I was recently asked to contribute to a cookbook that uses garlic in every recipe. I wrote the foreward and cooking tips. The book, “Aglio Garlic Lover’s Cookbook” by Arabelle Publishing of Chesterfield, includes savory and sweet recipes for everyday meals and special occasions.
Never thought I would see a recipe for garlic vanilla ice cream, but there it is on page 84. The author, Caroline Sherman, has enjoyed the flavor of garlic for over 20 years and finally put her recipes on paper to share with anyone else who likes the pungent flavor.
While researching for the book, I discovered several things that I didn’t know. Garlic is a plant in the allium or onion family, grows in many parts of the world and is popular with home gardeners. There are two types of garlic, softneck and hard neck, and each has multiple varieties.
Softneck garlic has more cloves, up to 20, but no center stem or flower. The skins are thick and hard to peel.
Hardneck garlic has fewer cloves, a woody center stem that grows into a flower and thinner skins.
The thicker skins of the softneck give it a longer shelf life, but the hardneck usually has the most robust flavor.
Elephant garlic is more closely related to the onion, has only a few cloves, and a milder flavor that tastes like an onion and garlic blend.
Garlic is popular for its pungent scent and flavor and is a significant ingredient in many Italian dishes, but for centuries it has been coveted for its medicinal uses. Documents show that it was used by the Egyptians, Babylonians, Greeks, Romans and Chinese.
The health benefits come from the sulfur compounds released when garlic cloves are cut. It contains vitamins C and B6, manganese, and selenium.
It is high in flavor and low in calories, so including it in your food is a good idea and may keep you from adding more health-compromising ingredients like salt or sugar. Reports have indicated that it may be heart healthy by lowering blood pressure and LDL levels, but there is no significant indication that it improves HDL, or “good cholesterol,” levels in the blood.
There have been tales that garlic may have been the first performance enhancing drug and given to Olympic athletes in Greece (healthline.com). But more recent studies on nine competitive cyclists showed no improved performance with garlic.
Other studies suggest that garlic may be effective in reducing headache symptoms, reducing lead levels in the blood, improving bone health in women, and reducing osteoarthritis symptoms. However, most of these studies were done on rodents, and similar studies on humans have been inconclusive.
What science can tell us with more certainty is that garlic is antibacterial, antifungal, antimicrobial and anti-parasitic. If you want to include garlic in your own health maintenance routine, consume the equivalent of two cloves per day as fresh garlic or an equal dose can be purchased in capsule form.
Now everyone is familiar with the powerful aroma that garlic leaves in a room after cooking, on your hands from chopping or on your breath from eating garlic. One proposed remedy is a dose of lemon. Clean the cutting surface, utensils and your hands with lemon juice. Two additional recommendations are to rub your hands with a stainless steel spoon as if it were a bar of soap, or rub your hands with coffee grounds or a few coffee beans. I’ve used lime juice because it is what I had in my refrigerator, and it did the trick on my hands. I’m not sure if lemon juice or lozenges will help with garlic breath, but it might be worth a try.