Make the most of culinary herbs and spices.

All About Garlic

by Sandra Bowens

Horace, the Roman poet and satirist, considered garlic to be the very essence of vulgarity. You will never get the members of the United States' club "The Order of the Stinking Rose" to agree. The thousands of visitors to the annual Gilroy Garlic Festival will also beg to differ.


Hippocrates recognized the medicinal qualities of garlic as did early physicians battling the Black Death. They prescribed garlic soup as medicine for plague victims. Recent studies are showing that garlic may help reduce blood cholesterol, block certain cancers and reduce risk of infection.


No doubt the most pungent member of the lily family, garlic is one of the oldest known cultivated plants. It is native to Central Asia. The name is derived from the Anglo-Saxon word garleac meaning 'spear plant' due to the long flat leaves. The plant's flowers are considered tasty but it is the bulb that is prized. Each bulb is made up of many sections called "cloves." For every pound that is planted, five to seven pounds may be harvested.


Ninety percent of United State's garlic supply comes from Gilroy, California. One of the most important recent innovations in the spice trade has been the development of dehydrating garlic and onions. After introducing the US to granulated, powdered and minced dried products from these two plants, consumption increased more than 1000%.


Although still intensely pungent in odor, these dehydrated versions have little flavor until they are moistened. To substitute for the fresh vegetables, use about 1/8 teaspoon garlic powder to equal a clove or 1 Tablespoon onion powder to stand in for a medium onion. The longer your cooking time, the more garlic you will want to add to your recipes.


Garlic is common to cooks around the world. You can influence each clove's intensity depending on how you choose to prepare it for a dish. Using a whole, uncut clove will add a bit of fragrance to oil if sauteed lightly or provide subtle flavor to a simmered dish. Slicing a garlic clove adds visual appeal to a dish while imparting a strong flavor. Mincing or pressing will result in the most intense flavor.


Cooking garlic will always soften the harshness of a raw clove but use great care not to burn it. Even over-browning garlic can make it bitter and ruin an entire dish. If you suspect you may have singed it, give a taste. Better to start over at this point than continue on to make an inedible meal.



Dad's Pickled Garlic


2 Tablespoons white vinegar

3 Tablespoons water

1 teaspoon sugar

1/2 teaspoon pickling spices

2 bulbs of garlic, separated into unpeeled cloves


Combine the vinegar, water, sugar and pickling spices in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Set aside to cool. In another small pan, cover the garlic cloves with water and bring to a boil. Boil for about five minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool. When garlic is cool enough to handle, peel each clove and place into a clean half-pint jar. Pour reserved liquid over garlic in jar. Place into refrigerator for at least a week before eating.


Dad said, "I usually eliminate the homemade juice and simple use the left-over juice of Peperoncini or some other pickles. I plan to try beet juice soon."





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