Even the earliest cooks and healers considered garlic powerful and indispensable, but when it was introduced in the United States in the 1700s, garlic was slow to catch on. Today, however, the average American consumes over 2 1/2 pounds of garlic annually. It's compatible with virtually every savory food and is available in a number of convenient dried forms.
Allium sativum L.
Botanical Family: Liliaceae
Common name: Garlic
The Plant: Like onions, leeks, and shallots, garlic belongs to the lily family (Liliaceae), and its species ( sativum) is one of over 500 species of the genus Allium. (Allium is the ancient Latin word for "hot" or "burning.") The flat, pointed leaves of the two-foot tall plants are most likely responsible for the name, "garlic" which is derived from the old English gothic word (gaar, which means "spear," The small, globe-shaped flower heads are white to pink in color.
Garlic cloves are planted in the late fall or early spring (depending on location). As the plant grows, it develops a bulb, which is composed of 7 to 20 cloves (depending on variety of garlic used). Garlic has been cultivated for at least several thousand years and consumed as a food and medicine for at least 4,000 years. As a result, there are a wide range of varieties, with differing maturity times, size of plants and bulbs, size and number of cloves, color and flavor.
Garlic is consumed in large quantities both fresh and in dehydrated forms. Fresh garlic has the truest flavor and in some recipes, the texture of pieces of fresh garlic is a must. It is also more expensive, takes more storage space, and because water is 60% of the content, it takes more fresh garlic to produce the same impact as dried in a recipe. About 25% of the garlic consumed in the U.S. is fresh. Besides lower price and ease of storage, dehydrated garlic is also easier to use and comes in a variety of sizes that meet most every need. A garlic essential oil is also produced and its main use is as a food flavoring.
Constituents of Note: Garlic' s potency has earned it the nickname "stinky rose" — almost always used with affection, of course. The compounds in garlic responsible for its penetrating aroma and flavor are valued for both their health benefits and their culinary qualities. Sulphur-containing compounds such as allicin are generally considered primary components of the very potent essential oil (present at around 0.2%). In the growing garlic plant, allicin provides a protective role to the plant against various pests and disease organisms. It is not naturally present, but is formed by the action of an enzyme when tissues damage occurs. However allicin is unstable and breaks down quickly, so any health benefits attributed to garlic are most likely due to a synergistic action of various other compounds.
In the body, the aromatic compounds in garlic are primarily excreted through the lungs and secondarily through the sweat glands. (Rubbing a fresh clove on the bottom of the foot demonstrates the bodily movement of the essential oil compounds — garlic breath will result soon thereafter.)
Quality: Garlic quality is affected by weather and how the freshly harvested garlic bulbs are dried, cleaned and processed. Good quality garlic has a strong, sharp odor and a savory, strong, hot, slightly bitter flavor. The color is creamy-white with minimal amount of brown or green specks from the garlic skins or tops.
Garlic is naturally
hygroscopic (water absorbing), especially the powder, and must be kept dry and away from humidity to prevent clumping. (Humidity is detrimental to the quality of dried spices in general, which is why the stove is the worst place in the house to store them.)
Garlic should be stored in cool, dry conditions in tightly sealed, airtight containers. We use silicon dioxide as a free-flowing agent in some of our bottled garlic (check label information on the shopping tab for specific items). This is the only free-flowing ingredient we use — it is approved by the USDA for use in organic products.
Did you know? Garlic was historically valued for imparting strength and speed, it was eaten before athletic competitions by the Greeks, by Roman soldiers before going into battle, and by Egyptian pyramid builders. The Egyptians also placed clay models of garlic in tombs, and dried bulbs were found in the tomb of King Tutankhamen. Garlic also boasts legendary power over evil and disease. Egyptians swore on garlic when they took a solemn oath, and in the Dark Ages it was used to ward off vampires. During both World Wars, sterilized swabs of moss and garlic were used for dressings.
Directions: Add minced garlic (also called garlic flakes) directly to soups, dressings, stews, casseroles, sauces and gravies, marinades, pickles, and dressings, or rehydrate first by soaking in cool water for 30 minutes. Use one teaspoon garlic flakes in place of one fresh garlic clove
Granulated garlic can be substituted for fresh garlic in most any recipe where the flavor, but not the texture, of garlic is needed; use 3/4 teaspoon granules in place of each fresh clove. The granules are more easily dispersed than flakes and provide more bulk and thickening than powdered garlic.
Garlic powder, which blends more easily into liquids, is a good choice for sauces and other recipes where flavor, but not texture or bulk, is desired. Use it in tomato-based dishes, dressings, sausage, and spice blends. Or sprinkle it on buttered bread before broiling. One-half teaspoon garlic powder is equivalent to one clove of garlic.
Suggested Uses: Dried garlic accounts for about 75 percent of total garlic consumption in the United States (over 2 1/2 pounds per person annually). It's compatible with virtually every savory food, and it's available in a number of convenient, dried forms, including minced garlic or garlic flakes, garlic granules and garlic powder.
Garlic adds distinction to just about any savory dish — sauces, stews, soups, salad dressing, sautés, mashed potatoes, casseroles, breads, stir fries, grains, even croutons. Garlic is used in nearly every world cuisine, but traditionally it is very popular in Mediterranean, Indian, Chinese, Southeast Asian, Mexican, Central and South American dishes. The French use it in garlic mayonnaise (aioli).
Garlic, in any form, is best added late in the cooking process of dishes such as sauces, soups and stews. Heat breaks down and dissipates the essential oil, lessening the flavor and aroma of the dish over time.
Garlic is cultivated throughout much of the world as a spice, food and medicine. The primary commercial source of dehydrated garlic is China (75% of world production), with Korean and India a distant second and third, followed by the United States. The higher quality of domestic garlic helped keep cultivation high for many years (even after the lower-priced Chinese garlic entered the market) and acreage peaked in 1999. Over 80% of the United States garlic production is in California, most notably around the city of Gilroy, which touts itself as the garlic capital of the U.S. This area was the source of our garlic for more than 25 years.
China' s improved quality, large inventories and declining production in the Unites States (especially the spotty availability of certified organic garlic due to a soil blight), forced us to search for a reliable source in China. Both our organic and non-organic garlic now comes from Chinese facilities that we have visited and inspected. Our organic garlic now comes from a Well Earth supplier in China.
We learned about a new food while we were in China — garlic scapes or garlic tops. A popular and tasty vegetable, in Asia they are added to soups, stir-frys and sauces. We watched the farmers harvest and bundle the garlic scapes for market. We sampled them for the first time at a restaurant that night and have to agree with the Chinese — these are way too good to waste.
Meet Our Grower: It took visits to nearly a dozen different organic garlic suppliers before we located a potential Well Earth partner in China. We were impressed with their relationship and support of the farmers they worked with and their commitment to organic principles and quality products. We worked with them for almost two years to make changes in their manufacturing process that improved the quality and consistency of their dehydrated garlic products. Their relatively new plant was well constructed to meet modern GMPs (good manufacturing practices). The production methods for garlic are straightforward. Freshly harvested garlic bulbs are brought to the facility where they are stored while they wait their turn to be processed. Processing starts with hand sorting and trimming the bulbs. The outside skin removed, and the garlic bulbs are inspected. Those that pass inspection are sent through a washing process that also separates the garlic into cloves. The cleaned cloves are thinly sliced (0.2 inch) and oven-dried at temperatures of 144 to 167 degrees F. The dried garlic pieces are cooled before being stored in sealed containers. When the Frontier order arrives, the chopped, dried garlic pieces are sorted by size and air cleaned to remove any loose skin before being milled to produce the products that we ordered.