Garlic is a member of the allium family,
which includes lilies, onions of all kinds, leeks and chives. It will
grow nearly anywhere, and garlic has been used in cooking for at least
five thousand years. In fact, some cuisines seem almost to be based on
it. The Chinese enjoy it in quantity, especially when mixed with
blessing hot peppers. In Italy it is less fiery but equally prevalent,
India and Mexico indulge without qualm, and America is moving up
rapidly in rate of consumption.
While there are actually several hundred types of garlic, we usually
find three in quantity in American markets. Spring garlic, which is
white, often with small cloves, can have a tendency to sprout quickly.
These little green sprouts can ass a bitter taste unless they are
picked out. The fresh cloves garlic that is harvested in the fall
usually has a pink or purple tinted skin. The cloves are plump and
generally somewhat larger than the white variety, and several French
chefs I have worked with frequently told me it is less likely to cause
heartburn, though I cannot find any evidence to prove this belief. I
think those who will be bothered by garlic are affected by all of it.
Elephant garlic, a giant head made up of huge cloves that look like the
answer to a garlic lover's dream, is more closely related to leeks than
common garlic, and the flavor is so mild it adds very little character
to cooked dishes. Even though when we cooking with garlic, it has its
enthusiastic advocates, I just cannot get excited about it.
The odor and flavor of garlic are contained in its natural oils. Garlic
actually has several different flavors. Raw, it can be acrid and harsh
if eaten in large pieces. Cut up or minced and added to cooked dishes,
it contributes both a pleasant aroma and tantalizing taste. Roasted,
baked, or simmered until meltingly tender, garlic becomes soft, spread
able, unctuous and almost sweet - totally unlike its more assertive raw
state. Cooking with garlic gives you different taste and aroma.
Health claims about garlic have been made practically for as long as it
has been eaten. At one time or another it has been touted as a cure for
everything from hair loss to heart disease and most ailments in
between, including impotence and infertility. Healers in ancient Egypt,
Greece, Rome, China and India prescribed it for almost anything that
afflicted their patients. Even today many people are convinced that
garlic extracts capsules keep them hale and hearty.
Actually, garlic does have substantial antibacterial properties, and
modern research is beginning to indicate that garlic nay reduce
cholesterol level, aid digestion, possibly prevent heart attacks, and
act as an anti carcinogenic. While the scientific jury is still our on
its true medicinal value, it is abundantly evident that eating garlic
in almost anything adds enjoyment to a meal and does little or no harm
to the eater.
At on time or another, garlic has also been thought to keep away
vampires, witches and goblins, along with various and sundry other evil
influences and troublesome spirits. Whether it is the odor or some
other property that keeps them at bay is a matter of conjecture,
Cooking with garlic is low in fat and cholesterol and contains a
substantial amount of vitamin C. Unfortunately, the amounts of garlic
eaten at any one time are usually so small that the quantity of vitamin
C really isn't significant.