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 “bad” cholesterol. Sulfur, the antioxidant responsible for garlic’s signature odor, has been touted as a potent blood cleanser and even 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 anti-cancer properties. The American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) reports that laboratory studies have linked the veggie to decreased risk of developing colorectal cancer.
Studies also suggest that garlic contains a component called diallyl disulfide, which has shown potential effects against skin, colon, and lung cancers. Garlic is a source of phosphorus, selenium, and vitamin B6; three cloves contain 6% of your daily vitamin B6. The AICR recommends letting garlic sit for ten minutes after crushing or chopping to allow enzymes to fully activate.
Store garlic at room temperature in a cool place where the air can circulate around it. 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. If you have a stainless steel sink in your kitchen, rubbing it with bare hands after cutting garlic will remove the smell from your fingers.
In the early summer, there are different types of fresh garlic available at local greenmarkets. The curly stems of hardneck 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 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. Garlic lovers should try our Tomato Soup Provencal or our delicious roasted garlic soup.
To learn the simplest way to chop garlic click here.