Yep, get eating it because there are plenty of reasons why …
Garlic is a natural antiseptic and is anti-inflammatory, it has antibacterial and anti-fungal properties and is a natural antibiotic, it’s also an anti-oxidant and assists in the lowering of cholesterol and blood pressure.
Double your daily dose, no, wait a moment, TREBLE It, during summer anyway!
Garlic is traditionally planted on the shortest day of the year and harvested on the longest one. Freshly dug garlic starts appearing at farmers’ markets and shops some time in early summer (December in the southern hemisphere) and the last harvests take place in late January. Fresh garlic is different to mid-season or mature garlic. What will become the papery wrapping around each clove is still supple and a little moist, and the fat white cloves are juicy and mild in flavour. There is no sign of a sprouting centre, an indication of maturing garlic, and no hint of acridity. You could, if the fresh hot bite of garlic appeals, literally chomp your way through a whole raw clove. However you use it, use lots of it! It’s easy to peel and easy to crush and is so good for you.
It can be kept at room temperature but it’s quite ‘ponky’, and sometimes the fridge is the better place for it! If storing it at room temperature, keep it out of the sun, and in a shallow basket where air can circulate around it. Before refrigerating new garlic, transfer it to an unsealed plastic bag lined with paper towels and keep it in the vegetable bin in the fridge Check on it from time to time to make sure it is not going mouldy.
If you harvest your own garlic, or are lucky enough to get it from a grower or farmers market with its long leaves still attached, plait the corms (bulbs) together and hang in a cool dry place. The garlic will keep well for several months. However, if you store it in a hot garage, garden shed or similar, it will soon sprout!
During the rest of the year you will most likely buy corms of garlic that have been hardened off and dried. The best place to store these is in the vegetable crisper, or for short term storage, at room temperature. Take off only the cloves you need, as they will stay moister if attached to the base.
New Zealand garlic is available for about 8 months of the year. Then we run out! Imported garlic is brought in from China most of the year and from California in late winter and spring. How can you tell the difference? Easy. All Chinese garlic is trimmed back hard to the corm (New Zealand garlic is never trimmed like this), and it’s often suspiciously white.
Contrary to what many people believe, garlic aids digestion. However, once it starts to sprout it loses its sweet taste and juicy flesh, gets stronger and, eventually, develops a rank flavour. It is wise to remove any sprouts in the cloves as these are the bits that can cause indigestion. Just cut the clove open and pick out the sprouty bit.
Garlic can be quite sharp and biting to taste; it can also increase the heat of a dish with its pungency. When garlic is crushed, a chemical reaction takes place as the cells are broken down. Crushed paste or juice is very potent. If you want less of a hot bite from garlic, chop it, or if you prefer a milder flavour still, slice it. Garlic is strongest used raw, and mellows during cooking – the longer you cook it, the milder it becomes. Garlic with smaller corms and purplish skin tends to be the hottest.
Some claims about garlic, such as keeping the spooks at bay, may appear far-fetched, but the belief in its antiseptic properties, its ability to destroy bacteria and how it aids digestion, not causes it, as many wrongly believe, have passed from folklore to fact. And, like most other members of the onion family to which it belongs, garlic protects against heart disease. Recent research claims it helps lower cholesterol levels, too. The trouble is, you need to eat a lot of garlic to get the benefits from it. Well and good. Go for it, especially in summer when the bulbs are crisp and juicy. I’m all for using several cloves of garlic a day. I never take garlic pills nor do I use ready-prepared garlic. One of the good things about preparing food, is actually preparing it, not squishing something out of a tube or undoing a jar and spooning out the contents. Unwrapping cloves of garlic is therapeutic to me. I know garlic is good for me and I know if I buy fresh garlic and prepare it, it’s fresh. The cloves are like intact capsules of goodness, just waiting to be crushed to disgorge their life-giving properties. And like most fresh food, once it is processed and the cell structure changes (ready-prepared crushed garlic, for instance), the goodness seeps away. I’m not a scientist. I just know this.
If you want all the goodness out of the food you eat, prepare it yourself. Prepare it fresh.