Garlic bulb

Garlic 101

Garlic is a vegetable (Allium sativum) that belongs to the same class of bulb-shaped plants as onions, chives, leeks, and scallions. Used as a seasoning, its bold flavor drastically enhances any dish with its signature and definitively potent taste. Most people learn to love it, or learn to hate it. Outside of culinary uses, garlic is often used for medicinal purposes.

The garlic cloves are the most utilized part of the plant. These are the fleshy sections clustered beneath the papery skin. However, other parts of the garlic plant are edible. The plant’s leaves, flowers, and head (spathe) can be eaten, and have a milder flavor than the cloves.

For thousands of years, garlic has been a staple in the human diet. By some estimates, we’ve been digging up garlic for over 7000 years.

Medicine Uses

Originating in middle Asia, the Chinese, Japanese, and Egyptians were using garlic to treat illnesses as early as 3700 BC. In ancient India, garlic was a valued remedy. It was used as a tonic to cure lack of appetite, weakness, cough, skin disease, and rheumatism. In ancient Greece, garlic was used by the military. Army leaders would give it to their soldiers as a dietary supplement, the goal being to keep these men in optimal fighting condition through the powers of garlic. The Greeks referred to garlic as ‘the rustic’s cure-all’.

However, ancient uses of garlic don’t mean squat without some science to back it up. Is there any hard evidence that garlic is good for you?

Yes, and there are many reasons why. Modern science has pointed to health benefits attributable to garlic consumption.

Cholesterol control – In contemporary research, garlic has been linked to lowering cholesterol in individuals. In one study, garlic lowered LDL cholesterol by 10% in hypercholesterolemic men compared with subjects consuming a placebo.[1]

Reduced free radicals – Garlic prevents free radical generation. Free radicals play a role in biological processes which cause aging effects and oxidization in cells.

Antioxidant and Antihypertensive support – The antioxidative and antihypertensive effects of garlic were observed in 20 patients with hypertension compared to 20 patients with normal blood pressure.. The results revealed decreased levels of blood pressure, nitric oxide, and lipid peroxidation in the individuals who ate garlic.  These individuals also had higher levels of the antioxidative vitamins C and E.[2]

Cancer prevention -The National Cancer Institute website has a very comprehensive analysis of garlic that discusses its potential cancer prevention attributes, specifically regarding cancers of the gastrointestinal tract.

Kills germs – Garlic is naturally antiseptic and can be used as a quality mouthwash, that is, when oral hygiene trumps concerns of having bold breath. This antiseptic quality surely played into the usefulness of garlic in antiquity, and is still applicable today, if the need to kill bacterias and fungi should arise and, for whatever reason, you only have garlic handy.

Our Garlic Sources

Nutritional Information

Garlic isn’t really going to keep you alive if it’s all you eat. It is not nutritionally dense with only 4 calories per 1 teaspoon serving. Its power comes from its strong flavor, which is related to another interesting quality – a high sulfur content. Garlic also contains arginine, flavonoids, and selenium.

Sources: USDA


How to Select Garlic

When stored at room temperature, garlic can last a long time.  Knowing this, wait till it’s on sale, or you are at your favorite farm stand, and stock up. If garlic is being sold by the bulb, obviously select the biggest ones you can find. This will not only increase the value you get, but make the garlic cloves easier to peel. Otherwise, look for plump and firm bulbs. You want the paper-like skin to be intact and dry, not spongy or shriveled.

Remember once you break open a garlic bulb and separate it into cloves, the lifetime and nutritional value of that garlic starts to decrease at a much faster rate.

Many people choose to buy garlic already minced in jars. This is preserved garlic and not to be confused with fresh garlic. Click here to learn how to mince your own garlic.

Garlic can also be obtain in other forms. You can find it rendered as essential oil, powder, and extract.

Ready to start cooking?

How to Prepare Garlic

The garlic cloves are the most utilized part of the plant. These are the fleshy sections clustered beneath the papery skin. However, other parts of the garlic plant are edible. The plant’s leaves, flowers, and head (spathe) can be eaten, and have a milder flavor than the cloves.

When confronted with how to ingest garlic, there are many avenues to pursue. Regardless of you use it, your dish will suddenly take on garlic’s signature flavor. Like in exercise, start of slow and increase your amount of garlic per serving as you understand its workings better.

The complete Spartan catalog of garlic recipes is here.

Eat It Raw
Many people will eat garlic raw, especially when they feel they want the medicinal kick of garlic to fight an oncoming or already present cold. Eating garlic raw will ensure you keep all the many compounds inside intact and at full strength. This takes a strong stomach but can be done. Spartan Founder Joe De Sena swears by it and will dispense out a serving of raw garlic to anyone who mentions feeling sick.

Whether or not there is any real benefit to eating raw garlic is certainly up for debate. We cover more about the medical properties of garlic here. The anti-sceptic quality of garlic is surely only going to help, much like using a mouth wash as a means to kill germs.

So, the next time you are cooking with garlic, take a nibble. Just don’t do this on an empty stomach, that’s for certain. And don’t underestimate the intensity you might just unleash in your mouth.

Saute It

Sauteing garlic is the most common method. You can grill it right up in some olive or coconut oil and combine with most meats and vegetables.

Bake It

Bake the entire bulb to create your own garlic paste.  From making hummus to using it as a spread on bread, vegetables, or meats, the baked garlic paste you get is a powerful tool to have in your cooking arsenal.

Learn How to Mince Garlic

Tags: , , ,