Garlic 101: How to Use, Cultivate, and Produce This Versatile Ingredient

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What’s the best way to get people to come to your restaurant? Add garlic to everything, of course!

Garlic is a great way to get people to come to your restaurant, because it’s delicious and people love it. But what exactly is it? Is it a vegetable, a fruit, or a spice?

Let’s look at everything you need to know about this amazing ingredient.

What is garlic

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The Origins and Types of Garlic

Garlic has a long and rich history, dating back to ancient times. It is believed that garlic originated in the central Asian region and was discovered by the people of the Indus Valley Civilization around 5000 years ago. Garlic was considered a sacred plant by the ancient Egyptians, who used it for both culinary and medicinal purposes. The Greeks and Romans also valued garlic for its medicinal properties and believed it could protect against evil spirits.

Types of Garlic

There are two major types of garlic: hardneck and softneck. Hardneck garlic is known for its strong, sharp flavor and is commonly used in cooking. Softneck garlic, on the other hand, has a more delicate flavor and is often used for making garlic braids.

Within these two types, there are several varieties of garlic, including:

  • Rocambole: a type of hardneck garlic with a rich, full flavor
  • Porcelain: a hardneck garlic with a coarse texture and strong flavor
  • Silverskin: a softneck garlic commonly used for pickling due to its small size and mild flavor
  • Artichoke: a softneck garlic with a milder flavor and easy-to-peel cloves

Garlic in Modern Times

Garlic has become a popular ingredient in modern cooking, with Americans consuming around 3 pounds of garlic per person each year. Garlic is commonly used to add flavor to dishes such as pasta, soups, and stir-fries, and is often a staple at dinner parties.

Garlic has also inspired a range of products, from garlic-infused olive oil to garlic supplements. However, it is important to note that not all garlic products are created equal. Black garlic, for example, is a type of garlic that has been fermented for several weeks, resulting in a milder flavor and a darker color. While black garlic has a lower concentration of allicin (the compound responsible for garlic’s health benefits), it is still a natural and delicious way to enjoy garlic.

Overall, garlic is a prolific plant that is suitable for growing in a range of climates. Its sharp, rich flavor and heart-healthy properties make it a popular choice for cooks and health-conscious people alike. Whether you’re preparing a delicate dish or a hearty meal, garlic is an easy and delicious way to add flavor to your cooking.

Garlic: The Many Subspecies and Varieties

When it comes to garlic, there are hundreds of different types, each with its unique characteristics. The terms “subspecies” and “variety” are often used interchangeably, but there is a difference. Subspecies refer to garlic that has evolved naturally in the wild, while varieties are the result of selective breeding by humans.

What are the most popular types of garlic?

Garlic comes in a wide range of subspecies and varieties, but some are more popular than others. The standard garlic that you find in most grocery stores is the white garlic, which is typically larger and has a stronger flavor than other types. The red garlic, on the other hand, is a bit more delicate and has a milder taste.

How do you properly store garlic?

Properly storing garlic is essential to ensure that it stays fresh and flavorful. Here are some tips:

  • Store garlic in a cool, dry place. Avoid storing it in a wet or humid environment, as this can cause mold to grow.
  • Do not store garlic in the refrigerator. The cold temperature can cause the garlic to sprout and become rubbery.
  • Store garlic in a mesh bag or a paper bag. This will allow air to circulate around the garlic and prevent it from becoming moldy.
  • Do not store garlic near other foods with strong odors, as it can absorb these odors and affect its flavor.

Garlic in the Kitchen: A Versatile Ingredient

  • Start by breaking the garlic head into individual cloves
  • Cut off the root end and remove the papery outer layer
  • Slice the garlic cloves thinly or chop them finely
  • Use a garlic press to make the process easier

Adding Garlic to Dishes

  • Garlic is a great addition to meat dishes, vegetarian dishes, and vegetables
  • Start by heating a little oil in a pan on medium heat
  • Add finely chopped onions and garlic to the pan and stir until the onions are translucent
  • Add the rest of the ingredients to the pan and stir
  • Be careful not to burn the garlic as it can turn bitter when cooked for too long on high heat
  • Remove the garlic carefully from the pan once it has turned golden brown

Unique Uses for Garlic

  • Wrap a head of garlic in aluminum foil and bake it in the oven for a unique flavor profile
  • Use a tool called a garlic roaster to produce a milder garlic flavor
  • Double the garlic in a dish to improve its potential health benefits
  • Use garlic as a natural way to prevent and improve colds and flu

Examples of Dishes with Garlic

  • Garlic mashed potatoes
  • Garlic bread
  • Garlic shrimp
  • Garlic roasted vegetables
  • Garlic chicken
  • Garlic soup

Handling Garlic

  • Be gentle when handling garlic as it can bruise easily
  • Use a heavy knife to cut through the thickness of the garlic clove
  • Allow the garlic to rest for a few minutes after chopping to produce a more consistent flavor

Benefits of Regular Garlic Consumption

  • Garlic is a natural antibiotic and can improve the body’s immune system
  • Garlic can improve heart health by reducing cholesterol levels
  • Garlic can improve brain function and reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease
  • Garlic can improve bone health and reduce the risk of osteoporosis

Methods to Store Garlic

  • Store fresh garlic in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight
  • Store prepared garlic in an airtight container in the refrigerator
  • Store ground garlic in the freezer to prevent it from losing its flavor

The Art of Growing Garlic

Garlic is a type of bulbous plant that belongs to the Allium family, which also includes onions, leeks, and chives. There are two basic types of garlic that are commonly grown for cultivation:

  • Hardneck garlic: This type of garlic produces a flower stalk, and the cloves are usually larger and easier to peel. Hardneck garlic is generally preferred by chefs for its stronger flavor and larger cloves.
  • Softneck garlic: This type of garlic does not produce a flower stalk, and the cloves are smaller and more numerous. Softneck garlic is generally easier to grow and store, and it is the type of garlic that is commonly found in grocery stores.

Planting and Growing Garlic

Garlic is a cool-season crop that is usually planted in the fall and harvested in the summer. Here are some tips for growing garlic:

  • Choose a sunny location with well-drained soil.
  • Plant garlic cloves approximately 2 inches deep and 6 inches apart, with the pointed end facing up.
  • Water the garlic regularly, but be careful not to overwater, as garlic does not like wet feet.
  • Apply fertilizer as needed, following the instructions on the package.
  • Control weeds by hand or with a hoe, being careful not to damage the garlic plants.
  • Garlic plants will produce scapes, or flower stalks, in the spring. These should be removed to encourage the plant to put its energy into producing larger bulbs.
  • Garlic is ready to harvest when the leaves start to turn yellow and dry out. This usually occurs in late summer or early fall.

Storing Garlic

Proper storage is critical for preserving the flavor and quality of garlic. Here are some tips for storing garlic:

  • Store garlic in a cool, dry place with good air circulation. A pantry or a basement is a good choice.
  • Do not store garlic in the refrigerator, as the moisture can cause the cloves to sprout or rot.
  • Garlic can be stored in a mesh bag, a paper bag, or a ceramic garlic keeper.
  • Garlic should be stored away from other produce, as it can absorb odors and flavors from other foods.

Common Varieties of Garlic

There are many different varieties of garlic, each with its own unique flavor and characteristics. Here are some of the most popular varieties of garlic:

  • Artichoke garlic: This is a large, symmetrical garlic with slightly flattened cloves. It is a good all-purpose garlic that stores well.
  • Rocambole garlic: This is a medium-sized garlic with a strong, rich flavor. It has a papery skin and a slightly irregular shape.
  • Purple Stripe garlic: This is a hardneck garlic with a strong, spicy flavor. It has a purple stripe on the outer skin and is known for its large cloves.
  • Elephant garlic: This is not actually a garlic, but a type of leek. It has a mild, sweet flavor and is much larger than regular garlic.

Garlic in History and Today

Garlic has been used for both culinary and medicinal purposes for thousands of years. Here are some interesting facts about garlic:

  • Garlic was used by the ancient Egyptians as a food and a medicine.
  • Garlic was used by the ancient Greeks and Romans as a food and a medicine, and it was also believed to have magical properties.
  • Garlic was used during World War I and World War II as an antiseptic to prevent gangrene.
  • Garlic is still used today as a natural remedy for a variety of ailments, including high blood pressure, cholesterol, and colds.

From Seed to Shelf: The Garlic Production Process

Garlic growers and sellers often provide additional services to stand out from their competitors. Some of these services include:

  • Providing information about the different types of garlic and their uses.
  • Selecting the best garlic bulbs for customers.
  • Providing recipes and cooking tips for using garlic.
  • Providing information about the health benefits of garlic consumption.

The Garlic Industry

The garlic industry is a multi-million dollar industry that is growing every year. Garlic production is a true art and requires a lot of practice and knowledge to be successful.

  • Garlic is a versatile ingredient that is used in many different types of cuisine.
  • Garlic is also used for its health benefits, as it contains compounds that are believed to have anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties.
  • Garlic is a staple ingredient in many households and is an important part of the food industry.

The Impressive Benefits of Garlic

Garlic has been widely recognized for its potential to protect the heart. Scientific research has found that the compounds found in garlic can help lower blood pressure, reduce cholesterol levels, and decrease the risk of heart disease. The active compounds in garlic, including allicin and sulfur, work to increase the production of nitric oxide in the body, which helps to relax blood vessels and improve blood flow. Examples of scientific studies include a 2016 study that found that garlic extract can help control blood pressure in people with hypertension and a 2013 study that found that garlic supplements can help lower cholesterol levels in people with high cholesterol.

Cancer Prevention

Garlic has also been found to have potential cancer-fighting properties. According to research, garlic contains compounds that can help block the formation of cancer-causing substances and slow the growth of cancer cells. A study published in the Journal of Nutrition found that women who included garlic in their diets had a lower risk of certain types of cancer, including colon and rectal cancer. Garlic’s ability to deliver a range of antioxidants and other nutrients may also play a key role in its cancer-fighting effects.

Immune System Boost

Garlic has a long history of use as a traditional remedy for fighting infections and boosting the immune system. Garlic contains compounds that have been shown to have antibacterial, antiviral, and antifungal effects. These compounds, including allicin and alliin, are released when garlic is chopped or crushed. Garlic’s ability to help the body fight off infections and diseases may be due to its ability to increase the production of white blood cells, which are key players in the body’s immune system.

Brain Health

Garlic may also have benefits for brain health. Research has found that garlic can help improve cognitive function and protect against age-related cognitive decline. Garlic contains compounds that can increase blood flow to the brain, which may help to improve memory and concentration. A study published in the Journal of Neurochemistry found that garlic extract can help protect the brain from damage caused by free radicals, which are associated with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia.

Other Potential Benefits

In addition to the benefits listed above, garlic has been associated with a number of other potential health benefits, including:

  • Helping to control blood sugar levels in people with diabetes
  • Improving bone health by increasing estrogen levels in females
  • Serving as a natural insect repellent
  • Helping to reduce the risk of certain types of infections, including colds and flu

Garlic is incredibly versatile and can be added to a wide range of dishes to add flavor and nutrition. Whether you want to add it to your cooking or take it in supplement form, garlic offers plenty of potential health benefits in a pure, natural form. While it can be difficult to consume enough garlic to see significant changes, adding it to your diet can be a great way to boost your overall health and well-being.


So there you have it, the history, uses, and health benefits of garlic. 

It’s a versatile ingredient that can be used in both savory and sweet dishes, and it’s a great way to improve your health. So don’t be afraid to add some garlic to your life!

Check out our new cookbook

Bitemybun's family recipes with complete meal planner and recipe guide.

Try it out for free with Kindle Unlimited:

Read for free

Joost Nusselder, the founder of Bite My Bun is a content marketer, dad and loves trying out new food with Japanese food at the heart of his passion, and together with his team he's been creating in-depth blog articles since 2016 to help loyal readers with recipes and cooking tips.