This edible bulb of the Allium Sativum plant consists of a single head that can be easily separated into smaller cloves, each individually wrapped in a papery skin. As a member of the lily family, garlic is a relative to leeks, chives, onions and shallots.
In its raw form, garlic is pungent and slightly bitter, but when baked or sautéed, it becomes wonderfully mellow and sweet. Garlic is an indispensable ingredient in kitchens around the world. Its unmistakable flavor and aroma grace everything from Italian spaghetti sauces and Mexican tamales to Chinese stir-fries and Indian curries.
Flavorful legend and superstition has surrounded garlic for its entire 5,000-year history. According to an Islamic legend, when Satan stepped out of the Garden of Eden after the fall of man, garlic sprang from the spot of his left foot, and onion from the spot of his right.
Believing garlic was magical, the ancient Greeks and Romans offered gifts of garlic to appease the gods. Spanish bullfighters carry garlic to prevent bulls from charging, and donning a garlic necklace just might protect you from the bite of a vampire.
There are more than 300 varieties of garlic being grown around the world, but the four major types are American, Mexican, Italian and Elephant.
Readily available year-round, garlic bulbs should be firm and plump, with their paper skins intact. Avoid heads with sprouting, soft spots or other blemishes.
Store fresh garlic in an open container, away from other foods and in a cool, dark place for up to two months. Once broken from the bulb, individual cloves will stay fresh for three to 10 days before drying out.
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