Hi, there. Nice to meet you. Are you a garlic lover? Yes? No? You see, people are either for us or against us -there seems to be no middle ground. It’s because of ‘garlic breath’, of course, but we can’t help that - it just happens to some people after they’ve eaten us. We admit it can be bad but it’s not our fault and anyway the benefits of eating us far outweigh this minor social problem. The answer is, of course, for everyone to eat us, then no one would notice the smell.
You know we don’t just make food taste great, we’re really good for you too. It’s said that we have powers to keep you strong and healthy. The ancient Egyptians knew this. They fed us to their slaves each morning so they would have the strength to build the great pyramids! Perhaps you should eat us before your next forty or netball game.
We’re related to the onion with a similar squat vase shape. We consist of a bulb about 4-6cm across, with a fat, plump bottom which tapers to a thin neck. Each bulb consists of a cluster of 6-12 smaller cloves around a central core. Each clove is enclosed in thin papery sheaths with the whole cluster wrapped in another papery sheath. We can be white, greyish or purplish.
We’re available all year round with our best value being from May to August.
Did you know?
• Eating garlic can help to keep mosquitoes away
• We’re a member of the lily family but are often called the ‘pungent rose’
• We grow wild as a root in southern Italy and parts of France
• The sulphur compounds in garlic only become active when the garlic is crushed or cut. You can test this by smelling a clove of garlic and then cutting it and smelling it again. It smells quite different when cut because oxygen has changed some of the sulphur compounds
• As I mentioned, we do leave an odour on your breath, but anyone who has also eaten garlic will not be able to smell it, so eating us may need to become a communal activity. Some people claim that chewing parsley removes ‘garlic breath’, but this rarely works.
We’re usually sold as single bulbs by colour or place of origin - not by variety.
Why Garlic is Good to Eat
• If you eat only small amounts of garlic – like 1-2 cloves in the family dinner, we can’t supply you with many nutrients, but if you eat lots of us, we could give lots of dietary fibre, potassium, iron, zinc and vitamin C
• We have some sulphur compounds that scientists believe are very good for our health. Some of these change when we’re cooked and the top benefits seem to come from eating both cooked and raw garlic.
• 100 grams has 520 kJ – but eating that much could be difficult. A clove of garlic might weigh only a few grams.
How Garlic is Grown and Harvested
As I told you, we look like an onion plant. A long stem with thin, grey-green, flat leaves rises from our bulb and we can grow to 1 metre or more in height in the right environment. We prefer wintry conditions and need a moist, well-drained soil when first planted.
As the days get warmer we grow and mature so that 6-9 months after being planted our leaves start to droop and dry out. We’re then pulled from the ground (usually be machine) and our tops cut off, leaving the bulb which is cleaned and packed for transport to the markets.
For pungent, easy to peel cloves select those of us with large, plump, firm, dry bulbs.
How to Keep Garlic
Store us in a cool, dark, well-ventilated place. Quality garlic keeps formonths.
Prime Growing Areas
History of Garlic
We’re an ancient plant, having been cultivated for food and as a medicine for thousands of years. The Egyptians used us as far back as 3750 BC and we were eaten in China from about 2000 BC. It’s thought that we came from the mountains of Central Asia and from there we were probably spread by travellers and traders to China, India, Egypt and the Mediterranean. We were used by the Greeks and Romans for at least 2500 years. The Romans were probably responsible for our arrival in the British Isles.
We have become an important ingredient in Australian cuisine since the arrival of European and, then, Asian immigrants.
Fun Ways to Eat and Cook Garlic
We can be added to just about any savoury dish as a seasoning and can also be eaten raw. We can be used to rub salad bowls and bread to impart a light garlic flavour to food. It’s said we help prevent colds when used often.
We can be baked whole or chopped and added to sauces, butters, casseroles, roasts, soups, dips, eggs, vegetables and salads. Be careful not to cook us too long or at too high a temperature if pan-frying as a bitter flavour may develop.
After breaking our bulb into ‘cloves’ the skin is removed and the base trimmed before use.
Try some of these garlic recipes.
Pasta With Pesto
Puree 2 cups firmly packed basil leaves, 2 cloves garlic, 2 tablespoons pinenuts, pepper and salt. Gently pour in olive oil (about 1-1 1/2 cups) until mixture resembles mayonnaise. Stir in 3/4 cup grated parmesan cheese. Lightly toss hot pasta with pesto and serve with extra parmesan.
Finely slice peeled garlic cloves. Cook in moderately hot oil until crisp and golden brown. Be careful not to burn. Cut tops off cooked potatoes and add a spoonful of yoghurt sprinkled with garlic chips, chopped cooked bacon and chives.
Watercress And Garlic Dip With Prawns
Finely chop one bunch of watercress and 2 cloves garlic. Stir in 150ml yoghurt or sour cream with 1 teaspoon soy sauce and 1 teaspoon lemon rind. Serve in bowl with cooked, shelled prawns around the edge.
Garlic Sauce (for hot or cold meats)
Peel 2 bulbs of garlic and place into a food processor. Add 1/2 teaspoon salt and a little olive oil. Keep on adding small amounts of olive oil as the garlic is being pureed until it forms a thick saucy paste. Do not add too much oil otherwise it will be too runny.