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One of the most popular and frequently used seasonings around the world, garlic is a staple in almost every kitchen. No matter what cuisine you cook regularly –– or even what restaurant you order from! –– you’ve tasted garlic at least once in your life. Its pungent aroma is only a telltale sign for its even more powerful taste. While it’s typically not the star of the dish, garlic lends its flavors to so many different recipes –– which I suppose makes it a star of its own!
Garlic’s scientific name is Allium sativum, under the genus Allium which, unsurprisingly, several other ingredients share. The ingredient’s close relatives include other seasonings like green onions, leeks, scallions, and chives. Each one has their own separate taste and function.
- Green onions have a very powerful aroma and taste, similar to the red or yellow onions we’re more familiar with. They’re definitely uncannily similar to scallions, seeing as they come from the same genus and species. You can use green onions in meals when you want a sharper taste to counter your dish’s flavors.
- Scallions have a more peppery taste, and are quite easy to find in supermarkets. You can use both the white and green parts of the seasoning, with the former having a sharper taste than the latter –– akin to onions. The green part of scallions are typically used as a garnish instead, adding both color and flavor to an already delightful dish.
- Leeks have an almost garlicky taste and a creamy texture. You can cook leeks in a variety of ways –– boiling them, blanching them, frying or roasting. You can caramelize them in butter, the same way you do onions. Just make sure to wash them thoroughly first, otherwise there’s a salty taste you won’t be able to shake. When prepared properly, however, you get a sweeter, slightly sourer taste than scallions.
- Chives are mild and have a less overwhelming taste than the other seasonings mentioned. Its flowers and leaves are both edible, and they provide a subtle but evident touch to many rich and savory breakfasts and appetizers.
But garlic’s nutty, creamy, and sometimes even spicy flavor makes it stand out from the rest. Leeks probably have the most similar taste to garlic amongst its seasoning relatives –– in fact, garlic is actually the Old English word for ‘spear-shaped leek’! However, there’s just something so unique and irreplaceable about the original.
Where does garlic come from?
Because garlic is so prevalent and popular worldwide, it’s hard to pinpoint exactly a place of origin for the popular ingredient. Many say that garlic originated in central Asia, or in some parts of West China or Kazakhstan. But when it began to travel across the world, people like Sumerians and Egyptians started using it for its medical properties. In the Middle East, Greece, and Rome, too, garlic became a highly sought after ingredient, both for its distinct flavor and also its health benefits. It was a very popular medicine at the time, known to cure a number of diseases and also assisted in folk remedies popular in tribes across the world.
It’s interesting to note how important garlic has been to cultures around the world. It really is more than just a seasoning!
Is it easy to grow?
Garlic is not only delicious –– it’s so easy to grow, too! All you need is the right amount of soil, moisture, and patience. From just one garlic clove and a lot of fertilization, you can produce garlic that’s perfect to use in the kitchen. Garlic grows best in the spring and takes about four to six weeks of harvest. That might seem like a while, but its rewards are always plentiful.
You can learn more about how to grow your own garlic here.
How can I cook garlic?
You can enjoy garlic in so many ways! Whether you’re using one or several cloves, its taste and aroma is impossible not to recognize. No matter what cooking method you use, garlic is an incredibly helpful companion in the kitchen.
A popular way to enjoy garlic is to roast the whole head in the oven. The warm cloves that come out as the end result are so satisfying and tasty! While in the oven, garlic tends to caramelize, bringing out its creamier, sweeter flavor profile. Don’t forget to drizzle it with olive oil and wrap it in aluminium foil before putting it in the oven. Roasted garlic goes great on bread (who doesn’t love garlic bread?) or atop pastas or potatoes.
Garlic flakes are also another popular addition to a kitchen pantry. When you’re in a pinch and need something to spice up your meal, crispy garlic flakes are the way to go! You can buy garlic flakes at the supermarket or even make your own at home. Garlic flakes are basically the product of dehydrating the ingredient, or frying them until they’re crispy and a beautiful golden brown.
Have you ever had garlic butter before? Butter by itself is already a well loved ingredient, but tossing garlic into the mix makes for a killer combination! The mix of rich and creamy ingredients is heavenly. While you can find it at groceries, making it at home is definitely fulfilling.
And there are other sauces and spreads garlic can become the star of, too! From aioli to mayonnaise to hummus to chili oil, you can never go wrong with garlic’s mouthwatering taste.
What do you like to cook your garlic in? Let us know!
What recipes is it useful in?
I love garlic in any dish I prepare. No matter how simple or extensive preparing a dish is, the addition of garlic makes every bite that much more satisfying. You truly can find garlic in nearly every cuisine around the world. While it isn’t the end all and be all of seasonings, it’s definitely one of the most accessible –– and you can never really go wrong with it!
Filipinos love garlic –– or bawang, as we know it! In fact, we love it so much we’ve made a snack out of a crispy variant of it; ever had Boy Bawang before? Because we’re rice eaters by nature, it’s only natural that we’ve incorporated bawang into our national carb. This is where garlic fried rice comes in. Otherwise known as sinangag, garlic fried rice is a staple in every breakfast meal. We usually find sinangag in popular –silog combinations, wherein a viand is accompanied by an egg and fried rice. Whether it’s tapsilog, tocilog, or longsilog, a classic Filipino breakfast isn’t complete without sinangag!
Pancit is another food particularly popular among Filipinos; no matter the occasion, it’s almost always a go to meal, a symbol of both long life and celebration. Garlic Bihon is one of those most popular renditions of the well loved noodle. The unforgettable taste of bawang paired with fresh vegetables and the classic bihon is a standout. Not only is it incredibly tasty, but it also looks superb on a plate, with all the golden brown and green colors mixing together.
Of course, in dishes in other Asian and Western countries, garlic also shines! Take, for instance, this Creamy Garlic Salmon. This recipe comes with a delightful combination of tomato and spinach. I really love this recipe because not only does it combine the refreshing taste of salmon with the rich garlicky flavors, but over a bed of rice or pasta it’s incredibly filling and delicious.
The same goes for this Creamy Garlic Parmesan Chicken! Dishes like these appeal to eaters young and old, and the garlic taste is something everyone in your family will be craving for a long time.
If you don’t have a lot of time in the kitchen, stir frying vegetables with some toasted, golden brown garlic is already a great quick fix meal. Like in this Kangkong in Oyster Sauce, bawang can really bring out and accentuate the flavors in both the vegetable and sauce.
The list already seems quite plentiful, but this isn’t where your uses of bawang end; in fact, there are so many more recipes you can enjoy it with! What are some of your favorites?
Is garlic healthy?
As mentioned prior, garlic was also famous for its many medicinal benefits, especially back when Western medicine had yet to evolve. Chock full of vitamins and nutrients, bawang is a perfect example of keeping your stomach happy and body healthy!
For one, garlic is a great source of vitamin C, B6, and manganese. These make it great for your immune system and for maintaining your body’s strength. More specifically, having garlic in your diet has proven to help prevent the spread of several types of cancers. These include lung cancer, prostate cancer, and breast cancer, among others.
Garlic is also recommended to help improve cholesterol levels, which then reduces the risk of heart illnesses. Garlic supplements can help reduce your LDL (bad cholesterol) levels by up to 15%. Alongside cholesterol levels, bawang also reduces the risk of high blood pressure –– another factor that can lead to heart failure and other cardiovascular diseases.
These are only some of the health benefits one can attain by consuming garlic in their everyday diet. And with how versatile an ingredient it is, that shouldn’t be hard! Garlic is well loved for a reason, with all its uses and health benefits ready in just one bite. How are you going to use this perfect spice today?