You would be forgiven if your immediate answer is that garlic is not a vegetable. However, and we genuinely hate to break it to you, but you’d be wrong. Don’t be shocked, we were too.
And here’s why…
The key sometimes is looking at the botanical qualities of a food. Unfortunately, we are very used to thinking of foods by the way in which we eat them. A really good example of this food bias is the tomato… It’s actually a fruit, we just don’t treat it like one because of the way it tastes. The same goes for garlic. It is thought of as a herb but in fact garlic is a vegetable.
What is Garlic?
Garlic is a vegetable in the same family as onions, leeks, shallots and chives. A vegetable is any part of a plant that you can eat, this includes the stem, the bulbs or the leaves. When you eat garlic you are actually eating a bulb that in its natural habitat, would be under the soil, exactly the same as an onion or a carrot.
We don’t tend to eat garlic like a vegetable because, as we are sure you are aware, the flavor is really strong. If you planted a bulb of garlic it would eventually grow into a plant and you can in fact also eat the stem and the flowers, they have a very similar flavor.
But why does it taste so good?
The distinctive taste of garlic comes from sulphureous compounds. However, it doesn’t just taste amazing, garlic is rich in medicinal properties. Even when consumed sparingly garlic has been proven to reduce cholesterol, lower blood pressure and has anti-bacterial effects. Thanks garlic!
How To Store Garlic?
You can store garlic in exactly the same way as onions and leeks. If you leave garlic exposed to either moisture or sunlight it will do what bulbs do best. Grow!
The best way to store fresh garlic is in a relatively cool, dark place. You can keep it in the refrigerator, however due to its strong taste and smell it can taint other food. We find the best way, that keeps it freshest, is all on its own in a paper bag.
Another handy way to keep garlic fresh almost indefinitely is to blend it with equal amounts of oil and water and then it can be frozen into ice cubes ready to throw into a stir fry, curry or stew. Alternatively, you can keep this paste in small jar and it will keep in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.
How To Prepare Garlic?
Garlic is easy to prepare, but cannot be consumed ‘as is’. When you buy garlic from the store it will be made up of around 10-15 smaller cloves that are wrapped in a papery white skin. Just like an onion, it is normal to peel garlic before it is used. Simply break the bulb apart with your hands and separate the cloves. The cloves can be chopped at either end and peeled. But here is a great tip, so pay attention.
If you have a broad knife, lay a clove flat on its side, hold the flat part of the knife on top and give it a quick bang with the back of your hand. This will cause the skin of the clove to split away from the garlic and makes for super easy peeling. You can finely slice the cloves, add them whole, or put them in a crusher to make a quick and easy paste.
Another really easy way to use garlic cloves is to wrap the bulb in its entirety in aluminum foil and roast in the oven on a medium heat for around 35 minutes. Remove from the oven and when cool enough to handle chop the top of the bulb off. Squeeze the deliciously sweet roasted garlic paste out of the ends like toothpaste. Roasted garlic paste is one of life’s pleasures, and will make your kitchen smell divine!
Uses For Garlic
Garlic can be used in pretty much all types of dishes. You can mix a crushed clove with oil and lemon juice for a super tasty dressing, mix it with mayonnaise to dip fries into or, add to savory dishes to add a real depth of garlicky flavor. There are few dishes that aren’t improved by adding a clove of crushed garlic. (Just be sure to put some parsley on the side of your guest’s plates.)
If raw garlic in dressing is a bit too strong for your taste, cooking lessens garlics strong flavor and potency, as we have suggested above, if you cook garlic slowly it becomes extremely sweet. It is worth noting that garlic can cook very quickly under high heat. It can quickly become brown and if this happens it can be rather bitter, so if you are frying garlic keep a close eye on it.
Well, we’ve learned a little today, and we hope that you have too?
Garlic most definitely is a vegetable, and is closely related to both onions and leeks. It is really easy to prepare and is supremely delicious. It can be overpowering (both for you and others) if you eat too much of it so use it sparingly, at the end of the day you can always add more if you feel your food isn’t garlicky enough. Provided you store it correctly it will keep for quite a long time and a single bulb can make several recipes. Garlic, what’s not to love?