Garlic is a vegetable from the same family as chives, shallots and onions. It’s very strong odor and flavor make it very economical to use in cooking because you use very small amounts in most recipes. Some popular uses are in sauces such as French aioli, middle eastern hummus, and Italian marinara.
There are a few varieties sold in stores, mainly the traditional softneck or hardneck varieties and the larger elephant garlic. The elephant variety is very mild in odor and taste compared to the smaller cloves that most home cooks use. Store it in a cool, dark place to keep it fresh and prevent it from sprouting. It is not necessary to refrigerate or freeze, as it will last a month in dry conditions.
You can adjust the flavor strength of garlic by the way you prepare it for cooking. Whole cloves are milder when cooked, slices are stinger, and minced or mashed garlic is the strongest of all. This flavor difference occurs because you release more of a special enzyme when you cut or crush open up more cells of the bulb.
Cooking time also adjusts the flavor strength – more time equals a milder flavor. You can roast entire heads in your oven for an hour at moderate temperatures: The resulting mild paste can be used like butter on bread and in recipes. A similar effect occurs when making the popular recipe for garlic bread – spread butter and mashed garlic on your bread of choice and broil it until golden brown.
Medical research has shown that if you crush your garlic certain beneficial elements are released. These combine to form a cancer fighting compound. Unfortunately high heat or long term cooking destroys this compound, so they recommend heating your garlic for no more than fifteen minutes at medium heat, or use it raw if you want to keep the health benefits intact. Research has also found health benefits for your heart, and less storage of fat in your body.