one of the first things we began to experiment with was FRESH garlic. Yes, I have always loved garlic, but was an avid user of garlic powder. I had never cooked with a REAL garlic clove...not once!
Right away, we noticed a HUGE difference in flavor…our meals with fresh garlic took on a whole new meaning!
Then, shortly after this revelation, I attended a cooking demo by a local chef, who said "if you are not cooking with REAL garlic, you shouldn't be using garlic at all." Needless to say, REAL (fresh) garlic is now a staple in our kitchen!
Garlic is part of the “allium” family, closely related to onions, shallots and leeks. At your local supermarkets, you might find 2 or 3 different varieties of fresh garlic, which is likely grown in China. However, there is a huge, mouthwatering universe of garlic out there (over 300 varieties) waiting to be explored. That’s why we are huge fans of buying different varieties at our local farmers’ markets. These farmers’ market varieties provide a much more intense and dynamic flavor than the supermarket varieties.
“Garlic breath” is a minor inconvenience compared to these huge benefits!
- Strong antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, boosting our immune systems and allowing us to maintain a healthy heart and blood vessels…including lower blood pressure.
- Inhibits cancerous tumor growth and can actually kill off cancer cells…especially in our upper digestive systems.
- Reduces risk of type-2 diabetes.
- Lowers LDL (or bad cholesterol).
- Reduces risk of dementia.
- Enhances athletic performance by allowing more blood to get to your muscles.
Most of garlic's health benefits come from a compound called allicin, which is activated when garlic is chopped or crushed. This is also what gives garlic its distinct odor (which is how it gets its name...The Stinking Rose). The best way to get these health benefits is to use raw garlic (in salad dressings, for example). If you are cooking with fresh garlic, if possible, let it sit for about 10 minutes after chopping or crushing it. This is because cooking it right away can actually inactivate the enzyme that is responsible for these health benefits.
“Bulb” vs. “clove”
Just in case you didn't know, the entire head of the garlic is called the bulb and the segments inside are the garlic cloves. There are often 10-20 (or more) cloves that make up a bulb. So, when a recipe calls for a garlic clove, it means one segment, not the entire head!
To press or not to press?
Using fresh cloves is easy! Simply place a clove underneath the side of your chef’s knife (with the knife parallel to your work surface), and then give the top of the knife a little whack. This will help release the papery skin and slightly crush the clove. You can then easily peel the clove, slice or mince it, and then add it to your recipe.
Some say a press is just one more thing to clean, but it can be worth it on those busy weeknights and makes using fresh garlic much more convenient.
For meals when time is short, another convenience is purchasing pre-peeled garlic cloves. They can typically be found in a sealed bag in the produce section and cost just under $3 for about 30 garlic cloves. With the convenience of pre-peeled cloves and a garlic press, there is really no reason not to use REAL garlic in your meals! And, a great time saver is using minced garlic...it's already activated and ready to go!
How much in 1 clove?
The general rule of thumb is 1 garlic clove = ½ tsp of minced garlic. If you are using garlic powder (or granulated garlic), the rule of thumb is 1 garlic clove = ¼ tsp garlic powder.
What about garlic powder or garlic salt?
Of course, garlic powder is convenient, but our experience is nothing beats the REAL deal when it comes to taste and nutrition! Garlic salt is really just 3 parts salt and one part garlic powder. Remember, if you use garlic salt, you should try to keep other added salt to a minimum.
Rub in the flavor!
If you are making garlic bread, a great alternative to powder or salt is to crisp up your slices of bread in the oven (or on the grill) for a few minutes, and then as soon as the bread comes out of the oven, slice a garlic clove in half and rub the cut side of the garlic all over each slice of bread.
The flavor is absolutely incredible...and it will take your Bruschetta or Pan Con Tomate to a whole new level!
Beware of botulism!
Mixing garlic with olive oil can make a delicious homemade dressing and we do it quite often, but it's important to know you should use the dressing right away or store it in the refrigerator and use within one week. You don't want to let this mixture of garlic infused olive oil sit at room temperature because bacteria could begin to grow and can cause an illness called botulism.
Spreads like butter!
1 garlic bulb
1 Tbsp olive oil
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
- Peel most of the paper off the outer layer of the garlic bulb (you want to leave a little so the bulb stays together). Cut off the top end of the bulb (cut just enough so you can see the garlic cloves inside).
- Place the garlic bulb on a piece of aluminum foil and drizzle olive oil on the garlic cloves. Wrap and seal the foil around the garlic bulb. Bake for 25 minutes.
- Remove from the oven and take the garlic out of the foil packet. Let cool slightly. Squeeze the bulb and the roasted cloves will slide right out, or use a knife or small spoon to scrape the garlic cloves out, and then use in your recipe -- the garlic should spread like butter!
Try the Baked Brie Bites -- I recently served this for friends and they loved it! How can you go wrong with melted gooey brie cheese and roasted garlic that spreads like butter?! YUM!
There are supposedly other surprising benefits of garlic...
we haven’t tried all of these, but if all else fails...
- Prevents hair loss: Not only can you rub garlic cloves on bread for bruschetta, some claim you can rub it on your scalp to prevent hair loss!
- Alternative to Clearasil: the bacteria-killing antioxidants in garlic can allegedly clear up acne!
- Cold remedy: because of its power to boost our immune systems, it has been known to help prevent and treat colds.
- Remove a splinter?! A folk cure for many years, some say if you place a slice of garlic over the splinter, and then cover it with a bandage, the garlic will help remove the splinter.
- Athlete's foot cure...soaking your feet in warm water with some crushed garlic can supposedly help get rid of athlete’s foot…because of garlic's fungus fighting abilities.
- No more bug bites! Apparently mosquitos don't like garlic, so instead of bug spray you can use garlic as a mosquito repellant. If you are not up for rubbing garlic all over your arms and legs, try placing garlic cloves nearby.
- Relieve cold sores: holding crushed garlic on a cold sore has been known to help relieve the annoying pain and swelling.
- Protect your plants! Since most garden pests don't like garlic, you can make a homemade mix of garlic, mineral oil, water and liquid soap in a squirt bottle and spray around plants to keep them from being eaten by critters.
Try some of these ideas to include more garlic in your routine...
your taste buds and health will thank you!
What is your favorite thing to do with fresh garlic? Please share with us!