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Oniony Herbs - Garlic - Allium sativum

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© Provided by DKBooks

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© Provided by DKBooks

© Provided by DKBooks

© Provided by DKBooks

© Provided by DKBooks

Garlic - Allium sativum

Garlic is native to the steppes of central Asia and spread first to the Middle East. It was one of the earliest cultivated herbs, but its early use was mainly medical and magical – except in ancient Egypt where it was eaten in quantity. When the first English settlers took it to America, it was still regarded as a medicinal herb. Today it is recognized for lowering blood pressure and cholesterol, but its culinary use has become vastly more important.

Culinary uses

If crushed with the flat blade of a heavy knife, dried garlic cloves are easy to peel. Once peeled, garlic can be pounded in a mortar. Avoid garlic presses because they can make the taste unpleasantly acrid.

Garlic can be used to enhance the flavor of many foods. Whole cloves cooked slowly have a mellow, nutty taste; cut garlic is more pungent, even when cooked. Similarly, a whole clove gently sautéed in oil and then removed will leave a delicate flavor: a minced clove leaves a much stronger one. Never let garlic burn or it will develop a bitter, acrid taste. Garlic roasted whole can accompany new potatoes or root vegetables. In European cooking, garlic is roasted with chicken or lamb; braised in wine; puréed, blanched, or sautéed. Young, green garlic can be used in summer vegetable stews without peeling. In Spain, young garlic shoots are fried for tapas. Raw garlic flavors salads, is rubbed over bread with tomato and oil, and is pounded with egg yolks and oil to make aïoli or, with nuts and basil, pesto. In Asia, where the consumption of garlic far exceeds that of the Mediterranean countries, its companions are lemon grass, fresh ginger, cilantro, chili peppers, and soy sauce. Garlic is used in stir-fried dishes, curry pastes, sambals, and nam prik. In Cuba, it is combined with cumin and citrus juice to make the ubiquitous table sauces called mojos. Garlic can also be steeped in oil for a few days, and in vinegar for at least two weeks. In Korea and Russia, garlic makes a much-loved pickle.

Essential to many sauces (aïoli, allioli, skordalia, rouille, tarator, pesto).

Good with almost anything savory.

Combines well with most herbs and spices.

Tasting notes

Raw, dried garlic is pungent and hot; green garlic is milder. The disulphate allicin is formed when raw garlic is cut, and this accounts for the smell that raw garlic leaves on the breath. Cooking garlic degrades the allicin, but forms other disulphates that have less odor.

Parts used


Buying and storing

Garlic is available all year round. Choose unbruised, firm heads without signs of mold or sprouting. If your garlic is sprouting, remove the indigestible green shoots. Store garlic in a cool, dry place. Dehydrated garlic flakes, granules, and powder are available, as are garlic paste, extract and juice. Smoked garlic is chic but not especially useful.

Grow your own

Garlic is propagated by the cloves. It grows best in rich, moist soil in a sunny position. Perennial or biennial, it is extremely hardy and survives long periods of cold. Harvest when the tops dry out and begin to collapse. Pull up the whole plant and hang in the shade to dry. As harvested garlic dries, the skin becomes papery and the flavor intensifies.

Fresh heads

At the beginning of the growing season, heads of new green garlic are succulent and mild, and have a soft, thick, white skin.

Dried cloves

Dried cloves of garlic may have a white, pink, or violet skin, depending on variety.

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