Oh, Monsieur Garlic, how dull life would be without you. You are warm, full of flavour, and every cook needs you!
Garlic, or Allium sativum, comes from the onion family and is native to Asia. It grows as a bulb underground where each is separated into cloves. There are many types of garlic, from red to pink to green but they are all basically the same. Although in general we eat the cloves, the leaves and flowers can also be eaten.
You get wild garlic too, usually growing rampantly in the garden or woodlands, and often near bluebells. The long green shoots and white flowers look like Lily of the Valley, but when you snap the shoots you get an incredible aroma of fresh green garlic. Lovely.
Now garlic is a tough old thing and grows really easily all year round in pretty much all warm climates. And guess which country is the largest producer of garlic? France? USA? Nope, China. They knock out 66% of the world’s supply, amazingly.
Garlic is used in cooking across the world and in all types of cuisines to make sauces, usually in partnership with onions and tomatoes. Garlic is used to flavour oils, breads, meat, gravies and vegetables. It can be fried, boiled, smoked, pickled, roasted and used to make condiments such as alioli. Garlic is also used as a food preservative for fish and meat and so on and so on.
Garlic, as with so many herbs, has a number of medicinal applications. From helping to fight the common cold and easing sore throats to having antiseptic properties. It was used in the war to prevent gangrene, it can be used as a disinfectant and helps to clear up infections. It works as a fungicide too and is even used in the treatment for thrush. And here’s one for the boys – garlic also boosts testosterone levels! As if they need more…
Daft Fact of the Month - sticky garlic juice is used in the production of adhesives and glue. Who knew that?!?
I suppose the biggest issue with garlic is the breath bit. When you eat it you don’t notice it and if the person you’re eating with has some too, then you’re all fine. But it is not the first choice on a first date.
This pungency is all down to something called AMS, or allyl methyl sulfide. This is a liquid that is absorbed into the blood when you digest garlic. This chemical then travels from the blood to the lungs and skin and it is then expelled from the body through the pores and mouth. The green centre of the garlic clove is particularly pungent and in many countries they remove this when garlic is prepped, which may help a bit.
BIG Garlic Issues
One thing that always puzzled me is the vampire/garlic thing. Who put those two at odds with each other? And how could something that can survive for thousands of years and fly be good at fighting fall apart when someone waves a bulb near them? Turns out, there’s a fairly good logic to all that.
Garlic’s reputation for doing good originally came from ancient Egypt. They believed that garlic held incredible healing powers (which as we’ve seen, it sort of does). As trading developed, the use of garlic spread and so did the stories of its strangely powerful benefits. Belief grew that is would protect you against plagues and illness and then, eventually, against supernatural evils.
This was latched onto as a good idea in southern Slavic countries and they believed a vampire could be identified by their unwillingness to eat the stuff as it was such a blessed/God-given thing. In fact, in the 1970s a Romanian church distributed garlic during service, observing those who refused to eat it and then pointing at them and yelling ‘Vampire’ before chasing them with pitchforks. Yep, in the 70s.
To peel your garlic quickly, use the flat edge of your knife and squash the garlic. The skin will then peel off really easily. Garlic freezes really well so simply freeze the cloves whole in a plastic container. When you’re cooking, just throw the cold cloves into your sauce and they’ll melt into your sauce.
Or you can blitz peeled garlic in bulk, spoon into an ice cube tray and freeze. Then all you do is pop a frozen garlic cube into your cooking.
Infographic provided by Hari Ghotra
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<img src="http://www.harighotra.co.uk/images/Infographics/Garlic_Infographic.jpg" alt="Garlic Infographic showing the health benefits of Garlic" /> <p>Infographic provided by <a href="http://www.harighotra.co.uk/">Hari Ghotra </a></p>Back to Blog