We have had quite the journey with garlic this season: from the early summer scapes to July’s green garlic, it’s been a vampire’s worst nightmare. Now, at the end of August, we have garlic in its final form: the familiar head of cloves.

While garlic originated in Asia as a wild plant (first referenced in China 510 BCE), it was also widely cultivated and consumed by many European civilizations. Garlic is mentioned in the Bible and the Talmud; Hippocrates, Galen, Pliny the Elder, and Dioscoride all wrote about garlic and its many medicinal uses.  Garlic is a close relative of onions, shallots, leeks, and chives.

Garlic is notable for its immune-boosting qualities: allicin, the sulfur compound found in garlic, responsible for its pungent smell and taste, is a natural antibiotic and can help the body block infections. If you suffer from anemia or low iron levels, garlic also helps to keep iron levels high. Most people know that vitamin C helps increase iron metabolism, but garlic contains the protein ferroportin that carries stored iron from inside a cell to outside of the cell, assisting the body as needed. Garlic is also high in polysulfides, which help protect against heart disease; and if that weren’t enough, garlic is also rich in manganese, a mineral linked to "good" cholesterol.

Integrating garlic into meals is incredibly easy. We recommend using raw garlic in many of our recipes. If it is a cooked dish you are preparing and you cannot tolerate raw garlic, add chopped garlic towards the end of the cooking time to retain maximum flavor and nutrition. Too much heat for too long will reduce the activity of the health-promoting sulfur compounds that have formed by letting it sit for 5-10 minutes; it will also make garlic bitter. Therefore expose garlic to heat for as little time as possible (5-15 minutes). If you would like to combine garlic with oil, we recommend that you avoid high-temperature heating of this oil-garlic mixture. Keeping the heat at 250F/121C or lower will help preserve the health benefits of both the garlic and the oil.

  • Purée fresh garlic, canned garbanzo beans, tahini, olive oil and lemon juice to make quick and easy hummus dip.
  • Healthy Sauté steamed spinach, garlic, and fresh lemon juice.
  • Add garlic to sauces and soups.
  • Purée roasted garlic, cooked potatoes and olive oil together to make delicious garlic mashed potatoes. Season to taste.

For ten unusual uses for garlic, follow this link: http://lifehackery.com/2008/07/21/home-3/ .