Garlic is a packed with flavour and phytonutrients.
A member of the Allium onion family, it is a bulb holding a cluster of cloves enclosed in a white to purple-tinged papery skin. Some trimmed roots may still be attached to the base of the bulb if it is locally grown. Young garlic is sweet with mild pungency while fresh cloves are plump and fleshy. As a general rule, smaller cloves of garlic have a more intense flavour. Garlic can be eaten raw or in cooked dishes.
The varieties commonly grown in New Zealand can contain up to 10 cloves covered in white skin. They thrive in most vegetable gardens and require little upkeep.
Choose firm bulbs containing intact cloves, with mildew-free, fresh and creamy white skin. Some varieties have a distinct purplish tinged outer skin.
Keep garlic bulbs in a bowl on the kitchen bench in an airy place away from direct light. Garlic cloves keep best if still attached to the bulb so only remove them as needed. Avoid storing garlic in the fridge as it taints other foods.
Garlic is a valuable source of sulphur compounds which are also found in onions and leeks. These compounds have been extensively studied for their preventive action against gastric and colon cancers.
To easily remove the skin from garlic cloves, use a paring knife and peel from the root end or use the flat part of the blade of a chef’s knife to press down on the garlic clove until the skin splits and readily peels off. Crush, mince, slice or leave whole. Cooking garlic softens and mellows its punchy flavour, while adding it raw will harness its full pungency.
Try this great idea for using garlic: Sweet roasted butternut and garlic with almonds
Did you know? When the garlic is ready to produce seed heads, it sends up long slender stems called garlic bolts. These are sweet and tender with a mild garlic flavour and asparagus texture.