We’re breaking down everyone’s favorite flavor and talking history, varieties, benefits, and more!
The classic deserted island question always leaves me stumped. You know the one – if you were left on a deserted island, what’s one thing you’d bring? A tent? A flashlight? A botanicals book to help me decipher the edible plants from the poisonous? I can never decide.
But, if you were to ask me what herb (vegetable, if we’re being technical) I’d bring to a deserted island, assuming a well-equipped kitchen was provided? Garlic. Always garlic.
Garlic breathes life into any dish it touches, adding so much delicious flavor. It’s potent and savory and can make even the blandest dish that much better. For that reason, garlic deserves its own highlight post! Follow along as we uncover the history of our favorite seasoning, its many varieties, and more.
A Brief Garlic History
Garlic has made its rounds, that’s for sure. A quick Google search lists it as thousands and thousands of years old! The USDA Agricultural Research Service even states that it’s “among the oldest known horticultural crops.” Pretty impressive, heh?
Though today you’ll find garlic in most cuisines — American, Mexican, Eastern European, and Mediterranean, to name a few — garlic was originally used in ancient Egyptian, Chinese, and Indian cuisine. Considering these countries are home to garlic’s natural growing climate, this makes sense! To this day China remains the leading garlic-producing location.
varieties of garlic
While there are different botanical varieties of garlic out there – like hard neck, soft neck, and spring garlic, to name a few – let’s talk through the varieties of garlic you might actually see at your grocery store!
As a swap for cloves or a stand-alone recipe seasoning, powdered garlic provides allll of the flavor. The first thing that’s great about garlic powder is that you don’t have to pay attention to whether it’s in season — you can get it all year!
If you’re short on time or just want to make your life a little easier by skipping a step in your recipe, pre-minced garlic may be for you. The little jars of ready-to-devour garlic are filled to the brim with minced cloves and are ready to be added to your recipe with no work on your end. The cons? Because garlic emits chemicals when crushed, the flavor is likely not as good and fresh when using pre-minced garlic.
Sometimes regular garlic powder won’t cut it, and you need something with slightly extra flavor (and sodium). Enter garlic salt! Garlic salt is more salt than garlic and is typically made using a 3:1 ratio. Use this as the “salt” in any recipe that calls for it, and you’ll have an extra hint of garlic thrown in.
As the name suggests, not all garlic has that creamy porcelain color! Black garlic is an aged garlic that has been fermented. This garlic has a soft texture that makes it great for use in spreads and dips. Perhaps more important, however, are the many benefits it provides! Black garlic is known for its high antioxidant content.
garlic Health benefits
Garlic has many benefits that extend well beyond its great taste. For starters, it’s a heart-healthy flavoring that benefits cholesterol and blood pressure! It’s also helpful for the immune system and helps your body ward off sickness. Finally, garlic is filled with anti-inflammatories that help swelling and other aches and pains. Eat up!
Eating raw garlic
Great news for the garlic lovers… you can safely eat it raw! In fact, there are actually benefits to enjoying garlic in its raw form. Garlic loses many of its benefits when it gets hotter than 140°F. But before that, the herb is responsible for benefiting your immune system, cholesterol, and more.
Though you shouldn’t go chomping down on a clove like you would an apple slice, you can add the raw form into dishes like salad dressings, pasta, hummus, guacamole, or other recipes that could use extra flavor. Just mince it up, add, and enjoy!
How to buy the best garlic
When choosing your garlic, a few key tips will help you pick a bulb with a great flavor and texture.
First, know the season. Garlic’s peak time of year is the summer to early fall. Aim to go with local garlic for the freshest bulbs.
Second, do the pressure test. If the bulb feels firm, that’s a good sign! It shouldn’t feel light or like the inside is empty. Make sure the outer layers have that nice papery white color and look for signs of mold or rot.
When storing garlic, it’s important to keep it at room temperature. No need to refrigerate it — in fact, that will cause it to spoil faster! Instead, keep your garlic on the counter or in the pantry. It needs to stay dry and cool, so away from the oven is best.
Garlic’s Adverse Effects
No food is perfect, and neither is garlic! Though we love it for its flavor and health benefits, garlic does cause side effects that some may be more sensitive to than others. This is particularly true in digestion. Garlic is considered a FODMAP, which is a type of food that is harder for the body to break down. Garlic’s FODMAP properties make it a food that causes bloating and heartburn for many. This certainly isn’t a dealbreaker, but it’s something to keep in mind.
When handling and storing garlic, it’s important to practice top-notch food safety, as garlic is a food prone to developing botulism bacteria. For this reason, be sure to avoid using old garlic. Keep any garlic oils refrigerated and enjoy them well before the expiration date.
And don’t let those puppy eyes guilt you – garlic is toxic to dogs!