about half of our Garlic comes from China where their farming rules (and oversight) are less stringent than our own. Europe does not, as of this writing, accept imported Chinese Garlic but the U.S., Canada and Australia do. Potential problems with foreign garlic include: Food Irradiation, bleaching with chlorine, sanitizing with Methyl Bromide, etc.

Across the board, we don’t want any of these techniques (used for extending shelf live and reducing pests and Pathogens) impacting the Garlic we use. Because the truth of foreign practices and oversight is so murky, we choose to just avoid imported Garlic all together. Buying domestic and organic is your best bet.

A lot of the Chinese Garlic is used by the processed food industry, where Garlic is a major food flavoring. Garlic Oil is used in packaged stews, soups, sauces, vinegars, pickles, breads, meats, and even desserts, ice cream, candy, gum and drinks.

Varieties

There are as many as 600 varieties of Garlic in use around the world. But because Garlic has been heavily traded between various countries, and because there is no official “Garlic Registry,” many of the 600 varieties are undoubtedly duplicates named twice (or more), which makes compiling a true tally of the types of Garlic somewhat problematic.  

A great way to work within the confusion is to understand how Garlic is classified into subspecies and types. At the highest level, all Garlics are divided into two common subspecies, based on whether or not they form a hard stalk and flower or have a flowerless, soft stalk. Is it any wonder then that the two main subspecies of Garlic are called Hardneck Garlic (Allium sativum ophioscorodon), also called “Topset Garlic,” and Softneck Garlic (Allium sativum sativum) which is also known as “Common Garlic,” or “Italian Garlic.”

Hardneck Garlic

The quick version of the differences between the two is that Hardneck Garlic has smaller bulbs which contain a smaller number of larger, more flavorful cloves. The Hardneck Garlic also flowers (the Garlic Scape) and is slightly more perishable than Softneck Garlic.

Arguably, there are three main classifications within Hardneck Garlic: Rocambole Garlic, Porcelain Garlic and Purple Stripe Garlic. Within each class there are various Garlic species that may be more familiar in the kitchen. For example, Spanish Roja Garlic is a type of Rocambole Garlic, Music Garlic is a member within Porcelain Garlic, Persian Star Garlic is a specimen within the Purple Stripe Garlic class.

We qualify our classification above by saying “arguably” because there are three classes of less-hard-necked Garlic, technically speaking called “weakly bolting Garlics” (Asian Garlic, Turban Garlic and Creole Garlic) that sort of straddle the current classifications. Of course, the academics, the taxonomy people, are still fighting over whether to group them as Hard Neck Garlics or as a new group of Asian Garlics (Allium sativum pekinense). Smart Kitchen will break them out as a minor sub-group below but won’t go to the mat wrestling over the classifications. We don’t have a clove, bulb, or scape in the taxonomy fight.

Softneck Garlic

Softneck Garlic produces larger bulbs with smaller but more numerous cloves. Since Softneck Garlics don’t flower, it is thought that all of the extra vegetative effort goes into growing the cloves. Most of the Garlic we see at retail in North America are Softneck Garlic varieties.

Softneck Garlics are further broken down into two classes: Artichoke Garlics and Silverskin Garlics. Artichoke Garlics like the Red Toch Garlic and the Early Italian Red Garlic have multiple over-lapping leaves (like the leaves of an Artichoke, thus its name) and may occasionally have purple spots or streaks. Artichoke Garlic has a milder flavor and fewer, larger cloves than Silverskin Garlics. Silverskin Garlics, like the Silverwhite Garlic or the Nootka Rose Garlic, have several layers of cloves contained in a tight, silvery clove wrapper.

Weakly Bolting Hardnecks

There are also three classifications of Garlic that are technically Hardnecks (at least for now) but which exhibit weak flower production and have more pliant necks. These three classes are Creole Garlic, Asiatic Garlic and Turban Garlic. Within each class there are various species. Some of the taxonomy folks proffer the notion that these weakly bolting Garlics should actually be classified as a third subspecies (Allium sativum pekinense).

Wild Garlic is not often found at retail but is an item that you may come across.

Finally, to close out Varieties, we should mention and clarify a few of the things that are not varieties of Garlic. First of all, despite its name, Elephant Garlic is actually a Leek that grows in bulbs but without the potent Garlic flavor. Secondly, Black Garlic is not a Garlic variety. It is a fermented Garlic preparation popular in Asian Cuisine

There is also no Garlic variety called Mexican Garlic. Many different types of Garlic are grown in Mexico.

Purchasing

When buying fresh garlic, look for bulbs with firm, plump cloves.  They should have plenty of papery sheath surrounding them.

If the cloves appear soft, crumbly, spongy or shriveled we would pass. We would also avoid any that are brownish, have black powder (mildew), appear dried out or have green shoots sprouting out of them.

The elephant, or “Elephant Garlic,” in the room, when discussing purchasing fresh Garlic, is “Country of Origin.” 138 million pounds (62,595,747 kg), more than fifty percent of our domestic Garlic consumption, is imported product from China.  If you don’t recall any of the news stories about tainted baby formula, adulterated pet food, etc. let’s just say that China has a different point of view than ours when it comes to food safety. Even “organic” Garlic is often from China, where the People’s Republic’s standards are the ones that count towards organic certification.  

Not to be alarmist but there have been reports of Chinese Garlic producers using all of the following: Food Irradiation, chemical and hormonal growth inhibitors, chlorine bleaching, fumigating with Methyl Bromide, etc. We don’t want ANY of these techniques impacting the Garlic we use. Because the truth of foreign practices and oversight is so murky, we choose to just avoid imported Chinese Garlic all together. Buying domestic AND organic is your best bet. In fact, the whole continent of Europe agrees with us and does not, as of this writing, accept imported Chinese Garlic at all.

The quick check list for determining if the fresh Garlic that you are reaching for is a domestic product or imported Chinese product includes:

·         Country of Origin Label

·         The Absence of Bristly Root Material

·         The Weight

·         The Flavor

·         Uniformity of Perfectly White Color

·         The Brand/Reputation

In a perfect world, just looking at the Country of Origin label would answer this question. If it said “Product of USA” it would be a domestic product. In the real world, the label can be “gamed.” There is such a disparity in pricing between China and America that a lot of unscrupulous importers have an incentive to skirt American rules and get their Chinese product into the U.S. often re-labeled as domestic produce. In fact, in 2013 the Customs and Border Protection Service estimated that Chinese firms had accumulated roughly $541 million in unpaid penalties for mislabeled, imported Garlic.

If we can’t completely trust the Country of Origin Label, we have to work our way down the list. The next most helpful clue is the presence (or absence) of bristly root material.

According to Bill Christopher, the president and CEO of Christopher Ranch, the largest domestic garlic producer, “In Chinese Garlic they cut the root plate off flat, with no brush.” They do so to speed up the drying process and to prevent any bit of potentially infested Chinese soil from clinging to the Garlic Bulb which will be exported. Ostensibly each imported Garlic bulb is inspected by U.S. Customs for any clinging, potentially infested soil. Domestic producers don’t have to worry about the soil so they can leave a little bit of “brush” on their Garlic.

That being said, the presence of a little brush is not proof positive of the origins of a particular Garlic bulb. Some imported Chinese Garlic might have a bit of brush. Though unlikely, it is possible. After the label, and the presence of some brush, check the heft of the Garlic and its aroma. American Garlic is denser and heavier than Chinese Garlic. It is also more aromatic and flavorful, with a higher Brix flavor score, scientifically tested at 40 out of 40 by the National Food Laboratories. Chinese Garlics tested only scored 28 out of 40.

If the Garlic in question comes from a pile of perfectly white, perfectly shaped Garlic we would also be suspicious.  Domestic Garlic producers don’t bleach their product so there will be some variation in color between individual Garlic specimens.

Raw, less-fresh Garlic can also be bought in glass or plastic jars in various convenient, “pre-prepped” forms such as: Peeled Garlic, Chopped Garlic, Minced Garlic, Puréed Garlic, etc.  The obvious benefit is the labor and time saved. The potential problems are flavor and texture.

With Raw Garlic purchasing covered, we have to point out that 75% of the Garlic used in America (including imported Chinese Garlic) goes into all of the ancillary Garlic products and forms and is often used as an ingredient in processed foods or in Food Service. More than ever, today there are a host of choices about how to purchase your Garlic. Some of the alternative forms include: Dehydrated Garlic, Garlic Salt, Garlic Flakes, Garlic Powder, Instant Garlic, Garlic Extract, Garlic Juice, Garlic Bread, Garlic Butter, etc.

Storage

Store Fresh Garlic bulbs unwrapped at room temperature in a cool, dry, well-ventilated place like your pantry. Sunlight, except for strong direct sunlight which can scorch Garlic, is not much of a consideration. You should store your Garlic away from other foods. The Garlic’s aroma can cloud the taste of its stored neighbors.

We like to hold our Garlic in mesh bags, but you can use anything that breaths like a paper bag or even a terra cotta pot. If you want to get technical, the ideal storage conditions will be between 55°F and 65°F with good air circulation and only around 60% humidity. Be mindful of the humidity. Too much moisture can cause fungus and mold. Too little moisture can cause the Garlic to dry out.

The refrigerator is not the best choice for storing Fresh Garlic bulbs because the moisture in the refrigerator can cause the Garlic bulb to sprout.  The pungent Garlic can also infuse other food items with its scent. We purposefully use the word “bulb” throughout because keeping the bulb together helps keep the Garlic cloves fresher longer.

Properly stored, whole Garlic bulbs can be kept up to 8 weeks, though they will begin to dry out toward the end of that time. Once broken down from a bulb, the individual Garlic cloves will keep refrigerated for up to a week or 10 days.

There are a few good ways to freeze Garlic. One is to Chop the Garlic, wrap it tightly in a plastic freezer bag or in plastic wrap, and freeze. Use it by Grating it into/onto your dish or by breaking off the amount required. 

Culinary Uses

Though we tend to think of Garlic as a Spice, Seasoning or Condiment, it is technically a Vegetable, one that is used, principally, to augment and enhance other foods. Because Garlic pairs very favorably with so many other ingredients (Tomato & Olive Oil for example), Garlic is one of the most widely used Vegetables in the kitchen.

Flavoring Vegetables like Garlic are called Aromatics (so are Herbs, Spices, Wines, VinegarsZests and anything that boosts a dish’s flavor). Ironically, Garlic Bulbs don’t have much scent sitting on the shelf. Garlic only starts to smell once the cell walls are ruptured and the Garlic’s sulfur compounds are released by being bruised, cut or crushed.

Releasing the flavor compounds is the reason why we almost always Peel Garlic for use and then break it down to release the flavor. Crushing the Garlic or Pressing also expands the surface area and helps release the Garlic’s healthful nutrients.

Each Garlic Bulb is made up of a number of Garlic Cloves (typically 8-10), which are the basic units of Garlic use. The major exception, when Garlic doesn’t need to be peeled, is when we bake or Roast Garlic and sometimes simplicity is best.

Garlic is used both Raw and cooked. Raw Garlic has a very pungent, hot, bitter/spicy taste that can pack a sulfuric, allium punch. Even if you love Garlic, it may still be a lot in its natural state.

The traditional method of managing the bite is to use appropriate cooking techniques to cook the Garlic. Cooking heat mellows the clove’s sulfurous compounds and makes the Garlic taste much sweeter.  The longer the Garlic cooks the milder the flavor will be.

Secondary methods to manage the bite include clove size and clove preparation. Larger cloves are typically milder than smaller cloves.  Choosing larger cloves for your dish will yield less heat when it is served. Different Varieties of Garlic also have differing levels of heat.

If you want as much assertive Garlic flavor as possible, release the Garlic’s Volatile Oils before use by crushing, bruising, Chopping, Mincing, Puréeing, etc. the cloves. This will cause them to have a sharper, more aggressive flavor than either neat slices or whole cloves.

On Smart Kitchen’s Home Plate Garlic is: Raw, Tough, Thin, Dry, & Lean. We consider Garlic “Raw,” because it is safe to eat raw. It is “Tough,” because it has density and texture to it. It is “Thin,” because a Garlic Clove is usually under an inch and a half tall (3.8 cm). We consider it “Dry,” because Garlic is about 60% water which is decent in nature but considered “dry” in the kitchen. Finally, Garlic is considered “Lean,” because it is only 0.15% Fat. In Smart Kitchen’s Home Plate™ shorthand, Garlic would be (R, T2, T3, D, L).

Dry Heat Cooking Methods, usually with Fat Added, are preferred when cooking Garlic because the Dry Heat allows the Garlic to Caramelize and for the Maillard Reaction to begin. Garlic cooked with a Dry Heat Method such as Roasting Garlic works as a standalone dish, or turns a good ingredient into a great one, adding a smooth, rich, nutty, allium taste to other items such as Sauces, Soups, Stews, Salad Dressings, etc. Overcooking, always a bad plan, is worse with Garlic because too much heat destroys the delicate compounds that give it, its nutritional properties. Cooking it lightly is the best advice. Roasting Garlic, Baking it or Stir Frying it will protect the nutrients.

Moist Heat Methods don’t showcase Garlic the same way which is why chefs don’t spend a lot of time regularly steaming, poaching or boiling Garlic. If you do plan to Stew it, you can add the Garlic near the end of the regular cook time to protect its healthful qualities.

Fresh Garlic’s unique flavor is one of the main reasons why it is widely used in so many different cuisines, but is especially associated with Italian Cuisine, French Cuisine, Spanish Cuisine, Mediterranean Cuisine, Caribbean Cuisine, Indian Cuisine, Asian Cuisine, Mexican Cuisine and South American Cuisine.  Its uses in cooking are so varied as to be nearly impossible to list here, but some recipes you might be familiar with that use Garlic are Aioli, Tzatziki, Pesto Sauce, Roasted Garlic Mashed Potatoes, Hummus, Skordalia, Tomato Sauce, Stir Fry’s, Pickled Garlic (another of the uses where it stands alone), etc.

Garlic is also used liberally to flavor and augment Meats like Beef, Pork, and Chicken, Sausages, Soups, Stews, Sauces, Salad Dressings, Stuffing, Legumes, Rice, Vegetables, and even Desserts.

Cloves of fresh Garlic may be the best option according to chefs everywhere, but it is not the only option. Garlic comes jarred in many convenient forms, including Peeled, Chopped, Minced, etc. The obvious benefit is convenience. The less obvious drawback is the deterioration in flavor experienced by many discerning palates.

Fresh Garlic can also be processed into other forms. In fact, 75% of the Garlic consumed in America is consumed in processed form. These forms can include: Dehydrated Garlic, Garlic Salt, Garlic Flakes, Garlic Powder, Instant Garlic, Garlic Extract, and Garlic Juice.  Processed Garlic is also found in many premade products such as Garlic Bread or Garlic Butter. Just be aware that, in some cases, processed Garlic has so many anti-caking agents, preservatives, salt, etc. that it may contain less than 20% actual Garlic.

The Garlic Bulb isn’t the only part of the plant that is edible. The Garlic Flower is edible, as is the stalk, also known as the Garlic Scape. Even the Green Garlic (the leaves) is edible. 

Smart Kitchen has a number of exercises and recipes that use fresh Garlic including: Peeling GarlicMincing GarlicPureeing GarlicRoasting GarlicRoasted Garlic Mashed PotatoesGarlic RiceRoast Chicken with RosemaryShallots and Garlic, Fettunta, Braised Round of Beef with Vegetables and Garlic Greens.

If you are not exactly a Garlic fan, but want to use a hint of Garlic Flavor, use Elephant Garlic. It is much milder than standard Garlic.

*When you cut, bruise, or crush a Garlic Clove, alliin (an odorless, sulfur-containing amino acid derivative) reacts with Alliinase (an enzyme) to form Allicin and other compounds. The Allicin breaks down into diallyl disulfide, which is the primary component of Garlic’s odor.

Portion Size

Allow 1-2 t of Garlic per person.

Pairings

BasilBay LeafCaraway Seeds, Cayenne, ChivesCorianderCuminFennel SeedsOreganoPaprikaPepperRosemarySaffronSageSaltSugarTarragonThyme, Beets, BroccoliBell PeppersCabbage, Chile Peppers, CilantroEggplantFennelGingerLeeksMushroomsOnionsParsleyShallotsSpinachTomatoesZucchiniAlmondsBeans, Lentils, BaconBeefChickenEggs, Fish, Lamb, Pork, Shellfish, CheeseCreamLimesLemons, Bread, MustardSoy SauceVinegars, Wine, StocksSaucesSoups

Substitutes

1/4 tsp. granulated garlic equals 1 medium garlic clove. If you are not exactly a Garlic fan, but want to find a hint of Garlic Flavor, use Elephant Garlic. It is much milder than standard Garlic.

Nutritional Value USDA
GARLIC,RAW
Amount Per 100g
Calories 149
%Daily Value*
 
0%
Total Fat 0g
0%
Saturated Fat 0g
Polyunsaturated Fat 0g
Monounsaturated Fat 0g
0%
Cholesterol 0mg
0%
Sodium 17mg
8%
Potassium 401mg
11%
Total Carbohydrate 33g
8%
Dietary Fiber 2g
Sugars 1g
Protein 6g
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your Daily Values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.
Nutrition

Garlic is an excellent source of vitamin B6, and a good source of selenium, manganese, and vitamin C. Minerals include calcium, phosphorous, iron, copper and potassium. Just 149 calories contains a surprising 6.4 grams of protein.

Many of the healthful nutrients in Garlic are protected behind cellulose and cell walls. Crushing the Garlic or Pressing it helps release the nutrients and phyto-chemicals by bursting the cell walls and also by expanding the overall surface area of the Garlic. Exposing the nutrients isn’t the end of the story. To gain the healthful benefits that Garlic has to offer, you will also have to safeguard the nutrients to make sure they are not destroyed. Overcooking Garlic is the leading way that these compounds are destroyed. Cooking Garlic lightly is the best advice. Roasting Garlic, Baking it or Stir Frying it will protect the nutrients. Stewing it, but just for the last few minutes of cooking, will work too.  

Generally, Garlic, in amounts found in food, is considered extremely safe. We should note though that you can technically overdo it (especially with extracts, oils, and pills / capsules). High doses can make you sick (potentially fatally) and children are more susceptible according to the American Herbal Products Association Botanical Safety Handbook. That being said, we do not know of any actual fatalities, child or adult, associated with consuming Garlic.

In fact, Garlic has long been known for its medicinal value. One of its nicknames is “The Poor Man’s Treacle, or cure-all. Garlic was described as a medicine in Sanskrit texts 5000 years ago. The Egyptians used it both as medicine and a food and regarded it so highly they swore by it. Hippocrates, Galen, Pliny the Elder, and Dioscorides all reported using Garlic to treat various conditions, including parasites, low energy, respiratory disorders, and digestive disorders.  Medieval doctors used Garlic as a disinfectant (and a charm against bad spirits).

Traditional Chinese medicine has used garlic since at least A.D. 510, and is still using it for amoebic and bacterial dysentery, tuberculosis, scalp ringworm and vaginal trichomoniasis.  Other folk medicine cultures have traditionally used garlic for treating colds and flu, fever, coughs, headache, hemorrhoids asthma, arterioscelrosis, low blood pressure, both hypoglycemia and hyperglycemia, cancer and as an aphrodisiac (amongst other things) .

Garlic’s reputation in Western medicine was established in 1858 when Louis Pasteur confirmed its antibacterial properties. As recently as 1917, Garlic was in use in battlefield hospitals as an antiseptic in World War I.

The reason for Garlic’s potency is that when crushed or finely chopped, Garlic yields allicin, a short-lived sulfur compound that gives Garlic its flavor and aroma but which is also a powerful antibiotic and anti-fungal compound whose effect is similar to that of penicillin. Ajoene (plus its cousin dihiins) is another, stronger antibacterial and antifungal agent that is contained in Garlic. Ajoene is more stable than Allicin and is even more effective when the Garlic is macerated in OilAjoene has been shown to be very useful against candida yeast, as an antithrombic (essentially a natural blood thinner) and as an anticancer agent.

In the United States, Garlic is being studied for use in fighting Heart Disease, Cancer, for its anti-bacterial properties and its overall immunity boosting properties.

Heart Health

With regard to the heart and circulation, researchers have thus far identified two important ways in which Garlic is helpful. First it contains many sulfur compounds, including diallyl disulfide (DADS) and Ajoene which seem to help smooth blood flow by preventing platelets from sticking together and clotting.

In a study at Brown University, researchers gave 45 men with high cholesterol Aged Garlic Extract (a dose roughly equivalent to 5-6 cloves of fresh Garlic). When they examined the men’s blood, they saw that the rate at which platelets clumped and stuck together had dropped anywhere from 10% to 58%. Preventing Overall Garlic’s most profound benefits are in the area of preventing platelets from clotting (aggregating).

And in another study done at Harbor UCLA Medical Center researchers gave half of the participants Aged Garlic Extract and half of them a placebo, before measuring the calcification in their arteries over the course of a year. At the end of the study, the aged garlic extract group had calcification levels that were significantly lower (10%) than those of the placebo group.

Garlic is also good for the heart because it lowers cholesterol levels and blood fats (triglycerides) in the bloodstream. A review of 13 years’ worth of medical studies investigating the link between Garlic and heart disease showed that 44 percent of them demonstrated a link between Garlic and a decrease in total cholesterol.

In addition Garlic has some mild blood-pressure-lowering properties and it can lower homocysteine (a protein that causes plaque buildup in the arteries). A study performed at UCLA showed that aged Garlic extract can reduce the buildup of plaque in the body by 66%. Garlic also appears to increase the body’s antioxidant status, thus lowering the overall risk of heart disease.

Cancer

There is increasing evidence that Garlic can help improve cancer outcomes in several ways: by preventing cell changes that lead to cancer, by stopping tumors from growing, or by killing the harmful cells outright.

Garlic contains a compound called s-allylcysteine which appears to stop the metabolic action that causes a healthy cell to become cancerous says John Milner PhD chief of the Nutrition Science Research Group in the Division of Cancer Prevention at the National Cancer Institute in Bethesda, MD. Diallyl disulfide (DADS) also appears to play a role in halting the growth by interfering with the cancerous cell’s ability to divide and multiply. Another substance in Garlic is diallyl trisulfide (called DATS) which is 10 times more powerful than DADS as a killer of lung cancer cells. Its effectiveness is comparable to that of 5-fluorouracil (a widely used chemotherapy agent) according to Dr. Milner. The Ajoene, mentioned above, is also reputed to be an anticancer agent.

For example, specific population studies have shown that people who eat more Garlic have fewer stomach and colon cancers than those who eat little Garlic. In Southern Italy, where the cuisine is rich in Garlic, they have proportionally fewer cases of stomach and colon cancer than they do in Northern Italy, where the diet includes little if any Garlic. Another study done at the Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center looked at populations in China, and found that regions with higher Garlic consumption had lower rates of stomach cancer. A third study of 41,837 mid-western women found that those who ate Garlic at least once a week had a 35% lower risk of colon cancer than women who never ate garlic.

In addition to stomach and colon cancer outcomes, Garlic appears to have some benefits with regards to skin cancer, liver cancer, breast cancer and other forms. Some experts, citing anecdotal evidence, opine that eating three cloves of Garlic a day could lower cancer risk by up to 20% and eating 6 cloves a day might reduce your risks by as much as 30%. There is even evidence that Garlic can help prevent nitrites (found in cured meats) from converting to nitrosamines (harmful compounds thought to trigger cancerous changes in human cells).

Remember these are only opinions based on reading studies and anecdotal evidence. No one is suggesting that Garlic replace traditional cancer treatments.

Anti Bacterial, Anti-Fungal, Anti-Yeast

Another area where Garlic is promising is in the fight against pathogens. Modern scientific study has built upon Pasteur’s work and confirmed that Garlic has antibacterial, antifungal and antimicrobial properties. Laboratory tests (both in test tubes and in animals) have demonstrated that fresh garlic has antimicrobial activities (including antibacterial, antiviral, antifungal, antiprotozoal, and antiparasitic).  Particular activity against B. subtilis, E. coli, P. mirabilis, Salmonella typhi, methicillinresistant Staphylococcus aureus, Staphylococcus faecalis, Salmonella enteritidis, and Vibrio cholerae have been noted.  Bacteria shown to be susceptible to garlic in the test tube include species from Staphylococcus, Escherichia, Proteus, Salmonella, Providencia, Citrobacter, Klebsiella, Hafnia, Aeromonas, Vibrio and Bacillus genera.

In a study at Boston City Hospital, Garlic successfully killed 14 different strains of bacteria (even a few anti-biotic resistant types) swabbed from the noses and throats of children with ear infections. Another study done at England’s School of Clinical Dentistry showed that Garlic (extract) was effective in killing oral bacteria. Swimmers’ Ear (otomycosis) caused by a fungus (aspergillus) was treated with Garlic as effectively as with the available drugs during a study done in New Mexico.

The New Mexico study give scientific basis to the ear ache remedy favored by many of those “old wives,” who use Garlic (or Garlic Oil) to cure their kids. The traditional formula is to crush the garlic and macerate it gently in oil. The concoction is then placed in a porous cloth (like a Cheese Cloth or similar) and inserted gently into the ear in such a way that it is easily extracted again.

The Ajoene (plus its cousin dihiins) in Garlic is a strong antibacterial and antifungal agent that has even been shown to be very useful against candida yeast.

The World Health Organization has reported that Garlic has been used to treat parasites such as roundworm, hookworm and pinworm in various regions including: East Asia, India, Italy, North America, Peru, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia and the West Indies. In fact, the United States Department of Agriculture lists Garlic in its Medicinal Plant Database as a viricide.

 Immune System

Other promising areas where researchers are focusing include boosting the immune system, reducing blood sugar levels, relieving asthma symptoms, maybe even slowing some of the cellular breakdown associated with aging.

The only benefit of Garlic that we are skeptical about is the famous one from the horror genre where Garlic is said to ward off vampires. If your bad breath is strong enough you may have a chance with Dracula, but as far as we can tell there is nothing otherworldly going on with Garlic.

Garlic remedies are sold over-the-counter in Germany and Japan. If you are considering Garlic as a remedy, or even as a supplement, we would go with the smellier products. Many people believe that “it must smell to do well,” meaning that if you can’t smell the active phyto-chemical in Garlic they must be inert and ineffective. The smell-to-do-well philosophy argues against using “odorless” Garlic supplements. We have not seen much research on the benefits of odorless garlic supplements and understand that most of the scientific studies mentioned used Aged Garlic Extract. We are going with the smell (and bad breath) until we see better data on the odorless options.

By the way, Garlic causes bad breath (and odiferous sweat) because the body metabolizes the sulfur compounds in Garlic into Allyl Methyl Sulfide (AMS) which is indigestible and passes into the blood stream. The body rids itself of this blood borne AMS through the lungs via respiration and the sweat glands via perspiration. Working through a good dose of AMS can take a long time which is why garlic breath and garlic sweats can linger. 

Eating fresh Parsley won’t, despite all of the press and commercials, “neutralize” garlic breath but mask it instead. 

Gluten Free

Yes

Low Fat

Yes

Low Calorie

Yes