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Garlic

Class 1 - Spain

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Garlic

Pronounce it: gar-lik

Part of the lily, or alium, family, of which onions are also a member, garlic is one of the most indispensible ingredients around, and plays a central role in Mediterranean and Asian cookery. A bulb composed of many individual cloves enclosed in a thin white, mauve or purple skin, it's quite fiery, pungent and crunchy when raw. As it cooks it becomes more mellow and creamy.

It's mainly available dried, but fresh (also known as 'wet' or 'green') garlic, which has a mild flavour, can also be found in some stores in season.

Dried garlic is sold either loose, in bunches or plaited into strings; generally speaking, the smaller the bulb, the stronger the flavour. Solo garlic (just one large clove) and the large-bulbed elephant garlic are also available, though the latter is, in fact, more closely related to the leek, and has a very mild flavour and soft texture.

Read our guide on the health benefits of garlic.

Availability

Dried is available all year round. Fresh garlic is in season from July to the start of October. You could try growing your own, too.

Prepare it

Using your fingers, divide the whole bulb into individual cloves (if you don't want to use the whole bulb, just pull away the number of cloves you need and leave the rest of the bulb intact, as it will last longer that way). Remove any green shoots, as they taste bitter.

For crushed garlic, either use a garlic press (you don't have to remove the skin) or lay the blade of a large knife on top of the clove and press it down hard with the heel of your hand. Then remove the skin. If you'd like to break it down even further, sprinkle with some salt and crush it again.

For chopped garlic, peel the skin off, then slice. You can then remove the skin. If any of the cloves have small green shoots, remove them before chopping, as they taste bitter.

Garlic contains numerous health promoting phytonutrients substances that have proven benefits against coronary artery diseases, infections and cancers.
Strong flavoured, garlic cloves contain many noteworthy phytonutrients, minerals, vitamins, and antioxidants that have proven health benefits.

Buyer's guide

Green, or fresh, garlic is usually only available from June to August in the UK.

Preparation

Garlic has many culinary uses. The cloves are separated, peeled and then used whole, or chopped or crushed. If the garlic is old, be sure to remove the bitter €š¬˜germ from the centre of the clove. The easiest way to crush garlic is to place a clove on a board and, using the flat side of a small knife, press down firmly until you have squashed it to a pulp. Sprinkle a little salt on the clove to help the knife grip. Garlic crushers are fine, but some say that crushing the garlic this way gives it a bitter taste. The more finely the garlic is crushed, the stronger it will taste in the dish, but slow oven-baking tends to mellow the flavour.

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