Garlic may well be the most versatile and useful plant in the world; it's used as a medicine, a fresh herb, a vegetable and a seasoning.
One of the world's oldest foods, garlic has been prized in almost every cuisine and culture across the globe since antiquity. Credited with legendary healing powers, garlic has been considered a talisman for good luck. Some cultures have believed it has the power to ward off evil, vampires and plague.
Although there are over 300 different varieties of garlic, "softneck" is the garlic most of us are familiar with; it represents the majority of US commercial production. Softneck garlic’s head has 16 to 40 cloves, its flavor is mild rather than fiery, and it keeps well. Softneck garlic has a long, fibrous stem that, when dried, can be woven into decorative braids.
Why choose organic garlic?
- At Earthbound Farm, we grow our organic garlic without toxic synthetic pesticides and fertilizers, using methods that build healthy, vibrant soil and and help keep pesticides out of the environment…and our food supply. Organic food is the healthiest choice for people and the planet — and we think organic garlic tastes better, too!
How to select and store garlic
- Choose bulbs that are dry, plump and firm to the touch. Heavy, hard bulbs are the most fresh. Avoid bulbs that have sprouted or have shriveled and soft spots.
- If you buy peeled garlic, ensure that the cloves are an unblemished ivory-white, with no evidence of mold or stickiness.
- Fresh garlic is perishable — but don’t refrigerate it unless it’s already peeled or cut. Whole heads of garlic keep best in a cool, dark, well-ventilated place (45–50°F / 7–10°C). Store garlic away from other foods that may pick up its taste. Peel the papery husk from each clove and cut away any damage or bruises before using. Discard garlic that has sprouted, shows signs of moisture, rot, or mildew, or smells bad.
- If you're storing cut or peeled garlic, refrigerate it in a container with a tight-fitting lid; otherwise, garlic odors will permeate everything else in your refrigerator.
Tips for using garlic
- Green garlic is simply garlic that is picked while the bulbs are immature and the leaves still green. Look for these mild, slender shoots with barely developed bulbs in farmer's markets in the early spring, when green garlic is one of the first items to appear. Their flavor is mild and fresh rather than pungent. Use garlic leaves and flowers, while they are still tender and green, as substitutes for chives or scallions.
- Raw garlic can be very strong and pungent (thus its nickname, "stinking rose"). Its strength can be controlled to some extent, depending on how you treat it. Whole cloves of garlic are the mildest. Chopping, mincing or mashing garlic releases more of its oil (in ascending order), resulting in a stronger flavor than if you simply slice it. In general, avoid using garlic presses; they tend to pulverize the cloves, releasing all of the oil and juices.
- Garlic undergoes a most amazing metamorphosis under heat. Slow cooking, braising or roasting refine its potency, resulting in mellow, tender cloves the consistency of soft butter, which bear no resemblance whatsoever to their assertive raw state. When cooking garlic, take care to use low heat. If garlic browns, it becomes strong and very bitter.
- Peeling large quantities of garlic can be a chore. One easy way is to drop unpeeled cloves in boiling water for about 45 seconds. Drain, rinse under cold water, and then slip off the peels. Another popular technique is to whack the cloves, a few at a time, with the flat side of a cleaver or heavy knife to break the skin, which then slips off easily. Alternately, peeled garlic cloves are increasingly available in the refrigerated produce section of many stores.