Garlic, botanically known as Allium sativum, is a bulbous perennial native to Siberia, the eastern part of Russia. Garlic is related to the onion and belongs in the same family as lilies and daffodils, which have been bred for their flowers rather than for an edible bulb. In the spring, the plant begins to send up leaves. When the leaves reach 2-3 feet tall the plant sends up a seed pod, called the garlic scape. The skin of the garlic bulb encloses up to 20 edible bulblets called cloves. With about 300 varieties worldwide, garlic bulbs range in color from white to dark to wine. Elephant garlic, which has large cloves but a mild flavor, is not actually a true garlic but a closer relative to the leek. Today, Americans alone consume more than 250 million pounds of garlic annually!
Storage: Store garlic unpeeled in an open container away from other foods.
Garlic should be kept in a cool, dry place but do not refrigerate/freeze unpeeled garlic. As garlic ages, it begins to produce green sprouts in the center of each clove. These edible infant green sprouts can be bitter, so cut them out of the cloves before using. Properly stored garlic can keep up to three months. Freeze peeled garlic in an air tight plastic bag or in a glass container filled with oil.
Preparation: To peel a clove, place it on a cutting board on its side, and gently press down quickly with the flat side of a knife. The skin should then easily peel off. Garlic can be used raw or cooked. The smaller garlic is cut, the stronger the flavor. One raw clove, finely minced/ pressed, releases more flavor than 12 cooked whole cloves!
Use cooked in sautes, soups, sitr fries, sauces, pastas, and casseroles. Use raw in dressings, spreads, dips, sauces such as pesto, and salads such as tabouli. Rub raw garlic cloves on raw fish or chicken before cooking