Originating in Central Asia, garlic has been grown and consumed for thousands of years as a result of both its medicinal and culinary virtues.
In 3,000 BC, the Chinese were using it as a condiment. The Ancient Egyptians gave it to workers who were building the pyramids to give them strength. It was widely consumed by the Hebrews, Greeks, and Romans for the same reason. The Romans spread its use in the wake of their conquests. Charlemagne imposed its cultivation in every garden in France.
Christopher Columbus introduced it to the island of Hispaniola, from where its use subsequently spread throughout South and Central America. However, it was not until the 19th century that it became popular in North America.
Garlic has always been considered a panacea in every civilization. It is present in almost every one of the world’s cuisines, in particular those of the Mediterranean basin.
Heads of garlic should be quite heavy and rounded.
The cloves are firm and shiny without the green germ growing taller than the cloves.
Wild garlic leaves should be very green and with a lettuce-like consistency.
Aside from fresh, garlic is also available frozen, as flakes, granules, or powder, and peeled, minced, in paste or pulp, in oil, smoked, pickled, etc.
Sulmona red garlic shoots are sold in jars.
Garlic is used unpeeled, peeled, whole, or chopped.
If there is a green germ, it should always be removed.
Garlic adds aroma to marinades, garnishes, compound butters, vegetables, and pasta. It forms the base for aïoli, and is an essential part of pesto.
It can be made into confit with olive oil. This highly aromatic garlic confit can then be used to season salads, or to start the meat-cooking process.
Garlic is the base of a number of emblematic dishes:
. Aigo boulido: garlic soup infused with sage and served with toasted bread (Provence, France).
. Mast-o-moussir : chopped wild garlic and yogurt (Iran).
. Agliata: garlic, bread, and vinegar sauce (Italy).
. Adobo: marinade seasoned with garlic, paprika, jalapeño pepper, oil, and vinegar (Caribbean, Central America).
. Mojo de Ajo: sauce made with garlic, olive oil, pepper, and lemon juice (Caribbean).
. Chimichurri: sauce/condiment (Argentina).
Kept cool, braided garlic (with its stems) dries and keeps better.
Fresh heads should be stored in cool rooms at 1–5ºC and consumed quickly.
Dried garlic heads should be kept in a dry place at room temperature, otherwise they risk going moldy.
. Common garlic
Common garlic can be white, pink, or purple.
Available throughout the year, it is sold fresh at harvest time and dried after that, as individual heads or as braids containing a number of heads.
Of the numerous varieties existing in France, there are two main groups: spring garlic grown in the south and fall garlic grown in the north.
Of these, the most outstanding varieties are:
France: Ail blanc de Lomagne (Midi-Pyrénées, PGI) - Ail rose de Lautrec (Midi-Pyrénées, PGI and Label Rouge) - Ail violet de Cadours (Midi-Pyrénées) - Ail d’Auvergne (pink) - Ail de la Drôme (PGI, white) - Ail de Provence (white) - Ail fumé d’Arleux (Nord-Pas-de-Calais, PGI, white and smoked) - Ail de Cherrueix (Brittany, white)
Italy: Aglio Bianco Polesano (Veneto, PDO, white) - Aglio di Voghiera (Ferrara, PDO, white) - Aglio Rosso di Nùbia (Sicily, red) - Aglio Rosso di Sulmona (Abruzzi, red)
And also: Ajo Morado de Las Pedroñeras (Spain, PGI, purple) – Aomori black garlic (Japan), pickled in sea water – Red Garlic of Nubia (Egypt) - Mousir garlic (Iran)
. Wild garlic
Wild garlic is a woodland plant that is harvested in spring (mid-March to mid-June)
. Green garlic
3-month-old garlic shoots, 20 cm long, picked before the bulb forms.
. Elephant garlic
Resembling a leek, this variety comprises only 4–6 cloves.
. Sand leek or rocambole
Very small cloves
. Garlic chives or Chinese chives
A variety of chive with white flowers
Garlic has always been considered a remedy. Throughout history, explorers and mariners carried it in order to overcome illnesses.
This vegetable-condiment has amazing nutritional powers. Its beneficial effects can be felt even at a small dose (1 clove per day).
Its age-old medicinal reputation has now been confirmed by a large number of scientific studies: garlic has antimicrobial, antiallergenic, and antioxidant properties.
This is why it is beneficial for the cardiovascular system, lowering cholesterol and blood pressure. It delays aging of the cells, strengthens the immune system, and plays an important part in preventing certain cancers.