One of the best known and most useful herbs.
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Allium sativum is a bulbous plant that grows from divisions of the bulb known as cloves. If a gardener saves some of their own garlic cloves, replanting the best each year, they will gradually produce a good strain well suited to the local soil and conditions. It does best in an open position on rich soil, with no competition from near neighbours. Traditionally it is planted on the shortest day and harvested on the shortest, but if the soil is heavy or liable to flooding, it may be better to delay planting. It should be planted in a similar manner to onion sets or shallots, except that it is better to push them a little further into the soil.
Garlic can either be eaten green or when fully mature. Green, or wet, garlic is delicious roasted and then spread onto warm crusty bread. At this stage, the skins around the cloves won’t have formed, so the soft centre can easily be scooped out. If the bulbs are the be stored, they must be allowed to remain in the ground until the foliage has withered. Ideally, the plants should then be lifted and laid out in the sun for a few days. Bulbs can then be stored in nets, or plaited into ropes.
There are many useful properties of garlic. Eaten cooked or raw, it helps to ward off colds and chest infections, reduces blood cholesterol, aids digestion and cures diarrhoea and worms. Eating garlic, or rubbing raw cloves or an infusion onto the skin helps deter all types of vampires, particularly biting insects. Garlic is also naturally antibacterial, so has been used to clean wounds, preventing infection.
Garlic is an essential ingredient of many savoury dishes, from around the world. French, Indian, Italian and Chinese recipes all call for garlic. It is used to make a tasty butter that is placed on top of grilling steaks, fish or mushrooms and added to fondue and sauces, giving a rich tasty flavour. Garlic bread is a popular snack or accompaniment to light meals.
Raw garlic may be used sparingly in salads. Uncooked this herb has a harsher taste that may overwhelm more delicately flavoured ingredients. Once cooked, it is sweet, rich and mild.
Some people are wary of eating garlic as it leaves a strong smell on the breath. To ensure no offence is caused, try to ensure that anyone you may get close to is also sharing your meal. Failing that, eat raw parsley, with or after the meal, or chew on a coffee bean. If eaten solely for its beneficial properties, then capsules may be taken instead.
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Published in: Cooking