Extremely aromatic and flavorful, garlic is used in almost all cuisine in the world. Do not let the pungent flavor fool you as this little bulb-shaped plant is packed with antioxidants and beneficial compounds, such as allicin and alliin.
Because of its high sulfur compound content along with vital nutrients such as flavonoids and oligosaccharides, eating garlic has been linked to reducing four of the major causes of death worldwide – heart diseases, stroke, cancer, and diabetes.
So what gives garlic its reputation for being the formidable herb in the kitchen cabinet? Read on to find out more!
Table of Content
- What are Garlic
- How to Choose the Best Garlic At Your Local Market
- How Do Garlic Taste Like In Recipes
- Favorite Garlic Recipes
- Health Benefits of Garlic
- How to Handle Garlic
- How to Store Garlic For it to Stay Fresh
- How Long Do Garlic Last
- Risks and Side Effects
What Are Garlic
Garlic is a plant in the Allium (onion) family. This class of plant family also comprises chives, leeks, onions, and scallions. Garlic typically grows underneath the soil in the form of a bulb. The bulb has long green shoots that extend from the top out of the soil and roots spreading downwards out of the bottom of garlic.
Unlike its relative, the garlic bulb is covered with layers of papery skins that when peeled away would expose up to 20 bulblets known as cloves.
Native to Central America and northeastern Italy, garlic has been used as a common seasoning and flavor enhancer worldwide, with a history of several thousands of human consumption and medical use.
How to Choose the Best Garlic At Your Local Market
Choosing the best garlic for maximum storage lifespan should not be a tough issue, so long as you follow these guidelines:
Physical Appearance – Look out for garlic bulb that is compact, with unbroken skins, and are whole with no missing pieces in between cloves. Avoid those that are sprouting as this is a great indicator that the garlic is old. Look out for garlic cloves that have damp and dark spots as this indicates mold growth. Lastly, look at the color of the garlic. Good garlic is always closer to white than it is yellow. Discard if it has turned yellow as that would just mean it’s old!
Texture – Look for garlic bulbs that feel heavy and plump. Always do give it a light squeeze to be sure none of the outside cloves are too soft or dry. It should feel firm and not hollow or dehydrated! Usually, a light garlic bulb means the contents may have been dried to dust.
*Take note: try to always get fresh whole unpeeled heads of garlic and peel only as many cloves as you’re going to use at one time. Avoid pre-minced or pre-peeled garlic at the grocery store as they often contain preservatives and chemicals and they also may have been sitting around for way too long.
How Do Garlic Taste Like In Recipes
Garlic doesn’t have much smell when covered in its papery layers. However, it starts getting pungent when it’s chopped or minced as these actions usually release the compound allicin, which gives off hydrogen sulfide – a very pungent gas. The flavor of garlic can be described as spicy in a way, but not like that in chili peppers or peppercorns. It comes across as warm and earthy making garlic a truly unique contender for flavors!
Take note that garlic is strongest and most fiery in its raw state, which gives tons of flavors to a recipe but could also produce a burning sensation in your stomach! Hence, it’d be better to cook them slightly longer before consuming if you’d prefer a less strong aftertaste.
Favorite Garlic Recipes
It is well-known that garlic does not play as the “main character” when it comes to recipes. Garlic is often used as a flavor enhancer to soups, marinades, and even toasties, rounding up their flavors and over time adding this pivotal impact to how you view dishes with and without its presence. Here are a few recipes that involve garlic in the mix:
- Mediterranean-Style Fish
- Salted Vegetable Duck Soup
- Baked Garlic & Parmesan Potato Wedges
7 Health Benefits of Garlic
Garlic nutrition contains many vital nutrients such as oligosaccharides, flavonoids, allicin, and other high levels of sulfur – diallyl trisulfide (DATS), diallyl disulfide (DADS), and diallyl sulfide (DAS). Hence, eating cloves of garlic regularly would provide unbelievable health benefits. Read on to find out more about how high levels of sulfur benefit your body!
- Fight Heart Disease
- May Prevent Cancer
- Treat Cold & Flu
- Hip osteoarthritis
- Control Blood Pressure
- Treat Diabetes
- May Improve Dementia
1. Fight Heart Disease
According to studies, heart disease is the number 1 killer for most people worldwide. Fortunately, this herb has been recognized as a preventive agent of many cardiovascular and metabolic diseases including atherosclerosis, stroke, and hypertension.
The most amazing display it has shown in this respect is the ability to reverse heart disease by removing arterial plaque that has been built up for some time. These “soft plaque” are more likely to break off and cause a blockage that leads to a heart attack.
2. May Prevent Cancer
Allium vegetables, such as garlic & onion, and their bioactive sulfur compounds are believed to have positive effects at each stage of cancer formation and affect many processes that may modify cancer risks.
Studies have shown a correlation between increased garlic intake and reduced cancer risks such as pancreatic and stomach cancers.
How does it happen? The protective effects from garlic may arise from its antibacterial properties that could block the formation of cancer-causing substances, halt the activation of cancer-causing substances, enhance DNA repair, and induce cell death.
Other sulfur compounds of garlic include DATS, DADS, ajoene, and S-allyl-mercapto cysteine (SAMC). All these compounds also have been found to induce cell cycle arrest and apoptosis (programmed cell death) when added to cancer cells.
3. Treat Cold and Flu
Studies have shown that garlic and its certain compound like allicin, is highly effective in killing microorganisms responsible for some of the most common infections like the common cold.
Allicin, a compound found within garlic that has antimicrobial, antiviral, and anti-fungal properties, can help relieve the common cold as well as other respiratory infections.
4. Fight Hip Osteoarthritis
It’s been shown in studies that women whose diets are rich in allium vegetables had lower levels of osteoarthritis. Examples of allium vegetables include onions, garlic, spring onions, and shallots among many.
The study found that those women whose dietary habits include many fruits and allium vegetables such as garlic had fewer signs of early osteoarthritis in their hip joints.
5. Control Blood Pressure
High blood pressure is one of the key factors for cardiovascular disease. If left untreated, high blood pressure can cause the walls of your arteries to become overstretched. This can lead to scarring and damage.
Luckily for us, garlic has been shown to help control high blood pressure. Studies have found that this little herb has the potential to lower BP in hypertensive individuals similarly to standard BP medication. They attribute this ability to its polysulfides promoting the widening of blood vessels and blood pressure reduction.
6. Treat Diabetes
Eating this herb has been shown to help regulate blood sugar levels, stop or lower diabetic complications as well as fight infection, reduce LDL cholesterol and improve blood circulation.
Including this herb in your diet could mitigate common diabetes complications such as atherosclerosis. Garlic could help lower serum glucose, cholesterol, and triglycerides levels.
For type 2 diabetes patients, consuming garlic may also moderately raise HDL cholesterol compared to the placebo group.
7. May Improve Dementia & Alzheimer’s Disease
Alzheimer’s Disease is a form of dementia that affects your brain and robs your cognitive thinking ability to make rational decisions, think clearly, and perform everyday tasks.
In Alzheimer’s patients, beta-amyloid peptide plaques are commonly seen in the neurons of the brain and throughout the central nervous system. These plaque deposits result in the production of reactive oxygen substances and neuronal damages.
Garlic has active compounds that possess neuroprotective properties which can be used to treat Alzheimer’s diseases.
How to Handle Garlic
Because allicin – the organosulfur compound obtained in garlic – is only present in fresh but crushed or cut the garlic, the best way to reap all of the nutritional benefits from garlic would be to slice or cut them. In addition, knowing how to peel garlic, how to mince garlic, and how to chop garlic could kick your home-chef skills up a notch! Once you’ve mastered the skill of cutting garlic, there’s nothing that you can’t slice anymore! So without further ado, here are the steps you could follow:
- Peeling of garlic papery layers – the papery layers are not pleasant to consume. So the first step of handling garlic is always to remove the papery layers then separate the bulbs into individual cloves. If the cloves are tight with one another, use the ball of your palm to press and roll the garlic against a flat surface to loosen the cloves.
- Peeling of garlic cloves – cut off the end of the clove, where it is attached to the bulb. Then place the cloves beneath the chef’s knife and smash it a couple of time with your other hand; this will loosen the skins.
- Chop the garlic – start by slicing the garlic clove. For a fine chop, hold the tip of the knife with one hand and use the other to rock blade back and forth over the slices. Keep repeating the step and you might get garlic mince out of the slices.
- Mincing garlic – for garlic that is almost pulverized, place the garlic clove into a garlic press and press down until the whole clove comes through the small holes.
Take note: Mincing garlic releases more juices which would add more flavors to your dishes!
How to Store Garlic For it to Stay Fresh
Storing garlic properly is the first step to retaining its quality, flavor, and pungency for the long run. Because let’s face it, no one wants to have bad garlic that simply has no more ability to enhance the flavor and depth of your dishes. Here’s everything you need to know about storing your whole, peeled, and minced garlic.
Storing of whole garlic heads – Firstly, keep the garlic bulb intact for as long as possible. Once you start peeling, the garlic’s lifespan decreases significantly. Then, store the whole garlic head in a place that is somewhat cool (room temperature), dry and dark (no direct exposure to the sun). Also, do remember that garlic needs good ventilation around it to breathe. So, try not to seal it up in a ziplock bag or in a small drawer!
Storing of peeled garlic – If you are storing peeled garlic – whether they’re separated or just a few exposed cloves – refrigeration is your best bet. Seal the peeled garlic up in an airtight container or ziplock bag, then toss it in the fridge. Just take note that it will lose its pungency after a few days but it’s natural!
Storing of chopped or minced garlic – If there is excess minced garlic leftover from your recent cooking, what you could do to prolong its lifespan is place the minced garlic in an airtight container then toss it in a bit of olive oil. Then transfer this container to the fridge and remember to use it within a day or two and not longer than that!
*Keeping garlic in oil is a very popular move, but do note that by doing so, you risk the chances of the mixes developing botulism, which is a potentially fatal food poisoning that has symptoms including blurred vision, speech, breathing difficulty, etc. Non-refrigerated garlic-in-oil mixes should always be discarded after two hours at room temperature, even if salt and acids are present.
How Long Do Garlic Last
You may have garlic sitting at your counter for days, weeks, or even months. Maybe there are a few bulbs of garlic cloves that are still fully intact, or maybe there are a few peeled garlic cloves under your kitchen table from your previous cooking prep.
Regardless, here’s a general guideline that would give you a brief idea of how long your garlic would last!
- A whole head of garlic unpeeled – garlic in this manner would last close to six months
- A single unpeeled garlic clove – garlic like this would last about three weeks. But once the skin is taken off, it will start to degrade more quickly.
- A single peeled garlic clove – unrefrigerated peeled garlic cloves can only last up to 3 days whereas peeled garlic clove in fridge can last up to a week.
Risks and Side Effects
When taken orally, raw garlic can cause bad breath, heartburn, bloating, nausea and vomiting. To get rid of the bad breath associated with garlic, simply chew on parsley afterward. Garlic can also increase bleeding risk as it acts as a blood thinner, so check with your doctor for advice on consumption if you have any upcoming scheduled surgery.
Garlic can also irritate your GI tract, so people with gastrointestinal problems should avoid eating this herb raw. In addition, to avoid unnecessary intensified GI issues, avoid eating raw garlic on an empty stomach!
Garlic is such a powerful spice in terms of flavor and nutrients that it provides, that it’s been used in recipes or even as medicine for thousands of years. highly versatile, garlic imparts a strong smell and delicious taste to recipes largely due to the presence of sulfur compounds, most notably allicin!
However, to increase your exposure to garlic benefits, you might want to chop and crush it and let it sit before eating. Mincing garlic activates alliinase enzymes in the herb’s cells and sitting allows these enzymes to convert some of the allin to allicin. Allicin breaks down to form a variety of organosulfur compounds.
A clove of garlic with a meal each day is a great way to start reaping the garlic benefits on a consistent basis. Just remember to consume raw garlic with food rather than on an empty stomach! Happy Eating!