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Garlic Facts & Health Benefits

  • How Many Kinds of Garlic are There?
  • What are Cloves, Bulbs and Bulbils?
  • What is Hardneck Garlic?
  • What is Softneck Garlic?
  • Can You Grow Garlic from a Bulbil?
  • What is a Scape?
  • What is Elephant Garlic?
  • What is Spring Baby Garlic?
  • Where Should You Store Garlic?
  • Where did Garlic Originate?
  • Did Ancient Peoples such as the Egyptians Use Garlic?
  • Where was Garlic First Domesticated?
  • How Should You Cook Garlic?
  • How Should You Roast Garlic?
  • What Gives Garlic its Pungent Odour?
  • What is a Simple Remedy for Garlic Breath?
  • How Can You Get Rid of Garlic Odour on Your Hands?
  • What is the Nutritional Breakdown of a Clove of Garlic?
  • What are the health-promoting chemicals in garlic?
  • What Ailments Has Garlic Been Claimed to Prevent and Correct?
  • Does Garlic Lower Cholesterol?
  • Do Cultures that Consume Large Amounts of Garlic Enjoy Greater Health?


    How Many Kinds of Garlic are There?
    There may well be over 450 identifiable strains of garlic.
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    What are Cloves, Bulbs and Bulbils?
    The mature garlic plant produces a bulb, sometimes called a head of garlic, with numerous individual cloves inside the paper-like wrapper. An individual clove when planted will reproduce an entire bulb after about nine months. Some varieties of garlic also produce bulbils on top of their tall stalks (scapes). These are not true seeds, but can serve the same function. Bulbils are secondary cloves often produced in the flower cluster.
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    What is Hardneck Garlic?
    Technically, it is allium sativum ophioscorodon. Unlike the softneck garlic grown commercially, especially in Spain and China, this garlic subspecies produces a hard, woody flower stalk. The flower (topset or umbel) often contains bulbils. Many varieties develop partial or full coils in the stalks (scapes). We have to remove the scape in order to increase the size of the harvested bulbs. The results vary from variety to variety. Many of the hardnecks, have very rich and distinctive flavors, including the much prized Rocamboles. Porcelain hardnecks are increasingly being grown in Canada and now in Scotland they have the advantage of having large even sized cloves with a longer storage life but still retaining the superior taste. Many chefs praise the various hardneck varieties for their true garlic flavour. The cloves are also relatively easy to peel.
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    What is Softneck Garlic?
    There are two basic types of garlic, hardneck and softneck. You can easily tell them apart in the store. If the stem at the top of the bulb is soft and papery, it is a softneck. Most of the commercially grown garlic, especially from China,Spain and France, is of the softneck variety. It is technically called allium sativum sativum. It does not produce a flowering stalk. Hardneck, as the name implies, has a hard stalk almost as thick as a pencil. The softnecks tend to have longer shelf lives than the hardnecks. They also tend to have more, but smaller, cloves per bulb, and are somewhat harder to peel than hardnecks.
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    Can You Grow Garlic from a Bulbil?
    Bulbils are small secondary cloves, though not true seeds, that are formed in the flower cluster (umbel) at the top of the scape. Bulbils range in size from that of rice grains to peas, depending upon the variety of garlic. They can be planted either in Autumn or spring and will produce small garlic plants the first year. Harvestable bulbs will result in years two or three.
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    What is a Scape?
    Hardneck garlic developes an impressive flowering stalk, called a scape, which can grow from 24 to 48 inches in height. At the top is the "seed" pod, more properly called the umbel, which contains the flowers and bulbils. The umbel pod is covered in by the spathe, which often has a pronounced beak. Some garlic varieties give improved yields if the scape is cut before umbel development. The scapes on Rocamboles form beautiful circular curls. These are prized by floral arrangers in some countries, especially Japan.
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    What is Elephant Garlic?
    Technically elephant garlic is more closely related to the leek. In the past it has also been called "giant garlic" and "giant leek." The huge bulbs, with several cloves which can individually be the size of regular garlic bulbs, are famous for their rich but milder flavour. The largest bulbs can sometimes reach a weight of a half pound or more. They have tall scapes, which can reach five feet in height, with a beautiful purple flower on their top. This variety originates from central Europe.
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    What is Spring Baby Garlic?
    When the shoots from a Autumn planted clove start growing again in the spring, they look somewhat like spring onions, but they taste just like garlic. If you harvest the plant, which at this stage has no really identifiable bulb, it makes a marvelous addition to many recipes. It can be used whenever the texture of spring onions and the taste of garlic are desired.
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    Where Should You Store Garlic?
    Just like bananas and bread, garlic should never be stored in the refrigerator! After harvest, keep bulbs in well aerated bags or baskets. The humidity should not be too high or germination will start. Relative humidities in the 30-50% range are best.Temperatures a little below 15 degrees are ideal. In the kitchen, keep the bulbs at room temperature in a well ventilated container. We can supply garlic keepers to suit our garlic. After harvest, bulbs will keep for several months, depending on the variety. If cloves begin to shrivel inside the wrapper, or if humidity causes sprouting, this bulb is way past its prime.
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    Where did Garlic Originate?
    Horticulturists argue a lot about this one. But one of the better theories is that wild garlic was first domesticated in the Kirgiz desert of southern Siberia. It certainly grows there. People tend to think of garlic as a warm weather plant. In fact many varieties don't do well unless they experience cold winter weather (like tulips and daffodils). Many varieties produce hotter bulbs after colder winters. So Siberians could grow garlic and during the last century they were allowed to pay their taxes with garlic.
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    Did Ancient Peoples such as the Egyptians Use Garlic?
    In large quantities. The builders of the pyramids were often paid in fresh garlic, in part to maintain their strength and stamina. Garlic was found in King Tutankhamen's tomb. Egyptian men were reputed to chew on a clove after a night of dalliance lest their wives get a whiff of their rival's perfume. Egyptian medical manuals from 1500 BC list almost two dozen treatments using garlic.
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    Where was Garlic First Domesticated?
    There is evidence that garlic was placed in ancient Egyptian tombs as early as 5000 years ago. There are numerous references to garlic in Chinese literature as far back as 2000 BC. Chinese sacrificial lambs were spiced with garlic to make them more appealing to the gods. You can find garlic praised in ancient Sanskrit writings. By 1500 BC, garlic was old hat, having spread to virtually every civilization in Europe, Asia and North Africa.
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    How Should You Cook Garlic?
    Chefs recommend that you dice garlic finely with a sharp knife. It is not necessary to crush garlic to release the flavour. Sauté garlic at a low temperature so it does not burn and takes on an acrid, unpleasant taste. The garlic does not need to brown, but should remain translucent in the pan. The garlic will also continue to cook slowly after the other ingredients are added. Some cooks also rub a sliced clove all around a warming pan to add the essential flavor, or rub the sides of the salad bowl.
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    How Should You Roast Garlic?
    Roasted garlic cloves on toast or French bread with cheese such as a brie or a camembert, and perhaps some sliced almonds or capers, are one of life's great pleasures. While garlic roasters can be purchased in cooking shops, aluminum foil can do the job nicely. Just trim the upper quarter inch or so off the bulb, exposing the cloves. Drizzle with some olive oil and, if desired, some salt and pepper. Especially for elephant/buffalo garlic, a little cooking sherry mellows the taste. Wrap the bulbs in foil and slow cook them in a 170 degrees C or gas mark 3 oven for about an hour and a half. The treat is ready when you can easily pop the clove out of its wrapper and spread it on the bread like butter. Enjoy.
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    What Gives Garlic its Pungent Odour?
    Fresh garlic is generally odour-free. Only when cut or crushed do chemical reactions take place which produce the glorious scent. The garlic odour results primarily from a chemical called diallyl disulphide, which is a breakdown product from allicin.
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    What is a Simple Remedy for Garlic Breath?
    Chewing on several sprigs of raw parsley can significantly cut back on garlic breath. Of course, if everyone else has had garlic, problem solved. Besides, it's now chic to reek. The French claim red wine can also eliminate garlic breath. We are not sure about that, but we keep experimenting anyway.
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    How Can You Get Rid of Garlic Odour on Your Hands?
    Its hard to cook with garlic without getting some on your hands. After exposure, scrub your hands with salt and lemon juice, using cold water. Then rinse off with soapy warm water.
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    What is the Nutritional Breakdown of a Clove of Garlic?
    Everyone wants to know what they are eating these days. Reading food nutritional labels has become a national fad (well, maybe). But here is the official breakdown of a single garlic clove: 2-7 Calories, 0.2 grams protein, 0.1 grams fat, .05 grams fiber, 1.0 grams carbohydrate, 1.4 mg calcium, 10 mg phosphorous, .07 mg iron, 0.9 mg sodium, 26 mg potassium, .01 mg vitamin B1, .004 mg vitamin B2, .02 mg niacin, .75 mg vitamin C Each clove is also rich in many trace elements including zinc, manganese, germanium and especially selenium plus numerous sulfur compounds. These latter are where the real health benefits may lie.
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    What are the health-promoting chemicals in garlic?
    Aside from being low in calories at well under 10 calories per clove, being low in fat and having no cholesterol, the garlic clove may be a veritable medicine cabinet of beneficial compounds. In 1858 none other than Louis Pasteur noted the antiseptic properties of garlic. In the 1940s, a Nobel Prize winning chemist by the name of Dr. Arthur Stoll discovered the compound allicin which he felt was key in garlic's bacterial battling capabilities. As a clove is crushed or sliced the enzyme allinase triggers a series of complex chemical reactions. One of the resulting chemicals, allicin, is generally regarded as one of the key players in garlic medicine. Other substances such as adenosine and ajoene also may be of great significance. This is an area of very active research and new findings are being released almost daily. For garlic supplements,
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    What Ailments Has Garlic Been Claimed to Prevent and Correct?
    There are numerous medical claims about the benefits of garlic. The claims range from highly controlled clinical studies all the way to borderline quackery. But there is little doubt that garlic has many therapeutic properties and nutritional science is gradually beginning to sort out the benefits. Among the ailments that garlic has been proposed to alleviate to one degree or another are: acne, asthma, high blood pressure, elevated cholesterol, heart disease, diabetes, dysentery, baldness, arthritis, cancer, earache, eczema, emphysema, digestive disorders, heavy metal poisoning, infections, intestinal worms, insomnia, colds, influenza, allergies, toothache, warts and vampires. Ancient Romans were reputed to use a paste of crushed garlic to try to cure hemorrhoids. During the Black Death in Europe some doctors stuffed garlic cloves into their face masks to help ward off the plague. Even during World War I, in the pre-antibiotic era, garlic juice was widely and effectively used as an antiseptic on the wounds of Allied soldiers.
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    Does Garlic Lower Cholesterol?
    A number of medical studies have pointed towards garlic being "the aspirin of the 90s". It has been reputed to lower blood pressure and bad cholesterol as well as sporting anti-microbial and anti-carcinogenic properties. The director of the world famous cardiac health project, the Framingham Study, includes garlic in his listing of foods that may contribute to the prevention of heart disease.
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    Do Cultures that Consume Large Amounts of Garlic Enjoy Greater Health?
    Separating out the impact of a single food on the health of a population is a very difficult scientific task. High garlic consumption has been claimed to be one reason there is relatively less heart disease in China. But there are a multitude of other influences. There is one famous study, however, of an Indian religious cult, the Jains. The members of one branch ate copious quantities of onions and garlic (over a pound of onions plus 17 cloves) each week. As a group they enjoyed low levels of blood cholesterol and triglycerides. A more orthodox branch of Jains, who never ate onions or garlic, had significantly higher cholesterol and triglycerides. This may not be news. According to Jean Carper, the popular nutrition writer, Indian doctors prescribed garlic as a heart disease preventative almost 2000 years ago.
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