Season for Garlic June - December (California)
This mighty little vegetable not only packs a pungent flavor, but health benefits that sanction its reputation as a vampire wrangler and the "stinking rose." Actually a member of the lily family, garlic, leeks, chives, onions and shallots are all loving cousins. Coming in cloves all encased in a bulb that grows beneath the earth, each clove is separated with a parchment-esque membrane.
How to Buy and Store Garlic
While not as convenient as powder, flake or paste forms, fresh garlic will far surpass the latter in both health-promoting and culinary prowess. Choose cloves that are firm and plump with dry skins, avoiding those that are soft or shriveled, moldy or have begun to sprout. No need to refrigerate your garlic; just store it in a cool, dark place uncovered and it should last for a month. Once you've broken a clove from the bulb, it will only last about a week.
How to Cook Garlic
Garlic is an unparalleled seasoning that contributes aroma, taste, and added nutrition to whatever it touches. While we are particularly fond of raw crushed garlic in terms of its most beneficial, flavorful state, garlic breath can be intense and should be anticipated (maybe opt out on date nights), and when it feels like it's emanating from your pores, well, that's because it is! Chewing fresh parsley can be a helpful antidote. For a more milder result, you can add chopped garlic to foods while they are cooking, though best done towards the end to retain the maximum amount of flavor and nutrition.
Health Benefits of Garlic
Besides those pesky vampires, garlic can contribute to keeping many a condition at bay: colds, cancer, heart disease, hypertension, infection and even impotence. Garlic contains unique sulfuric compounds that - while also responsible for its strong odor - also impart many of its health benefits, acting as antioxidants with anti-inflammatory properties. You can increase your garlic's health benefits by letting it sit for awhile after you've crushed or chopped it, releasing its awesome enzymes.
Why Buy Natural and Organic Garlic
As we've said, garlic is a great warder-offer of sundry things, which makes it a natural pesticide. That's not to say pesticides aren't used in the cultivation of conventional garlic, though it does not rank among the Environmental Working Group's list of most contaminated veggies. That said, garlic is often treated with chemicals to prevent sprouting and isn't grown regionally when purchased from your grocery store, so buying organic is always wise, as well as from your local farmers market.