Foods You Should Know: Garlic

I hate the term “super foods” and every times my fingers strike the keys to create those words makes me cringe. Though if there was a food that deserves the title of super food it’s garlic.

Garlic or allium sativum comes from the onion genus, closely related to shallots, leeks, onions, and chives. Garlic is a flowering bulb that produces flowers that are both male and female.*

Garlic originated in Central Asia but quickly spread east and west to china and europe. Different sub species of garlic were developed in the ranging climates and soil types the vegetable spread to. Each of these species range in different sizes and flavours. Two different types of garlic emerged, Hard neck and soft neck. There are five main varieties of hardneck and two varieties of soft neck.**

In Europe there are actually several types of garlic which have protected geographical status. Like I have talked about in a few different articles in Braised Blue, Europe takes regionality very seriously. So seriously that they have made laws to protect the genetic purity of specific types of garlic grown in specific areas that are unique. These areas produce garlic that is distinct to the region and the regions cuisine. A few examples are:

Aglio di Voghiera from Emilia-Romagna in Northern Italy.

Ail blanc de Lomange from Lomange near Gascony France.

Ail Rose de Lautrec from Lautrec in France

Ajo Morado de Les Pedroneras from Spain

Garlic is a versatile ingredient in many different cuisines around the world.  Chinese cuisine uses garlic in many dishes and applications, as does indian cuisine. In asia garlic in it’s raw form is used for spice in dishes as well as a base flavouring component. Mediterranean cuisine is also very garlic heavy using garlic more as a base flavouring ingredient.

Garlic’s flavour can range from very strong and distinct with a caustic burning nature in it’s raw form to a much milder less aggressive garlics. The condition and freshness of the garlic also has a lot to do with the flavour. Just like an old onion, old garlic will be much more harsh and caustic. Most people who dislike garlic actually dislike garlic that isn’t fresh because of how strong the aroma is. To tell if a bulb of garlic is fresh it’s all about the colour and texture of the cloves. If the outer husk of the clove seems to be much bigger than the clove it’s self you will most likely get a very strong flavoured garlic. If the garlic you buy is mushy or brown it’s really not good and throw it out.***

Garlic has also been touted for it’s many health benefits. It has natural broad spectrum antibiotic properties, meaning that it will inhibit the growth of infection in the body. It will not cure you but it will help give your immune system some backup. Garlic also has positive effects on high blood pressure, and heart disease. Garlic has also been shown to help anxiety and depression. In lab rats raw garlic has been shown to increase Seretonin levels in the brain which is a good tool in the fight against depression. The aromatherapy aspect of garlic is also great for anxiety.****

Overall, garlic is amazing it adds intense flavour to dishes from all over the world. Not everyone loves it but those who get it really do get it. Try and buy it as fresh as you can, don’t use the jarred chopped shit. Slice it thin, fine and use it liberally.

*Yup, that’s right Garlic is the official vegetable of hermaphrodites.

**Hardneck: Porcelain, Purple Striped, Marble Purple Stripes, and Glazed Purple Striped, and Rocambole. Softneck: Artichoke and Silverskin

***I feel as though if 21 year old me read this I would thank me because I have eaten some bad garlic in the past. It’s not pleasant.

****Think of people who believe wearing a necklace of garlic to bed to deter vampires. It’s a silly superstition which is grounded in some truth. If you are a person who is afraid of vampires to the point of losing sleep, the scent of garlic will help to stem that anxiety. No matter how batshit nuts you are.

Just for fun, here is an easy and way to make your own roasted garlic.