Why Garlic Is So Important in the Kitchen

All About Garlic

All About Garlic

Garlic is one of the most important ingredients in my cooking. I love what garlic does to my meals. Of course, too much may ruin a dish for some, but I haven’t had that experience yet.

Garlic is a widely used culinary herb enjoyed by people worldwide for centuries. It belongs to the Allium family, including onions, leeks, and chives. It has a uniquely pungent and spicy flavor and aroma, which adds a distinctive taste to various dishes. In addition to its culinary uses, garlic has been used for medicinal purposes since ancient times.

Where Does Garlic Come From?

Garlic is native to Central Asia and has been cultivated for over 5,000 years. It was widely used in ancient Egypt, where it was given to workers to improve their strength and endurance.

In ancient Greece, garlic was used to treat various ailments, including digestive disorders, respiratory infections, and fatigue. The ancient Romans also believed in the health benefits of garlic, and soldiers were often given garlic to prevent infections and promote healing.

Today, garlic is grown in many parts of the world and is an essential ingredient in many cuisines, including Italian, French, and Asian. It is used in soups, stews, sauces, and marinades.

It can also be roasted, sautéed, or grilled to bring out its unique flavor. Garlic is also commonly used in pickling and preserving foods like olives and cucumbers.

Health Benefits

Garlic Bulb

Garlic has several health benefits and has been used for centuries as a natural remedy for various ailments. It contains a compound called allicin, which has antibacterial and antifungal properties.

It also has anti-inflammatory properties that can help reduce inflammation in the body. In addition, garlic has been shown to lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels, which can reduce the risk of heart disease. It may also help boost the immune system, which can help the body fight off infections and diseases.

Garlic has also been used to treat various health conditions, including colds, flu, and respiratory infections. It can help alleviate coughing, congestion, and sore throat symptoms. Garlic has also been used to treat digestive disorders such as diarrhea and stomach ulcers. It can help improve digestion and reduce inflammation in the digestive tract.

Garlic has been studied extensively for its potential anti-cancer properties. Some studies suggest that it may help prevent certain types of cancer, including stomach and colon cancer. In addition, garlic contains several compounds shown to have anti-cancer properties, including allicin and allyl sulfur compounds.

Garlic supplements are also available for those who prefer to take them in a more concentrated form. However, consulting with a healthcare professional before taking supplements is essential, as they may interact with certain medications.

Basic Vinaigrette Recipe

Natural Bug Repellent

In addition to its health benefits, garlic is also a natural insect repellent. It can be used to repel mosquitoes, ticks, and other insects. It can be crushed and mixed with water to create a spray that can be applied to skin or clothing. It can also be planted in gardens to repel pests such as aphids and slugs.

What Is Garlic’s History?

Garlic on Cutting Board

Garlic has a rich and fascinating history that dates back thousands of years. As mentioned above, it is believed to have originated in Central Asia and was first cultivated in ancient Mesopotamia, which is now modern-day Iraq. From there, it spread to Egypt, India, and China, where it was highly prized for its medicinal properties.

Garlic was also highly valued in ancient Greece and Rome. The Greek physician Hippocrates, the father of modern medicine, recommended garlic for various ailments, including respiratory problems, parasites, and poor digestion.

The Roman writer Pliny the Elder also extolled the virtues of garlic in his writings, and Roman soldiers used it as a remedy for infections and wounds.

In medieval Europe, garlic was believed to have protective powers against evil spirits and was often hung above doorways to ward off evil. It was also believed to have medicinal properties and was used to treat various ailments, including coughs, colds, and digestive problems.

Spanish and Portuguese explorers brought garlic to the Americas in the 16th century. It quickly became popular in the New World and was used by Native Americans for culinary and medicinal purposes.

In modern times, garlic has become a staple ingredient in many cuisines worldwide. It is used in dishes such as pasta, stir-fries, soups, and stews and is also used as a flavoring in sauces and marinades.

Garlic is also used in traditional medicine in many cultures, including Ayurvedic medicine in India and Traditional Chinese Medicine.

Today, garlic is grown in many parts of the world, with China being the largest producer. It is also widely available in various forms, including fresh garlic, garlic powder, and garlic supplements.

How Did Garlic Arrive in Italy and Why Is It Used So Much in Italian Cuisine?

In Italian Cooking

Garlic was likely introduced to Italy by the ancient Greeks, who colonized southern Italy in the 8th century BC. It is believed that the Greeks brought garlic from Asia and introduced it to the region. Garlic quickly became popular in Italy and has been used in Italian cuisine for thousands of years.

Garlic is used extensively in Italian cuisine because it adds a unique flavor and aroma. It is often used as a base flavoring in Italian sauces, such as marinara sauce and pesto. It is also used in Italian soups, stews, and roasted dishes, such as roasted chicken and vegetables.

One of the most famous Italian dishes that use garlic is spaghetti aglio e olio, which translates to “spaghetti with garlic and oil.” This simple yet flavorful dish is made by sautéing garlic in olive oil and then tossing it with cooked spaghetti, red pepper flakes, and parsley.

In addition to its culinary uses, garlic has been used in traditional Italian medicine for centuries. It was believed to have numerous health benefits and was used to treat various ailments, including colds, flu, and digestive problems.

Today, garlic is widely recognized for its health benefits, including its ability to lower cholesterol, reduce blood pressure, and boost the immune system.

For thousands of years, garlic has played an important role in Italian cuisine and culture. Its unique flavor and health benefits make it a versatile and indispensable ingredient in Italian cooking, and it continues to be a beloved and widely used ingredient to this day.

How Did It Get Associated with Vampires?

The association of garlic with vampires can be traced back to ancient folklore and superstitions. In many cultures, garlic was believed to have protective properties against evil spirits and was often hung above doorways or worn as a talisman to ward off evil.

In medieval Europe, garlic was believed to have magical properties and was often used in spells and charms to protect against witches and demons. It was also believed to have the power to repel vampires and other supernatural creatures.

The link between garlic and vampires became particularly strong in the 19th century with the publication of Bram Stoker’s novel “Dracula.”

In the novel, the protagonist Van Helsing uses garlic to ward off Dracula and his vampire minions. This portrayal of garlic as a weapon against vampires helped cement its association with these creatures in popular culture.

Garlic became common in vampire lore and popular culture in the following years. In movies, TV shows, and other media, garlic is often used as a weapon against vampires and is sometimes depicted as having the power to repel or destroy them.

Today, the association of garlic with vampires is mainly seen as a cultural trope and a popular Halloween theme. While there is no scientific evidence to suggest that garlic has any effect on vampires or other supernatural creatures, its use in vampire folklore and popular culture has helped to cement its place in the cultural imagination.

Types of Garlic

Bulb with Cloves

There are many different types of garlic, each with its own distinct flavor and aroma. Here are some of the most common types of garlic:

  1. Softneck garlic is the most common type and is typically found in grocery stores. It has a soft, pliable stem known for its mild flavor and long storage life.
  2. Hardneck garlic is a rare variety known for its rich, complex flavor. It has a hard, woody stem and is often used in gourmet cooking.
  3. Elephant garlic is a large, mild variety of garlic, sometimes mistaken for a type of onion. It has a mild, sweet flavor and is often used in roasts and stews.
  4. Rocambole garlic is a type of hardneck garlic known for its bold, spicy flavor. It has a strong, pungent aroma and is often used in spicy dishes.
  5. Purple Stripe garlic is a hardneck garlic known for its striking purple stripes on the outer skin. It has a rich, spicy flavor and is often used in Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cooking.
  6. Silverskin garlic is a softneck garlic known for its small, white cloves and long storage life. It has a mild, sweet flavor and is often used in pickling and preserving.
  7. Creole garlic is a type of softneck garlic that is often found in Louisiana and the southern United States. It has a spicy, bold flavor and is often used in Cajun and Creole cooking.
  8. Asiatic garlic is a type of hardneck garlic that is often found in Asia. It has a robust and spicy flavor and is often used in stir-fries and other Asian dishes.
  9. Turban garlic is a type of hardneck garlic known for its distinctive shape, which resembles a turban. It has a mild, sweet flavor and is often used in Indian and Middle Eastern cooking.

Overall, the different types of garlic offer a range of flavors and aromas that can be used to enhance a variety of dishes. So whether you prefer a mild, sweet flavor or a bold, spicy taste, there is a type of garlic that is sure to please.

How to Prep for Cooking

  1. Separate the cloves: To prep the garlic, separate the cloves from the bulb. You can use a knife to slice off the top of the bulb to expose the cloves or gently press on the bulb to loosen the cloves.
  2. Peel the cloves: Once you have separated the cloves, use a knife to remove the papery outer skin. You can also crush the cloves with the side of a knife to help loosen the skin.
  3. Chop or mince: Depending on the recipe, you may need to chop or mince the garlic cloves. To do this, slice the cloves into thin rounds and then use a sharp knife to chop them finely. You can also use a garlic press to mince the garlic.
  4. Cook the garlic: Once it is prepped, add it to your recipe. Garlic can be sautéed in oil or butter, roasted in the oven, or added to soups and stews. Be careful not to overcook garlic, as it can quickly become bitter if burned.

Tips for working with garlic:

  • Fresh garlic has a stronger flavor than pre-chopped or minced garlic, so try to use fresh garlic whenever possible.
  • Garlic can be stored in a cool, dark place for several weeks. However, avoid storing garlic in the refrigerator, as the moisture can cause it to spoil.
  • If you use a garlic press, remove the skin before pressing the cloves to prevent clogging.
  • To remove the garlic smell from your hands, rub them with a stainless steel object, such as a spoon or sink faucet. Believe me, it works.

Which Is Stronger, Finely Minced or Sliced Garlic?

Minced Garlic with Press

Garlic Press

Regarding the strength of garlic, the preparation method can impact the flavor’s intensity. Generally, minced garlic is more potent than sliced garlic because it releases more of the garlic’s volatile compounds, which give it its pungent flavor and aroma.

When garlic is minced, the cells are ruptured, releasing more sulfur-containing compounds that give garlic its characteristic taste and smell. The finer the garlic is minced, the more these compounds are released, making the garlic taste more intense.

On the other hand, sliced garlic may not release as many of these compounds because the cells are not as damaged as they are when the garlic is minced. However, the larger surface area of the slices can still provide a strong garlic flavor if cooked longer.

Ultimately, the choice between minced and sliced garlic comes from personal preference and your recipe. For example, if you want a strong garlic flavor, you may opt for minced garlic, while sliced garlic may be a better choice if you want a milder garlic taste.

Pasta Tips

What Was the Garlic Scene in the Movie Big Night?

“Big Night” is a 1996 American comedy-drama film about two Italian brothers who own a struggling restaurant in 1950s New Jersey. Garlic is a crucial ingredient in many Italian dishes, and it features prominently in one memorable scene in the film.

In the scene, Primo (played by Tony Shalhoub) is a chef passionate about authentic Italian cuisine. He is making a risotto dish and insists on adding a whole head of garlic to the pot, despite the objections of his brother Secondo (played by Stanley Tucci) and their restaurant partner, Pascal (played by Ian Holm). The garlic is meant to infuse the dish with flavor, but it also makes the restaurant smell strongly of garlic, turning off some customers.

Later in the film, a rival Italian restaurant owner named Cristiano (played by Marc Anthony) comes to the brothers’ restaurant for a meal. Cristiano is impressed by the food and compliments Primo on the risotto, saying he can taste the garlic in the back of his head. Primo is pleased by the compliment and explains that garlic is the secret to the dish.

The scene is a testament to the importance of garlic in Italian cuisine and highlights the clash between tradition and innovation in the restaurant industry. Primo insists on using authentic, traditional ingredients in his cooking, even if it means turning off some customers.

Conversely, Secondo is more concerned with business and wants to cater to American tastes. Ultimately, the two brothers must find a way to balance their differing perspectives to save their struggling restaurant.

Why Do Chefs Roast It Whole?

Roasted Garlic Bulb

Roasting whole garlic is a popular cooking technique many chefs and home cooks use. However, for several reasons, chefs might choose to roast it in its entirety rather than chopping or mincing it.

First, roasting whole garlic mellows the flavor and removes some of the harshnesses that raw garlic can have. The roasting process caramelizes the natural sugars in the garlic, giving it a slightly sweet and nutty flavor that complements many dishes.

Second, roasted garlic is incredibly versatile and can be used in various dishes. Once the garlic is roasted, it can be easily squeezed out of its papery skin and used as a spread on bread or as an ingredient in sauces, soups, and other dishes.

Also, roasting whole garlic is a simple and low-maintenance cooking technique that requires little effort from the chef. To roast garlic, all you need to do is cut off the top of the garlic bulb, drizzle it with a bit of oil, and roast it in the oven until it is tender and fragrant. The roasted garlic can then be stored in the refrigerator for several days or frozen for later use.

Roasting whole garlic is a delicious and easy way to add flavor and depth to your cooking. Whether you’re making simple garlic bread or a complex sauce, roasted garlic can add a rich and nuanced flavor that will impress.

Roasted Garlic

How to roast garlic for your favorite recipes.

Course: Herbs & Spices

Cuisine: Italian

Keyword: garlic


  • Preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C).

  • Peel off any loose papery layers of the garlic bulb, but keep the head intact.

  • Cut off the top of the garlic bulb, exposing the cloves inside.

  • Drizzle olive oil over the exposed cloves, covering them evenly

  • Wrap the garlic bulb tightly in aluminum foil.

  • Place the wrapped garlic bulb in a baking dish or on a baking sheet.

  • Roast the garlic in the preheated oven for 30-40 minutes or until the cloves are soft and caramelized.

  • Remove the garlic from the oven and let it cool for a few minutes.

  • Squeeze the roasted cloves from the papery skin and use them as desired.


Roasted garlic can be used in various ways, such as spread on bread, mixed into mashed potatoes or hummus, or used as an ingredient in soups and sauces. The possibilities are endless!

What Does Garlic Taste Like?

Garlic Bread

Garlic Bread

Garlic has a strong and pungent flavor that is difficult to describe. Some people describe garlic as having a sharp or spicy taste, while others describe it as slightly bitter or even slightly sweet. The flavor can also vary depending on how it is prepared and cooked.

Raw garlic has a much stronger flavor than cooked and can taste slightly bitter or astringent. When garlic is cooked, its flavor becomes more mellow and sweet, with nutty and caramelized notes.

It has a unique and complex flavor that adds depth and complexity to many dishes. Whether used in a simple pasta sauce or a complex stir-fry, garlic is a versatile and delicious ingredient beloved by many cuisines worldwide.

What Are 5 Fun Facts About Garlic?

  1. Garlic has been used for thousands of years for culinary and medicinal purposes. In ancient times, garlic was believed to have healing powers and was used to treat various ailments, including infections, digestive problems, and even snake bites.
  2. Garlic is an onion family member, along with onions, shallots, leeks, and chives. It is classified as an herb and is grown and used all over the world.
  3. Garlic can be used as a natural pesticide to repel certain insects. However, it contains compounds that are toxic to some insects, including mosquitoes, ticks, and aphids.
  4. Garlic is believed to have many health benefits, including reducing the risk of heart disease, lowering cholesterol levels, and boosting the immune system. Some studies have also shown that garlic may have anti-cancer properties.
  5. Garlic is a staple ingredient in many world cuisines, including Italian, French, Chinese, and Indian. It is used in various dishes, from simple pasta sauces to complex curries, and is often paired with other strong flavors like ginger, chili peppers, and tomatoes.

Can You Cook Garlic with the Peel On?

It is possible to cook garlic with the peel on, but it is only sometimes recommended. Cooking garlic with the peel on can create a different flavor profile and make removing the garlic from the dish easier after cooking.

One standard method of cooking garlic with the peel on is to roast it in the oven. Another way to cook garlic with the peel on is to sauté it in a pan with other ingredients. Add whole garlic cloves to the pan with other ingredients to do this, and cook until the garlic is soft and aromatic. Once the garlic is cooked, remove the cloves from the pan and discard the peel.

Cooking garlic with peel on can change the flavor profile in several ways. Firstly, the peel can protect the garlic from direct heat, which can help prevent it from burning or becoming bitter. This can result in a milder, sweeter flavor profile, as opposed to the stronger, more pungent flavor that can result from cooking peeled garlic.

Additionally, cooking garlic with the peel on can infuse the dish with a subtle, smoky flavor, as the heat of the cooking process can cause the oils in the garlic to become more concentrated and aromatic. This can add depth and complexity to the dish and work well in savory or earthy dishes like stews, roasted meats, and vegetables.

5 Famous Recipes Featuring Garlic

Bagna Cauda

Bagna Cauda

  1. Spaghetti Aglio e Olio: A simple yet classic Italian pasta dish made with garlic, olive oil, red pepper flakes, and parsley. The garlic is the star of this dish, infusing the pasta with its bold, aromatic flavor.
  2. Chicken with 40 Cloves of Garlic: A French dish with a whole chicken roasted with many garlic cloves. The garlic becomes soft and caramelized during cooking, infusing the chicken with a rich, garlicky flavor.
  3. Gambas al Ajillo: A Spanish tapa that features shrimp cooked with garlic, olive oil, and chili flakes. The garlic is sautéed in the oil before adding the shrimp, creating a flavorful and aromatic sauce.
  4. Toum: A Middle Eastern garlic sauce made with raw garlic, lemon juice, and oil. The garlic is blended with the other ingredients to create a smooth, creamy sauce often served with grilled meats, vegetables, or pita bread.
  5. Bagna Cauda: An Italian dip made with garlic, anchovies, olive oil, and butter. The garlic is sautéed in the oil and butter with the anchovies to create a rich, savory sauce often served with raw vegetables or bread.

Bagna Cauda

An Italian dip made with garlic.

Course: Appetizer

Cuisine: Italian

Keyword: dip


  • 1 head garlic separated into cloves and peeled
  • 10 each anchovy fillets chopped
  • ½ cup olive oil extra virgin
  • ½ cup butter unsalted
  • raw vegetables carrots, celery, fennel, radicchio for dipping
  • bread for serving


  • Combine the garlic, anchovies, olive oil, and butter in a small saucepan.

  • Cook the mixture over low heat, stirring occasionally, until the garlic is soft and fragrant and the anchovies have melted into the oil and butter, about 15-20 minutes.

  • Remove the pan from the heat and let the mixture cool slightly.

  • Arrange the raw vegetables on a platter.

  • Pour the bagna cauda into a fondue pot or other small, warm serving vessel and place it in the center of the platter.

  • Serve the bagna cauda with the vegetables and bread for dipping.


Enjoy this delicious, garlicky Italian dip with friends and family!

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