7/2/12

I'll Never Buy Garlic Again

Fifteen pounds - that's my recent harvest of garlic which I planted last September. Even for someone like me, who cooks from scratch and loves garlic, that's a lot! I had planted a few different varieties, including many cloves of elephant garlic. Many say this is a less strong type, but mine tastes just as potent as any garlic I've ever tasted, and the giant cloves are so easy to use. (Click here for my tips on growing garlic.)

I dug up the garlic beds in two sessions, since it takes a lot of time time to peel all the cloves and to prepare such a big haul for using over the next 12 months. Since curing, drying, and hanging garlic doesn't work so well for me (the cloves shrivel up over a few months), I've come up with other ways to store it… so many that my list starts to sound like Bubba's description to Forrest Gump of how to prepare shrimp!, here's what I now do to store garlic for future use:
Pureed garlic, frozen in ice cube trays, then bagged


Pureed Garlic Cubes - I run peeled whole cloves of garlic through the food processor with organic extra virgin olive oil. Since the garlic is fresh, it holds a lot of moisture, so it purees into a thick paste. I spooned this mixture into ice cube trays, froze them, then popped out and bagged the cubes, to save freezer space and free up my plastic trays for other stuff. When I add garlic to recipes, most often there is some oil in whatever I am making, so this mixture is very helpful to have on hand. I always keep a small jar of minced garlic in the refrigerator, and when I've used it up (in my Caesar dressing, hummus, salsa, soup, stirfry or other favorite recipe), I just replenish with a garlic ice cube from the freezer. You'll notice in the photo that I labelled the cubes; I've learned to label everything, since there are just too many things in my brain to remember, and it helps avoid errors. I don't want to mistake a garlic cube for a pineapple cube!

Garlic Powder - I use the largest of my harvested cloves for this purpose, putting them through the food processor with the slicing blade. I spread the slices in a single layer on the trays of my electric dehydrator and dry these "chips" to a brittle stage. These are then stored in a cool, dark place in jars, and ground into garlic powder easily in my designated herb/spice [coffee] grinder. I save the moisture absorbing cylinders from vitamin and supplements I purchase, and I always place one in with a jar of dried foods, to be sure moisture doesn't form. Also, I don't grind it  into powder until I need to, since some of its potency might be lost unless I vacuum sealed the powder.

Whole cloves in oil
Dehydrated garlic "chps", which I grind to powd
Whole Cloves - preserved in organic extra virgin olive oil, refrigerated in jars. If you don't plan to use these cloves for a while, you might add Hollywood brand safflower oil, which is 20% vitamin E, a natural preservative.

Potent cough syrup
Cough Syrup - In a workshop for natural home remedies I took years ago, the instructor made a cough syrup by filling a jar with chopped garlic, chopped onions, and honey. I added some dried elderberries to my version of this cough syrup also, since this is a natural flu virus remedy. This concoction gets stored in the refrigerator, and after about 6 weeks the mixture is strained, discarding the vegetables and reserving the potent syrup as a cough remedy, again storing it in the refrigerator. Why this combination? A 2007 study (reported in Science Daily) proved that honey outperformed dextromethorphan (cough suppressant) in suppressing nighttime coughs. Onions are anti-inflammatory, antibiotic, and antiviral. Elderberry tincture tested in the laboratory and in double-blind human studies cut the severity and length of Influenza A and B measurably and significantly. Garlic is a naturally powerful antibiotic, effective against toxic bacteria, viruses, and fungus. Garlic can relieve conditions of asthma, hoarseness, coughs, chronic bronchitis, and other disorders of the lungs, because of its powers of promoting expectoration. As for the medicinal benefits of garlic, see "More than a food ingredient" below. So this is a very potent syrup, strong tasting but effective.

Insect Repellent - I took any cloves which were not perfect for storing, as well as the chopped up main stems of the garlic heads, and spread them on the soil throughout my vegetable garden. Garlic is an organic natural detractor of insects, and I think it helps in my garden. All the other parts of the garlic plants went into the compost pile.

When I dug up all this garlic, attached to the root strings and/or below many of the heads were individual round cloves, especially on the elephant garlic. I call these the "garlic babies". They readily air-dryed, and I've stored them to replant my garlic bed in the fall. I am quite certain that I didn't unearth all these little cloves, so the garlic will likely replant itself in the old bed too. I'll have a great harvest again next year, after using up all the preparations described above!

MORE THAN A FOOD INGREDIENT:
Not only does garlic add loads of flavor to my cooking, it has widely recognized health benefits. As I've read online: "Garlic promotes the well-being of the heart and immune systems with antioxidant properties and helps maintain healthy blood circulation. One of garlic's most potent health benefits includes the ability to enhance the body's immune cell activity. The active component in garlic is the sulfur compound called allicin - a chemical produced when garlic is chopped, chewed, or bruised. Allicin is quite powerful as an antibiotic and a potent agent that helps the body to inhibit the ability of germs to grow and reproduce. There are now over 12 studies published around the world that confirm that garlic can reduce cholesterol. Garlic is known to stimulate T-lymphocyte and macrophage action, promote interleukin-1 levels, and support natural killer cells. Strong activity of these key cells promotes healthy immune system function, and strengthens the body's defenses. Garlic has germanium in it. Germanium is an anti-cancer agent, and garlic has more of it than any other herb. In lab tests, mice fed garlic showed no cancer development, whereas mice that weren't fed garlic showed at least some. In fact, garlic has been shown to retard tumor growth in human subjects in some parts of the world. 
Garlic "babies" to plant next fall
Another benefit of garlic is it helps regulate the body's blood pressure. So whether you have problems with low or high blood pressure, garlic can help equalize it. Garlic helps strengthen your body's defenses against allergies; helps loosen plaque from the artery walls; helps regulate your blood sugar levels; and is the best choice for killing and expelling parasites such as pin worms from the human body. In addition to all these health benefits, garlic is packed with vitamins and nutrients. Some of these include protein, potassium, Vitamins A, B, B2 and C, Calcium, Zinc and many others. In a 12-week, double-blind, placebo-controlled study, allicin powder was found to reduce the incidence of the common cold by over 50%."

Try planting garlic in your garden next fall. It's easy to grow, pest-free, delicious, and good for you!