Garlic: Roast It, Freeze It, Love It

by Berkeley Wellness

Garlic is native to Central Asia, and has been used as both a seasoning and a folk medicine for thousands of years. Ancient Egyptians used garlic to treat at least 22 different ailments. The Egyptians also fed garlic to the workers who built the pyramids to increase their stamina. Ancient Greeks and Romans believed garlic could get rid of parasites, and during the Middle Ages, garlic was believed to ward off the plague.

Today, garlic supplements are marketed for everything from lowering cholesterol and fighting cancer to preventing Alzheimer’s. But despite dozens of studies, there’s no evidence that garlic supplements or garlic itself can cure or prevent illness. (See also: The Power of Garlic.)

Garlic, however, is a popular seasoning, and its characteristic pungent flavor is used to enhance a wide range of dishes. In the United States, statistics show that, on average, each person eats more than three pounds of garlic a year. Although garlic is grown in every state, most of the world’s garlic—over 80 percent—is grown in China.

Types of Garlic

Some 300 varieties of garlic are grown around the world. Although most garlic is simply labeled “garlic,” there are a growing number of specialty garlics sold, especially in farmers’ markets. (See: The Power of Garlic.)There are two large categories of garlic grown: hard-neck and soft-neck.Hard-neck garlics  have a thick, unbendable stem

Garlic: Nutrition

Garlic contains a smattering of vitamins and minerals, but because we use it primarily to season dishes in small amounts, it doesn’t contribute much to our nutritional requirements.

Garlic contains other substances, however, that have attracted the attention of both researchers and consumers because of their possible health benefits. The compound in garlic that has been researched the most is allicin—a chemical that breaks down into organic sulfur compounds when garlic is chewed or crushed. However, a study from the University of California at Irvine showed that allicin is unlikely to survive in the digestive tract and would be destroyed in the bloodstream. It’s highly improbable that it could reach your cells and accomplish anything. Of course, some compound other than allicin might have beneficial effects, but no one knows what it is.

Still, garlic adds wonderful low-calorie flavor to many foods. There are just four calories in one teaspoon of chopped raw garlic—so eat all you like.

For a full listing of nutrients, see Garlic in the National Nutrient Database.

How to Choose the Best Garlic

Look for garlic sold loose, so you can choose a healthy, solid bulb. Garlic bulbs should be plump and compact with taut, unbroken skin. Avoid those with damp or soft spots. A heavy, firm bulb indicates that the garlic will be fresh and flavorful. If the bulb feels light, or gives

How to store garlic

Garlic has the potential to sprout. If it does, the compounds responsible for its pungency will partly seep into the new sprouts, leaving the bulb with less flavor. Cloves that have sprouted can still be used, although you may need to include more of them in your recipe to compensate for the milder taste. The sprouts themselves are very bitter. To prevent sprouting, garlic should be kept in a dark but airy spot. A loosely covered container, out of the sun and away from the stove or other heat source, will make a good storage place.

How to use garlic

To peel garlic cloves, place them on a cutting board and lay the flat side of a broad knife on top. Hit the knife with your closed fist. A fairly gentle impact is all that’s required to split the peel without smashing the cloves. Some specialty garlic varieties have very thick skin that easily pulls off without smashing the clove.

To chop garlic, cut the cloves in half lengthwise. Make several cuts the length of the clove with the tip of the knife, then cut crosswise. The more finely the garlic is chopped, the more flavorful it will be.

To use cloves that have sprouted, cut the cloves in half lengthwise, then completely remove the sprout—including the portion inside the clove. If the sprout is longer than about ¼ of an inch, it may be best to discard the clove. It will have lost much of its flavor, and you risk adding a bitter taste to the dish you are preparing.

You can freeze garlic, fresh or roasted, in several ways. Put chopped garlic or whole unpeeled cloves in a freezer bag to use as needed. You can also puree fresh garlic with olive oil and freeze overnight in ice-cube trays. Then put the cubes in a freezer bag and use as needed.

8 Ways to Serve Garlic

Garlic bread is a beloved side dish at restaurants and at home, but there are so many more ways to use this flavorful bulb. Here are eight serving suggestions for fresh garlic. 1. Roast small, red-skinned potatoes in olive oil with rosemary sprigs and whole, unpeeled cloves of garlic.2. Wrap whole

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