Posted before Dec-31-2007
Would you believe if someone told you that garlic is among the lily relations? In fact, garlic is considered to be among the most tempting and gratifying flavors that are added to put in a zing to cooked food. And it is interesting to note that the aura surrounding garlic is unique. In addition, garlic has numerous therapeutic values and is considered to be one of the strongest natural remedies we have today. This is true for all forms of garlic - raw, cooked or any derivative of the substance.
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Garlic has been used as a remedy for numerous disorders since the ancient times and its mention is found in the early Sanskrit scriptures that date back as far in history as 5000 years. On the other hand, there is evidence that the Chinese used garlic around 3000 years back, while the medical records of the primeval Egyptians demonstrate that they used the substance from approximately 1500 B.C. Significantly, garlic was a familiar substance even to the gladiators or professional fighters of ancient Rome and they were also well acquainted with its nutritional as well as therapeutic advantages. These gladiators took garlic to enhance their power and endurance and years' later medical science has been able to explain how garlic works to improve both.
Chemical analysis of garlic has revealed that the herb encloses as many as eight different necessary amino acids and more that 18 varieties of sulfur amalgams. It may be mentioned here that garlic is a vital source for germanium (a fragile gray colored crystalline element that is a metalloid) and selenium (non-metallic element found in different forms varying from a red powder to gray black crystals). Both germanium as well as selenium are known to be potent antioxidants. The overpowering or strong flavor of garlic is owing to the presence of allicin, one of the important ingredients contained in garlic and making it so helpful for the body.
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Garlic has numerous properties that are immensely valuable for the human body. Besides, possessing antibiotic properties, garlic is also an important febrifuge, a medication that not only prevents but also lowers temperatures during feverish conditions. In addition, garlic acts as a vermifuge by throwing out the parasites and body wastes, a sudorific that encourages sweating, as well as a diuretic that increases the outflow of urine. According to many researchers, garlic also has the potential to enhance the immune system in the body, lessen the blood pressure and also avoid heart ailments. Interestingly, there are many who are of the opinion that garlic can keep off insects - even vampires!
It may be mentioned here that the cloves and heads of garlic vary in color and size. Normally, cloves and heads are red, white or pale purple in color. However, the three common varieties of garlic that are widely used in food preparations are the standard garlic that can be used either raw or cooked, elephant garlic that is larger in size and usually gentle and used both raw and cooked and the garlic chives that are compatible with normal chives (culinary herbs with long and fine hollow leaves that have a strong onion flavor).
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Normally, garlic is useful as a salty or pungent seasoning in most of our meals. However, it is important to note that the procedure of preparing any dish with garlic or cooking garlic establishes the actual flavor or essence of garlic. The best way to cook garlic in butter or oil is to keep the heat low to avoid the cloves from getting burnt - burnt cloves not only taste bitter, but horrible too. Incidentally, when the garlic is kept whole, it is gentle or milder, but when packed down the substance has the most potent taste. Although garlic is fragrant, but just about astringent to taste when it is raw, on cooking it transforms into a subtle and sugary substance. Interestingly, both the bitter taste as well as its pungent smell wane when it is blanched or put in boiling water for a brief period. Upon boiling, garlic has a very gentle flavor. If garlic is used gently in foods, it adds a zing to the dishes and is liked even by those who claim that they do not prefer or dislike it.
While purchasing it is always advisable to get complete heads of garlic instead of procuring the stale garlic powder. In addition, always go for fresh garlic that is fleshy and solid.
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When garlic is kept in the open air for an indefinite period, it loses much of it astringency or the pungent nature. Hence, it is always better to purchase small quantities of garlic at a time - the amount that you will be using up during a week or a fortnight. Another important thing to remember is to store up garlic in a calm, dark and arid place. The best thing about garlic is that it can be used for cooking or seasoning delicacies even after it becomes insipid or begins to sprout. Although its smell and flavor gets gentler by then, garlic still remains an excellent seasoning material. If you want to preserve garlic for a long enough periods, you may remove the skin of the cloves and put them wholesome or even in chopped pieces in olive oil and keep the stuff in the refrigerator. This will enable you to preserve garlic for at least three months. Alternately, you may slice or chop the cloves, dehydrate them and store them up in sealed air-tight containers. By this method, you will be able to preserve garlic for longer periods between 4 to 6 months.
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Using fresh aromatic herbs (for example parsley) is useful in avoiding the pungent smell of garlic in one's breath. In order to remove the strong smell from your hand, rub salt and lemon juice on your hands and then wash them off with cold water. You will be amazed to find that there will be no trace of garlic whatsoever!