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Garlic, also known as ‘lehsun’ in Hindi, is a closely related member of onion family. Garlic is commonly used as an ingredient in cooking and it has medicinal uses as well. The bulb of the garlic plant is the most widely used part of the plant. Inside the bulb, there are many fleshy sections that are called ‘cloves’. These cloves are used for consumption, either raw or in cooked form. With pungent and spicy flavor, these cloves become soft and sweet while cooking. The papery skin of the garlic cloves is discarded while preparing garlic to be used in cooking. Garlic bread, garlic chicken, garlic pickle and garlic dip are some of the popular garlic recipes well-liked in international cuisine.

Origin of Garlic

The origin of garlic is not established clearly but it is believed to be a descendant of the species A. Sativum. This species was grown in Southwestern Asia as a wild plant.

Culinary Use of Garlic

The pungent flavor of garlic makes it a widely used ingredient in making many dishes including condiments and seasonings. Garlic dishes are commonly cooked in combination with other ingredients like onion, tomato and ginger. The aroma and intensity of garlic depends upon the cooking method used. Roasted garlic is also widely used in numerous dishes. Garlic is mainly used as a flavoring agent. Oils are infused with garlic and used as seasoning in variety of dishes like pasta, vegetables and meats. Pickled garlic and garlic powder are often used to flavor garlic dishes.

Cuisines Commonly Making Garlic Dishes

Garlic is considered as a fundamental flavoring agent in most of the dishes in various parts of world. Asia, Middle East, Northern Africa, Europe and Central America are famous for making garlic dishes with exotic flavor. In Korea, ‘black garlic’ that is used is made by fermenting garlic on high temperature. ‘Black garlic’ is sweet and juicy in nature and it is now widely used in making garlic dishes in USA, UK and Australia. Pickled garlic shoots is a famous garlic recipe in Eastern Europe. Garlic leaves are also used as an edible part in many Asian regions. Brochette is a famous Italian garlic dish.

Preferable Cooking Methods for Garlic

• Stir-frying – It is the most common method of cooking garlic and garlic dishes in Asian countries. Garlic is stir fried with eggs, meats and rice.
• Blending – Garlic is often used in dips and sauces and blended with other ingredients to give a pungent flavor to the dish.
• Pickling – Garlic pickle or garlic shoot pickle is a popular dish in many parts of world. It is served as a condiment.
• Roasted – Garlic cloves are dribbled with olive oil and roasted and the resulting product is used in making exotic garlic dishes.

Nutritive Value of Garlic

Garlic is considered as an antibacterial, antiviral and antifungal product. It is helpful in preventing heart diseases, cancer and high cholesterol. The other beneficial properties of garlic include prevention from cough and cold, improvement of digestive problems and also regulation of blood sugar level. Consumption of garlic acts as a remedy against various infections and allergies. The most out of garlic can be obtained when it is consumed in its raw form, crushed or finely chopped. However, its recommended to not overdo it as excess of garlic can irritate the digestive tract.

Buying and Storing of Garlic

Garlic with small and soft cloves is more flavorful as compared to big garlic cloves. Dry and stake garlic should not be purchased. The storage of garlic is not a very difficult task as it requires only dry and warm conditions. There is a practice of keeping garlic infused in oil. In such cases extra care should be taken to prevent garlic from being spoiled. Cloves of garlic can also be kept infused in wine or vinegar, but should be stored in refrigerator. It is recommended to keep the top of the garlic untouched until it is being used for cooking. This helps in keeping the garlic fresh and edible.

Types of Garlic

Garlic is broadly classified into two categories: Softneck garlic and hardneck garlic. Some of the varieties of both the garlic are as follows:

Softneck garlic varieties:

• Silverskin garlic – It is an easily grown variety and has a very strong flavor and is used to make rich flavored garlic dishes
• Artichoke garlic – It is a mildly flavored garlic with large cloves.

Hardneck Garlic Varieties

• Porcelain – It has very big cloves and has a very rich flavor
• Rocambole – It has a full-body clove. Usually, only one clove is wrapped in the skin.
• Purple garlic – An ideal variety of garlic for making baked garlic dishes. It has purple strakes on the papery skin.

Non-Food Use of Garlic

Apart from culinary uses, garlic is widely used in making various medicines. In China, the juice of the garlic cloves is used as an adhesive. The sticky nature of the juice makes it an ideal sticking material for glass.

Garlic: Trivia

• The culinary and medicinal uses of garlic are found to be around 6000 years old.

• 60% of World’s garlic is produced in China.