Kick up the flavor with one of nature's most powerful herbs.
“Tomatoes and oregano make it Italian; wine and tarragon make it French. Sour cream makes it Russian; lemon and cinnamon make it Greek … Garlic makes it good.”
— Alice May Brock, author of Alice’s Restaurant cookbook.
This article is part of our Guide to Garlic. Click here for growing tips or click here to learn about garlic's health benefits.
From subtle to spectacular, garlic’s flavor palette is almost as wide-ranging as its number of varieties. One tiny, fresh clove can deliver a powerful punch, yet an entire handful of bulbs, when roasted or gently sweated in olive oil, can melt into a tender puree with a sweet, deceptively mellow flavor.
A member of the lily plant family, garlic (Allium sativum) shares its lineage with leeks, onions, shallots and chives. Like its pungent relatives, garlic is more vegetable than seasoning: Although garlic greens make tasty springtime fare, we most often use the fleshy, underground bulbs that separate into cloves—each neatly wrapped in paper-thin skin.
Knowing even a little bit about the types (softneck and hardneck), groups and some of the hundreds of cultivars can give you a master’s edge in the kitchen.
Of the hardneck garlics—including Rocambole, Porcelain and Purple Stripe—Rocambole is best known. The Rocambole varieties ‘Spanish Roja’, ‘Russian Red’ and ‘Carpathian’ have complex, full-bodied flavors that chefs love. Porcelain varieties (such as ‘Romanian Red’ and ‘Leningrad’) have larger but fewer cloves per bulb. Purple Stripe hardneck varieties are perhaps the most beautiful garlics.
Softneck bulbs—such as Artichoke and Silverskin varieties—tend to be larger, have more cloves and store longer than hardneck garlic varieties. Artichokes often are mild-flavored, but can become pungent when grown in cold climates. Silverskin varieties tend to taste very strong and often lack the complexity of other types.
Use these garlics for roasting, mince and sauté the cloves, or display the bulbs in braids. Also enjoy the milder Artichoke garlics in egg dishes with tender vegetables and in cream soups. (For more about choosing garlic, see "A Few of My Favorite Garlics.")
Cooking with garlic is a matter of taste, technique and health. The compound allicin gives garlic its unmistakable odor and health benefits. (For more about the health benefits of garlic, see "Garlic: Nature's gift for life.") Try these tips for maximum flavor and good health:
Feisty or fragile, fiery or sweet, garlic is the secret to making food good. For a stroll down Gourmet Alley try these garlic-inspired recipes.
Makes 1½ cups
More than a spread, use this Mediterranean combo on steamed vegetables, in sandwiches, or as a dip.
Makes 4 servings
This dish debuted at the 2007 Hudson Valley Garlic Festival and the crowd was wild for it. I used fresh Spanish Roja garlic. It caramelizes as it slow-cooks, lending a sticky-sweet garlic flavor to the other vegetables.
Makes ¼ cup
Although lightly spiked with orange, this sauce has a mild flavor and is surprisingly versatile. Because it isn’t cloyingly sweet, it can be used as a glaze for poached fish or chicken. For desserts, drizzle it over yogurt or ice cream, or use it to add a finishing touch to tarts, pies and cakes.
Serves 6 to 8
Garlic scapes (flower stalks) are tender and delicious when harvested before they uncurl. Take care to trim off the bottoms of the stems and tips of the flower heads.
Haloumi is a Cypriot goat and/or sheep cheese that can be grilled or fried without melting. Its salty flavor complements this dish; if you have trouble finding haloumi, you can substitute another salty cheese, such as cheddar or aged chévre.
This recipe is best when made the day before serving and then refrigerated. Let it stand at room temperature before serving.
—From the Mother Earth News article “Garlic Scapes” by William Woys Weaver; available at www.MotherEarthNews.com.
— Pat Crocker loves the stinking rose (otherwise known as garlic), which she considers the king of all herbs "because it reigns supreme in the kitchen." A culinary herbalist, photographer, writer and lecturer, Pat is author of several award-winning books, including The Vegetarian Cook’s Bible (Robert Rose, 2007).
Sit in on dozens of practical workshops from the leading authorities on natural health, organic gardening, real food and more!LEARN MORE