Garlic may not have the best reputation: whether it’s keeping vampires at bay, or stinking up your breath, garlic has been the butt of many a joke. But all jokes aside, garlic is a close relative to the onion that is actually a healthy, delicious ingredient! And it has its fair share of fans. The Hudson Valley even has an annual Garlic Festival in September, celebrating local garlic farmers and all the various types of garlic out there. From a health perspective, garlic has been claimed to do all kinds of things, from preventing colds and coughs, to reducing cholesterol, to protecting the heart. It’s been used in herbal medicine dating back centuries. While many of the health benefits are up for debate, recent studies do show that garlic increases our bodies’ natural supply of hydrogen sulfide, which is an antioxidant and increases blood flow. About 5 cloves of garlic daily provide vitamins C and B6. Sounds like a magic plant, huh? In truth, you’d need to eat a lot of garlic cloves a day to really get all of those health benefits, but that’s not impossible if you cook with it regularly for its amazing flavor. See below for a delicious way to enjoy garlic, and we think you’ll have no problem eating lots of this powerful stuff!
At HealthBarn USA, we are particularly excited about garlic right now because we have been planting sprouted garlic cloves with all of our students! Garlic is very hardy, so it’s pretty easy to grow in your own garden. Garlic will grow over the winter, sending up green shoots in the spring, called garlic scapes. These scapes will flower if left on the plant, but many people cut them off and eat them. They are delicious simply sliced and sautéed in olive oil or made into pesto. They taste oniony and garlicky, but fresher. The garlic cloves themselves, which is what most people are familiar with, will grow in “heads” underground, and will be ready to harvest in late spring or summer. When harvesting garlic, it needs to dry out in the sun for a week or two, until its papery exterior is dry and flakes easily.
Raw garlic can have a very strong, spicy taste, but when cooked, it adds a lot of flavor without the unhealthy culprits such as salt, saturated fat and sugar. And the smell of garlic being sautéed is enough to whet anyone’s appetite. But one of the best ways to eat garlic is roasted. It becomes very sweet and creamy when roasted. Plenty of people are happy to eat a roasted clove straight from the head, or you can try spreading it on whole grain bread, instead of butter. It’s a seriously delicious treat! Since heads of garlic come all wrapped up in their papery skin, it’s sometimes hard to know what it will be like inside. Here is some advice from the Hudson Valley Garlic Festival on choosing the best bulb when shopping:
- Select bulbs that are completely dry.
- Choose bulbs whose cloves are plump and firm.
- Look for plenty of papery sheath.
- Avoid soft or crumbly cloves; spongy or shriveled cloves; bulbs or cloves with green shoots (they are past their prime); and pre-minced garlic, which has a weak flavor.
Adapted from www.simplyrecipes.com
1 whole head garlic
- Preheat the oven to 400°F.
- Peel away the outer layers of the garlic bulb skin, leaving the skins of the individual cloves intact. Using a knife, cut off 1/4 to a 1/2 inch of the top of cloves, exposing the individual cloves of garlic.
- Place the garlic heads in a baking pan; muffin pans work well for this purpose. Drizzle 1 or 2 teaspoons of olive oil over each head, using your fingers to make sure the garlic head is well coated. Cover with aluminum foil. Bake at 400°F for 30-35 minutes, or until the cloves feel soft when pressed.
- Allow the garlic to cool enough so you can touch it without burning yourself. Use a small knife cut the skin slightly around each clove. Use a cocktail fork or your fingers to pull or squeeze the roasted garlic cloves out of their skins.
How do you like to eat your garlic? Please tell us in the comment section below.