Garlic is one of the most potent and, from
a health perspective most powerful members of the onion family
(Allium). Most of the health benefits derive from the more than
100 sulphur compounds it contains, especially allicin, which
is responsible for garlic's characteristic scent and flavour.
Allicin is formed when the garlic bulbs are crushed, chopped,
or chewed. Among the promising health benefits of garlic are
that it may protect against stomach and colon cancer, slow the
build-up of artery-clogging plaque, prevent the formation of
blood clots, help lower blood pressure, reduce the chances of
infection, improve nasal congestion and sinusitis.
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. If the bulb feels light,
or gives under your fingers, the contents may have dried to
dust. Check out the clove formation. A bulb of garlic may contain
a "standard" eight cloves, or as many as 40: Choose
a bulb with large cloves if you're a garlic lover, peeling a
large number of small ones to flavour your favorite dishes can
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 itself diminished in flavour. 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.
To prevent sprouting, garlic should be kept in a cool, dark
spot. A loosely covered container, out of the sun and away from
the stove or any other heat source, will make a good storage
place. Garlic will keep from a few weeks to a few months, depending
on its variety, its age when purchased, and storage conditions.
Check your stored garlic from time to time and remove any cloves
that have become shriveled, dried, or mouldy.
Some experts advise against storing garlic
in the refrigerator, but it should keep perfectly well there
for at least a week or two. Do not put uncooked garlic in the
freezer, which will destroy its texture and give it an acrid
To remove individual cloves, peel off the outer layers of skin
from the bulb, then pull back on the top of a clove and snap
it off at the base. As you remove cloves, be careful not to
pierce the skin on those remaining; even a slight nick will
To peel garlic cloves, place them on a cutting
board and lay the flat side of a broad knife on top. Tap the
knife with your closed fist: A fairly gentle impact is all that's
required to split the paperlike skins without smashing the cloves
(though no harm is done if the cloves are smashed unless you
want to keep the garlic cloves whole; for example, if you were
pickling them and wanted them to be attractive).
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 finer garlic is chopped, the
more powerful it will be.
If you plan on cooking garlic, let it stand
for 10 minutes after chopping or crushing it. The majority of
garlic's health benefits are the result of the conversion of
the sulfur compound alliin to allicin that occurs when the cloves
are chopped, crushed, or chewed. If garlic is cooked immediately
after chopping, allicin never forms and the health benefits
Be careful not to burn garlic when sauteing,
as it will turn bitter. If the recipe calls for onions and garlic
to be cooked together, add the garlic after the onions have
been sauteed for a few minutes. Garlic takes less time to cook
and the juices exuded from the onions will help to protect the
garlic from scorching.
Roasting garlic produces a sweet, nutty flavour
and a buttery consistency. It can be used as a low fat spread
on bread or as part of a sauce. Place the unpeeled bulbs on
a sheet of aluminum foil large enough to enclose the garlic.
Seal the package, place on a baking sheet and bake one hour
in a 375°F oven until the package is soft to the touch.
When its cool enough to handle, unwrap, snip the top off the
bulb and squeeze out the soft garlic pulp. Roasted garlic will
keep several days in the refrigerator. Keep in mind that the
heat will inhibit the formation of allicin.
If you love garlic but find the taste of
raw garlic too sharp, drop peeled garlic cloves into a saucepan
of boiling water and boil for two minutes. Drain and proceed
with the recipe. As with roasting, the health benefits are diminished,
but the flavour remains.