Garlic (Allium sativum) is a member of the Allium family of onions. Onion, shallot, leek, chive, Welsh onion, and Chinese onion are close relatives. It’s native to Central Asia and northeastern Iran, and it’s been used as a seasoning for thousands of years around the world. It was used as a food flavoring as well as a traditional medicine by the ancient Egyptians.
Allium sativum is a flowering perennial plant that grows from a bulb. It has a tall, erect flowering stem that can reach a height of one meter (3 ft). The leaf blade is flat, straight, and robust, with an acute apex and a width of 1.25–2.5 cm (0.5–1.0 in). In the Northern Hemisphere, the plant can produce pink to purple flowers from July to September. The bulb has an odor and outer layers of thin sheathing leaves that surround an inner sheath that encases the clove. Except for those closest to the center, the bulb usually contains 10 to 20 asymmetrically shaped cloves. Garlic can be cultivated as far north as Alaska if planted at the right time and depth. Hermaphrodite flowers are produced by it. Bees, butterflies, moths, and other insects pollinate it.
Garlic is a simple to grow crop that can be cultivated all year in mild climates. While garlic can be propagated sexually, the majority of garlic grown in cultivation is propagated asexually by planting individual cloves in the ground. Cloves should be planted about six weeks before the soil freezes in colder climates. The aim is for the bulbs to grow only roots and no above-ground shoots. Late spring or early summer is the time for harvest.
Garlic plants can be cultivated close together while still leaving enough space for the bulbs to mature, and they grow well in containers with enough depth. Garlic thrives in loose, dry, well-drained soils in sunny areas and is hardy in USDA climate zones 4–9. It’s important to choose big bulbs from which to separate cloves when planting garlic. Bulb size will be increased by using large cloves and spacing them properly in the planting bed. Garlic plants prefer a soil with a lot of organic matter, but they can thrive in a variety of soil conditions and pH levels. The scapes of garlic are removed to concentrate all of the garlic’s energy on bulb growth. You can eat the scapes raw or cooked.
Types (Species) of Garlic
Garlic comes in hundreds of varieties, but they can all be divided into two groups: hardneck and softneck. These groups can then be further subdivided into eleven different varieties of garlic. Though these varieties come in a variety of colors and flavors, genetically, they are all nearly identical.
Hardneck Garlic (Allium sativum subspecies ophioscorodon)
Hardneck garlic, which evolved from wild garlic, is thought to be the first type of cooking garlic. It consistently produces bigger cloves, though each garlic bulb will have fewer clothing, typically less than ten and as few as two, when compared to a softneck type. Garlic varieties with a woody, rigid stalk are known as hardnecks.
Store-bought hardneck garlic usually has an inch or so of central woody stem. This stalk produces curled green scapes, which are slender extensions of the stalk, as it grows. If you have a hardneck garlic plant, you should cut off the scapes so that the plant can focus its energy on growing bigger bulbs; however, the scapes do not need to be wasted and can be used to spice dishes on their own. Garlic with a hardneck comes in a greater range of shades than garlic with a softneck. It is more hardy and is commonly cultivated in colder climates, though it takes longer to reach maturity. These garlic cloves have the strongest taste and are the easiest to peel.
Types of Hardneck Garlic
The following are regarded as hardneck garlic:
- Asiatic Hardneck
- Creole Hardneck
- Glazed Purple Stripe Hardneck
- Marbled Purple Stripe Hardneck
- Middle Eastern Hardneck
- Porcelain Hardneck
- Purple Stripe Hardneck
- Rocambole Hardneck
- Turban Hardneck
Asiatic Hardneck Garlic
Korea is the origin of many Asian garlic varieties. They grow bulbs that are medium in size, with four to eight cloves per bulb. They come in a variety of flavors, ranging from sweet to hot and spicy. They’re often used in Asian cuisine to add flavor and heat. Hardneck garlic varieties are known to store well, with a shelf life of between five and six months. Asiatic garlic cloves are typically brightly colored, like the ‘Asian Tempest,’ which is a striking dark purple color. Broad leaves and tall, wrinkled scapes characterize the plants.
Creole Hardneck Garlic
Unlike hardneck garlic, these varieties are best suited to warmer climates. They’re popular in the southern United States, but they don’t do well in the colder northern climates. They produce bulbs that are small to medium in size, with eight to twelve cloves per bulb. Gourmet cuisine is currently very prevalent with Creole garlic. It has a delicate nutty flavor and a sharp heat that fades easily on the tongue, leaving a pleasant aftertaste. Garlic cloves in this variety come in a variety of colors, including red and purple.
Glazed Purple Stripe Hardneck Garlic
These garlic varieties are indigenous to Eastern Europe. They get their name from the shiny, gleaming exterior of the cloves, which resembles a large gem. They are red-purple in color with silver flashes. Their flavor, on the other hand, isn’t as glistening as their appearance suggests. They have a moderate taste that gives dishes a subtle heat. These bulbs have a five- to seven-month shelf life, and each bulb generally contains six to twelve cloves.
Marbled Purple Stripe Hardneck Garlic
These bulbs are native to Russia and Eastern Europe and can thrive in a variety of environments. They have a robust taste, with bulbs containing four to eight cloves on average. The cloves are particularly attractive, with striped red and cream shades and a smooth, shiny surface. This garlic’s papery sheaths appear to be marbled in purple, hence the name. These hardneck garlic bulbs store well for up to seven months and are known for being the best kind for making baked garlic.
Middle Eastern Hardneck Garlic
These varieties of garlic are native to the Middle East, and they prefer warm growing conditions. The leaves are narrow, and the plants reach a medium height for a garlic plant. The bulbs come in a variety of sizes and have a bumpy texture.
Porcelain Hardneck Garlic
These plants grow garlic bulbs that are between two and six cloves in size. They have a moderate to strong flavor intensity and the classic garlicky flavor that most people associate with garlic. They are one of the most common kinds of hardneck garlic and work well in cooking. This garlic’s skin is smooth and thick, with purple marks occasionally. It has a paper-like texture and shimmers when exposed to the light. With a shelf life of up to eight months, this garlic remains intact for a good period of time.
Purple Stripe Hardneck Garlic
This type of garlic comes from the Republic of Georgia. It has a rich taste without being overpowering, and when baked, it becomes particularly sweet. In fact, because of its sweetness, this type of garlic is sometimes used to produce garlic ice cream. The plant reaches a height of three to five feet and has slender, upright foliage. Purple stripes run through the bulbs, which contain tan-colored cloves in numbers ranging from eight to sixteen per bulb.
Rocambole Hardneck Garlic
This is one of the most popular hardneck garlic varieties for growing at home. It has a robust, full-bodied taste and loose sheaths, making peeling a breeze. Some believe it to be the best-flavored garlic, but it can be difficult to cultivate because it requires extremely cold winters. The garlic cloves are tan or red in color, with a hard surface, and the bulbs can only be stored for six months. The scapes of this garlic variety are distinctive in that they curl over twice in a double loop.
Turban Hardneck Garlic
These garlic varieties are less widespread than others, and they come from all over the world, including Mexico and Eastern Europe. They get their name from the shape of the top of their stalk, which resembles a turban. This garlic has a unique taste that isn’t at all garlicky. They can be very hot and fiery or very mild, and they give dishes a distinct taste. These garlic bulbs’ plants are typically short, with wide, drooping leaves. The cloves are chunky and the bulbs are slightly flattened with a light purple striped wrapping. Cloves are tan in color and can contain between six and twelve similarly sized cloves per bulb. Garlic of this kind does not stay well and has a poor shelf life.
Softneck Garlic (Allium sativum subspecies sativum)
Softneck garlic was developed from hardneck garlic. This is the most common type of garlic found in supermarkets, owing to the fact that it matures much faster than hardneck garlic, making it suitable for commercial production. It’s also more tolerant of a wide range of temperatures than hardneck garlic, delivers more garlic bulbs per plant, and doesn’t need the same level of care as hardneck garlic because there are no scapes to remove.
Softneck garlic has a larger number of cloves than hardneck garlic, but they are all smaller. It has a more spicy smell and is more difficult to peel than hardneck garlic. The natural papery wrapping of softneck garlic is multilayered and creamy in color. It has a parchment-like texture and goes up to the throat, where it turns into a pliable stalk. These layers aid in the preservation of the inner bulb, extending the garlic’s shelf life to up to eight months. In supermarkets, these stalks are often braided to provide a decorative way to display garlic while also making it easy to grab and pull off. Hardneck garlic stems, on the other hand, are too stiff to braid.
Types of Softneck Garlic
Below are examples of softneck garlic:
- Artichoke Softneck
- Silverskin Softneck
Artichoke Softneck Garlic
These garlic varieties grow bigger bulbs with smaller cloves than silverskin garlic, the other softneck garlic variety. Each bulb may have anywhere from 12 to 25 cloves, which are arranged in a non-symmetrical fashion. These garlic plants mature early in the growing season and can adapt to a variety of growing climates and soil conditions, making them popular among both home and commercial garlic growers. The sheaths may have light purple marks and the bulbs have a flattened shape. These bulbs have a long shelf life, lasting up to ten months.
Silverskin Softneck Garlic
Garlic of this sort matures later than artichoke garlic. They have a simple, dull exterior and are filled with up to five layers of small cloves. Each bulb can contain anywhere from 8 to 40 cloves. They are difficult to peel and come in a variety of sizes. Cloves are typically white and have a teardrop shape. These are the kinds of garlic that you would see braided on display in a grocery store or at a farmers market. They have a solid taste and the longest shelf life of any garlic variety, having a shelf life of up to twelve months.
Historical Background (Origin) of Garlic
Garlic has been grown for at least 5000 years, according to historical records! It was used in ancient Egypt, India, and China, according to historical records. Garlic is thought to have originated in Central Asia, as it is presently found growing wild there. Garlic’s use and cultivation spread as people traveled and traded. Although little is known about most of garlic’s early journeys around Asia, it is known that the Crusaders were the first to bring it to Europe.
Intriguingly, garlic has played a role in human history that goes beyond cooking. Over the years, it’s been used for both spiritual and medicinal purposes. It is, in fact, the most well-known medicinal herb. Garlic was thought to be able to ward off all kinds of evil in medieval times. A popular belief that garlic can be used to ward off vampires. Garlic was often thought to be an aphrodisiac or to have special powers related to love in many cultures. It was cultivated by monasteries in the Middle Ages for its medicinal properties.
Garlic was given to athletes in ancient Greece to increase their strength, and it was also fed to commoners and slaves in ancient Egypt to keep them healthy and productive. Because of this belief, it was used to feed Greek and Egyptian warriors, as well as Roman troops and sailors who wanted to be tough.
Garlic is used as a herbal remedy in a wide range of ways. Garlic was used to treat respiratory problems, stomach problems, diarrhea, and parasites in ancient China. It was also used to treat fatigue, impotency, headaches, and insomnia when combined with other herbs. It was used in ancient India in a similar way and was prescribed to treat infections.
Garlic is now best known for its pungent taste, but it has also earned scientific recognition as a medicinal herb. Though there isn’t definitive proof, some studies say that garlic’s anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties might lower blood pressure and cholesterol, increase your immune system, and aid in the body’s battle against sickness and infection.
Garlic’s story is ultimately a human story. For 5000 years, this one plant has been passed down, influencing people’s diets (and potentially their health). Garlic is an easy-to-grow plant that deserves to be included in any home garden.
Nutritional Value (Composition) of Garlic
Garlic has no nutritional value in a normal serving size of 1–3 cloves (3–9 grams), with all necessary nutrients containing less than 10% of the Daily Value (DV). Garlic contains many nutrients in high proportions (20 percent or more of the DV) when expressed per 100 grams.
Raw garlic is composed of 59 percent water, 33 percent carbohydrates, 6 percent protein, 2 percent dietary fiber, and less than 1% fat. Garlic is high in vitamin B6 and is a good source of it (pyridoxine). Manganese, selenium, and vitamin C are all abundant in it. Garlic also contains phosphorous, calcium, potassium, iron, and copper, among other minerals.
The active ingredient allicin is believed to be responsible for many of garlic’s therapeutic effects. Garlic’s pungent scent and taste are due to this sulphur-containing compound. Fortunately for us chefs, chopping or crushing garlic is said to encourage the production of allicin; however, cooking garlic is believed to prevent the formation of some of the alleged medicinal properties.
Culinary uses of Garlic
Garlic is commonly used as a seasoning or condiment all over the world because of its pungent flavor. The bulb of the garlic plant is the most widely used part of the plant. Garlic bulbs are usually divided into multiple fleshy sections called cloves, with the exception of single clove varieties. Garlic cloves can be eaten raw or cooked, and they can also be used for medicinal purposes. They have a distinct pungent, spicy taste that, when cooked, mellows and sweetens significantly. Organosulfur compounds such as allicin, which is found in fresh garlic cloves, and ajoene, which forms when they are crushed or chopped, are responsible for the unique fragrance. Garlic breath is caused by a metabolite called allyl methyl sulfide.
The garlic plant’s other components are also nutritious. The leaves and flowers (bulbils) on the spathe’s head (spathe) are sometimes consumed. They have a milder taste than the bulbs and are usually eaten while still immature and tender. Green garlic is made from immature garlic that has been pulled like a scallion and sold. When green garlic is allowed to mature past the “scallion” stage but not completely matured, it produces a garlic “round,” a bulb that looks like a boiling onion but is not divided into cloves like a mature bulb. It gives food a garlic taste and scent without the spiciness. Green garlic is abundant and inexpensive in Southeast Asian (i.e. Vietnamese, Thai, Myanmar, Lao, Cambodian, Singaporean) and Chinese cuisine, and is often chopped and stir-fried or boiled in soup or hot pot. In addition, the hardneck and elephant kinds’ immature flower stalks (scapes) are sometimes sold for stir-fry uses similar to asparagus.
The “skin” covering each clove and root cluster are inedible or seldom consumed portions of the garlic plant. The papery, protective layers of “skin” that cover different parts of the plant are normally discarded during most culinary preparations, though immature whole heads are sometimes prepared with the tender skins intact in Korea. The only part of the bulb that is not normally considered palatable in any form is the root cluster attached to the bulb’s basal plate. Cutting the top off the bulb, drizzling olive oil (or other oil-based seasoning) over the cloves, and roasting them in the oven is another option. Squeezing the (root) end of the bulb, or separately squeezing one end of the clove, softens the garlic and allows it to be collected from the cloves. Heads of garlic are heated for several weeks in Korea, and the resulting product, known as black garlic, is sweet and syrupy and exported to the United States, the United Kingdom, and Australia.
Garlic can be used to make a variety of classic dishes, such as garlic bread, garlic toast, bruschetta, crostini, and canapé, by rubbing it into different types of bread in a butter or oil medium. The intensity and aroma of the taste varies depending on the preparation technique. It’s usually served with onion, tomato, and ginger.
Tender and nutritious, immature scapes “Garlic spears,” “stems,” and “tops” are other names for them. Scapes are usually milder in flavor than cloves. They’re often stir-fried or braised in the same way asparagus is. In many parts of Asia, garlic leaves are a popular vegetable. Cut and washed leaves are stir-fried with eggs, seafood, or vegetables.
Fresh garlic has a different flavor than garlic powder. 1/8 teaspoon garlic powder equals one garlic clove when used as a substitute for fresh garlic. Garlic is a key ingredient in many, if not all, regional dishes, including those from eastern Asia, South Asia, Southeast Asia, the Middle East, northern Africa, southern Europe, and portions of Latin America. Garlic is commonly used in Latin American seasonings such as sofritos and mofongos.
Garlic cloves can be used to flavor oils. All kinds of vegetables, meats, breads, and pasta are seasoned with these infused oils. Garlic is an essential fundamental ingredient in dipping fish sauce, a popular dipping sauce condiment in Indochina, along with fish sauce, chopped fresh chilis, lime juice, sugar, and water. Chili oil with garlic is a popular dipping sauce in East and Southeast Asia, particularly for meat and seafood. Tuong ot toi Viet Nam (Vietnamese chili garlic sauce) is a common condiment and dip in North America and Asia.
The young bulbs are pickled for three to six weeks in a mixture of sugar, salt, and spices in other cuisines. The shoots are pickled and served as an appetizer in Eastern Europe. Laba garlic is a type of pickled garlic made by soaking garlic in vinegar and served with dumplings in northern China to celebrate the Chinese New Year.
Garlic is an important ingredient in Middle Eastern and Arabic cuisine, and it can be found in a variety of dishes. Garlic is traditionally pounded with olive oil and sometimes salt in Levantine countries such as Jordan and Lebanon to make a Middle Eastern garlic sauce known as Toum (; meaning “garlic” in Arabic). Toum is often served with chicken or other meat dishes such as shawarma, but it is not necessarily served with meats. Some hummus varieties, an Arabic dip made with chickpeas, tahini, garlic, lemon juice, and salt, include garlic as a key ingredient.
In British and other European cuisines, lightly smoked garlic is used. It’s especially good stuffed into poultry and game, as well as in soups and stews. Aioli is made by emulsifying garlic with olive oil. Skordalia is made with garlic, oil, and a chunky base. Ajoblanco is made by combining garlic, almonds, oil, and soaked bread. Tzatziki is a common sauce in Eastern Mediterranean cuisines, consisting of yogurt mixed with garlic and salt.
Health Benefits of Garlic
Garlic is high in vitamins and minerals that are good for you, such as manganese, selenium, vitamin C, vitamin B6, and other antioxidants like allicin. Garlic’s health benefits have been known for generations, ever since Hippocrates, the ancient Greek physician, prescribed it to treat a variety of ailments. The following are some of garlic’s most impressive health benefits:
- Regulates Blood Pressure
- Reduces Cholesterol Level
- Reduces Risk of Cardiovascular Diseases
- Boosts Immune System
- Enhances Sports Performance
- Builds Stronger Bones
- Boost Brain Capacity
- Protects the Skin
Regulates Blood Pressure
Garlic has anti-inflammatory properties and aids in blood flow in the body. In several studies, participants’ blood pressure was discovered to be reduced by 10% when they took garlic supplements. Keep in mind that the supplement doses—600 to 1,500 mg of aged garlic extract—are quite high. Start cutting because that’s the equivalent of four garlic cloves per day.
Reduces Cholesterol Level
Garlic will also lower cholesterol, which lowers your risk of cardiovascular disease. Several studies show that taking a garlic supplement for five months would help lower cholesterol levels. Garlic’s benefits take a while to kick in, as with many natural remedies, because you have to let the vitamins and minerals build up in your body. However, incorporating garlic into your daily routine is a healthy way to establish a long-term habit that will benefit your health year after year.
Reduces Risk of Cardiovascular Diseases
Garlic is a remarkable natural remedy for lowering cholesterol and blood pressure, which helps to reduce the risk of heart disease. By relaxing hardened blood vessels and stopping platelet aggregation, it can also help to lower your risk of heart disease. This is due to garlic’s ability to improve nitric oxide production, which keeps blood vessels relaxed. It also inhibits blood clots by preventing platelets from binding to proteins. Garlic has you covered when it comes to heart disease relief.
Boosts Immune System
Garlic, when digested, strengthens the immune system and lowers the severity and duration of cold and flu symptoms. Taking a daily garlic supplement lowered the number of colds attendees got by 63 percent, according to one study. According to studies, the average duration of cold symptoms was decreased from five to one and a half days. When you feel a cold coming on, try adding more garlic to your meals if you like it.
Enhances Sports Performance
Garlic was used in ancient cultures to improve performance and relieve fatigue in people who did physical labor. Garlic was eventually used by Greek Olympic athletes to improve their athletic performance. It is now being used by contemporary athletes (as well as ordinary people) to avoid exercise-induced fatigue. According to some research, people with heart disease who took garlic oil for six weeks increased their peak heart rate by 12% and were able to exercise for longer periods of time without becoming fatigued. If you want to stay in shape and enjoy garlic, try adding a little more to your daily diet to see if you notice a difference in your stamina.
Builds Stronger Bones
Garlic has been shown to help prevent bone loss in women by boosting estrogen levels, which can be a great win for bone health after menopause. Garlic supplementation on a daily basis may help reduce your risk of osteoporosis and osteoarthritis. Other healthy foods, such as dairy products, green leafy vegetables, fish, and nuts, must be included to have a significant effect on bone density. However, if you want to amp up the flavor of your salmon and spinach dinner, garlic is a simple addition.
Boost Brain Capacity
Free radical damage adds to aging, so garlic contains a strong antioxidant called S-allyl cysteine that can help combat this. This antioxidant has shown promise in preventing brain damage and improving brain function as you get older. Garlic’s ability to reduce cholesterol and blood pressure helps it work by boosting brain blood flow. This means a lower risk of brain disorders such as dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
Protects the Skin
Garlic’s antioxidant properties come to the rescue when it comes to protecting your skin and preventing free radical damage. Garlic is considered a superfood because of its numerous health benefits, including antioxidant, antibacterial, and antifungal properties. This adds up to significant skin benefits. To kill bacteria, rub raw garlic on your bumps. Garlic aids in the growth and longevity of skin cells, so using a topical garlic extract over time may have anti-aging effects.