Shopping and Storage
Choose heavy bulbs with firm cloves and dry skins. Avoid ones that feel light or hollow — they’re likely dried out and less flavorful. Skip the bulbs that have begun to sprout, as those cloves can taste bitter. Whole bulbs stored at room temperature in a cool, dry, dark place, in an open container with good air circulation, can keep for several months. Use individual cloves that have broken away from the bulb within a few days.
Fresh vs. Packaged
Many supermarkets sell tubes of garlic paste and jars of minced cloves. Though more convenient, the ready-made options lack fresh garlic’s hallmark pungent flavor and deliver lower levels of allicin, the main active compound in garlic that’s responsible for its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant benefits. Let the minced garlic sit for 10 minutes to activate the healthy enzymes.
To separate the cloves in a garlic bulb, place the bulb on a cutting board and press down on it with the heel of your hand or a heavy skillet until the bulb comes apart. Use the flat side of a chef’s knife to gently smash each clove, then peel. Mince the garlic with your knife or use a Microplane to grate it more finely. Minced garlic is best for cooked dishes like sauces or stews; grated garlic works well in raw preparations, such as salad dressings.
Spicy and vibrant when fresh, garlic becomes sweet and mellow when roasted. Cut the top off a bulb to expose the tips of the cloves, then drizzle with extra-virgin olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and wrap the bulb in foil. Bake at 400 degrees F for 40 minutes or until soft and golden. Let cool, then squeeze out the flesh. Whisk it into sauces and vinaigrettes, spread it on sandwiches or flatbreads, or stir it into roasted vegetables.
This originally appeared as “Garlic” in the January/February print issue of Experience Life.