Turban Garlic
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There are two major types of Garlic subspecies in the world: Soft-Neck Garlic (A. sativum sativum), sometimes called Braiding Garlic, Common Garlic or Italian Garlic and Hard-Neck Garlic (Allium sativum ophioscorodon). There classic soft neck does not produce a central stalk and Garlic Flower. The classic hard neck does.

That being said, there is also an interesting but inconvenient side category called “Weakly Bolting Hard Neck Garlics.” All of the Botany that we need to know in the kitchen is that this group doesn’t conveniently display all of the traits of either of the other two major groups.

Asian Garlic, Turban Garlic and Creole Garlic are in a group that the taxonomy people argue should justly be called Weakly Bolting Hardnecks.  They are crammed into the Hardneck Garlic category at present but are candidates for a new class that many would like to call (Allium sativum pekinense) because they all have pliable necks and weak Garlic Flower production.

Turban Garlic, which was developed in the east, usually has a hard neck (though, confusingly, it can have a soft neck in warmer climates). Turban Garlic is a smaller plant but it grows fairly good-sized, plump, striped bulbs with a glossy pink to light brown coloring. They are very early maturing, with a fairly short shelf life in storage.

If you want to learn more about Garlic, generally, visit Smart Kitchen’s General Garlic Information Resource.

Season

Generally, Asiatic and Turban varieties of garlic mature first in the season (as early as May in some areas); Generally, Asiatic and Turban varieties of garlic mature first in the season (as early as May in some areas);

Turban Garlic is one of the earliest maturing Garlic types. They can be harvest in late spring, depending on your climate. Turban Garlic stores well enough, once cured and is not really thought of as a seasonal Aromatic.

Availability

Because it can be cured and stored for up to five months, fresh Turban Garlic can be available all year long. In practice, it is not the predominant type of Garlic grown commercially and is a little hard to find at retail.

Varieties

There are many types of Turban Garlics, with new ones being bred all of the time. Some of the Turban Garlics include: Chinese Purple Garlic, Portuguese Garlic (mild), Early Portuguese Garlic, Blossom Garlic (mild), China Stripe Garlic, Red Janice Garlic, Tzan Garlic, Dushanbe Garlic, Thai Fire Garlic, etc.

Purchasing

When buying fresh Turban 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.

One of the major issues with buying Turban Garlic, is finding it at retail. We don’t currently know of any sources selling it at retail as produce or as an ingredient. Even Seed Savers Exchange doesn’t have any for sale as seed stock. The link goes off site to their web site.

Storage

Store fresh Turban 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 Turban 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 Turban Garlic to dry out. Turban Garlics have the shortest shelf life and can only keep up to five months once they are harvested and cured. How long they last for you is dependent on how long they have been in storage before coming to retail.

Our working rule of thumb is that, properly stored, whole Turban 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.

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.

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 Turban 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 Turban 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 the Turban Garlic, you can add it 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.

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 Turban 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

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.

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