Like most plants, there are two sides to garlic: the culinary and the medicinal. For centuries people have used plants and herbs of all sorts for their apparent health giving qualities. How convenient that something so healthy can also add so much flavor to our daily diets.
To explore the two sides of cilantro, we've enlisted the help of Brenda Hyde, editor of SeedsOfKnowledge.com, a website dedicated to creating and sharing family memories, and Lucinda Jenkins, editor of GlenbrookFarm.com, a comprehensive herbal website.
We've filled this article out with some recipes from right here at FabulousFoods.com, so you can experiment with the distinctive flavor of garlic yourself. Find them in the related recipes section below.
The Culinary Side of Garlic
Garlic is one of my favorite herbs! If you haven't been a fan of garlic, give it a second chance. It can be roasted, blanched or used raw for different levels of pungency.
Garlic is available year round, but is freshest between March and August. The bulb is planted in the late fall and harvested in the spring and summer. Even if you don't grow it, which I don't, it is readily available in the stores.
Choose heads that are firm to the touch, and do not have green growth on them. Do not refrigerate, but store in a cool, dark place.
We usually find white or California late garlic in the store. Another type that has reddish purple skin, is called Red, Mexican or Italian garlic. These cloves are smaller and some say a little stronger. Be sure to try each variety that you find in your area, but they can be interchanged in recipes.
Garlic mellows with roasting or blanching. Add cloves to boiling water and blanch for 2 minutes, crush, then add to your favorite dip or spread.
I sauté thinly sliced garlic in butter or olive oil, add chopped sage and cooked green beans for a wonderful side dish.
Minced garlic can also be added to any stuffing dish.
Cut small slits in your pork or beef roast before cooking and insert half cloves to season.
When making soups that call for sautéed onion, I always throw in minced garlic too. For the frugal cook, it's indispensable!
One interesting note: the elephant garlic that is popular is not a true garlic and is actually much milder than white garlic.
The Medicinal Side of Garlic
If I had to pick an herb to take with to ABC's Survivor Show, I would have garlic in my little leather bag. If it was used way back by the builders of the Egyptian pyramids for strength and endurance then it has an old old track record, give me some of that!
Garlic has many healing attributes in its favor. It is antifungal and antibacterial which means it will help to heal athletes foot, jock itch and ringworm by taking it internally and externally. It can also assist with the healing of a yeast infection. Warm garlic oil helps to heal an earache caused by bacteria.
Besides warding off vampires it can also fend off a cold, flu or sore throat due to its allicin content. Alliin is a complex sulfur compound that is changed to allicin by crushing. It's like magic! Pop some fresh garlic in your mouth, crush it with your teeth and nature takes the signal to change the alliin into allicin so the healing can begin.
Research is showing promising results in garlic's ability to fight off cancer cells, especially the cells that attack the digestive system, the breast, and the prostate gland. A chemical called allyl sulfide is thought to be responsible for the cancer fighting ability.
Garlic also has the ability to make your blood thinner and less sticky which means it helps to prevent the platelets from building plaque up in your arteries. This helps to maintain the flexibility of the arteries in the heart, which means that the heart won't have to work so hard to do a normal job.
I tend to believe the whole plant theory. This means that when a plant is picked, dried, freeze dried, smashed, extracted, deodorized , standardized, it will lose some or all of its healing benefits. I feel that fresh garlic or dried powdered garlic gives the best healing benefits.
Big doses of garlic may intensify the effect of coumadin or aspirin.
While you are preparing some of these wonderful recipes , just pop a slice of garlic in your mouth. If anybody complains about your breath tell them "It's better than no breath at all!"