It may need to be paired with a package of breath mints, but garlic has long been a culinary and medicinal mainstay. The fragrant bulb can claim a host of historical uses, such as treatment of infections and headaches, and more recently, to potentially lower blood pressure and cholesterol. Sulfur, the antioxidant responsible for garlic’s signature odor, has been touted as a mosquito repellent.
Modern science is now substantiating the plant’s long-standing reputation. With a spectrum of healthy components such as quercetin, allicin, ajoene, and organosulfur compounds, garlic is being studied for its many potential supportive properties.
Garlic is also a source of phosphorus, selenium, copper, manganese, and vitamin B6. When preparing garlic, current nutritional advice is to crush or chop the garlic- this action allows the beneficial sulfur compounds to interact with one another, fully activating them which provides more opportunity for potential health benefits for you!
It is exciting to note the emerging research being done on the potential anti-cancer properties of garlic, as it reminds us of the importance of including a variety of phytonutrient-rich plant foods in our diet to provide the best protection against the risk of developing cancer and other chronic diseases.
Store garlic at room temperature in a cool place with good air circulation. Look for hard, bright bulbs of garlic — they should not have any yellow or brown patches. Whole garlic should not have a strong smell. When cooking, discard any cloves that are soft and discolored. If your garlic has started to sprout, pull away and discard the green part at its center, as it can be bitter.
In the early summer, there are different types of fresh garlic available at local markets. The curly stems of hard-neck garlic, called scapes, come into season in June, along with grassy-looking garlic chives. Both varieties taste similar to garlic but have a milder flavor. Try sautéing scapes with olive oil and ground black pepper or using garlic chives instead of scallions to flavor stir-fries.
Add whole cloves of garlic to stock to add flavor, or oven-roast whole, unpeeled garlic in foil to mellow the taste and elicit a sweet, nutty tang. Gently fry thin slices of garlic in olive oil to infuse the oil with its flavor or add it raw and finely chopped to sautéed vegetables for pungency. Rub the cut side of a clove around the inside of a ceramic or glass salad bowl to give your salad a subtle, garlicky taste.