GLORIOUS GARLIC

Ward off Vampires on Hallowe’en with this Ancient Herb

Whether you know it as ail in French, lashun in Hindi, da suan in Chinese, aglio in Italian, fokhagyma in Hungarian or plain old garlic in English, the plant often dubbed “the stinking rose” is as far from being a rose as it is from having a bad smell! In fact, to my nose, nothing is more aromatic than a whiff of fresh peeled garlic. And I dare say, if my garden hath but room for only one, then a garlic bed instead of rose it’d surely be. Some folks classify garlic as being a vegetable while others swear it’s a herb. Then there’s those who claim it’s a spice and even some — whom I pity for they don’t know what they’re missing — who know garlic only as a capsule in their medicine cabinet taken on the advice of a doctor for sake of good health.

When viewed from the garden, garlic is indeed a vegetable growing alongside carrots and peas, and once braided and hung it’s as much a vegetable as a bushel of onions put up for the winter. Garlic, which has been used in age-old herbal concoctions for treating cold or flu, earache, intestinal worms or other common ailments, in my book is best referred to as a herb. Dehydrated garlic that is crushed into powder gets labelled as spice on my rack, and garlic that’s purchased in capsules at the pharmacy is medical, plain and simple.

As far back as history dates, garlic has been used as food and recognized as having miraculous powers to promote good health and well-being, credited with curing a wide range of diseases and reputed as having remarkable power to heal wounds and cleanse the body. Folklore claims garlic was good for everything from casting love spells to warding off vampires! My grandmother always said that a couple braids of garlic in the pantry assured fine eatin’ and good health to boot all winter long and I can vouch for the fact that she was right on both counts! Grandma’s cookin’ was hard to beat and I seldom saw my grandparents ailing.

There is evidence that garlic was prized by Egyptians, for old inscriptions note that pyramid builders were allotted garlic rations to ward off evil and disease. The cultivation of garlic, allium sativum, can be traced to ancient Asia and the Mediterranean and was introduced to America in the 1500s. Although garlic was slow to take root in North America, today it is highly respected in domestic and commercial kitchens as well as in medical laboratories where it has gained scientific ground as being a wonder drug — a leading herb in the study of cancer prevention.

Garlic is reputed as being a natural booster to the immune system and I suppose that’s why my grandmother put up an ample stash for winter use to ward off colds and flu. The old adage that ‘garlic is good for the heart’ goes much further than folklore, for evidence has shown that garlic can help lower blood pressure and reduce cholesterol levels. It also acts as a blood purifier and can increase stamina and relieve stress. Aside from being looked at for cardiovascular care, cancer prevention and as a natural antibiotic, garlic has been employed to relieve asthma and treat digestive disorders.

Garlic contains iron, zinc, copper, manganese, calcium as well as vitamins, essential oil and sulphur compounds — which it owes its distinctive odour and flavour to. Try the recipes below for good eatin’ and good health.

DRYING GARLIC

Whether you grow your own or get a good buy at the farmer’s market, garlic is so easy to dry and so good in soups, stews and other dishes, you’ll wonder how you ever did without! Dried garlic retains great flavour and yet does not remain heavy on the breath!

Peel as many garlic cloves as you wish to dry and cut each into very thin-about 1/8” slices. Lay garlic on cheesecloth covered screens and let dry at room temperature until all moisture is gone. It takes about three days to completely dry. Remove from cloth and put in sealers or paper bag and store in dry pantry. Dried garlic slices can be added to soups, stews or pounded into powder and used in place of store-bought garlic powder. Dried garlic saves indefinitely. For treating coughs and congestion, Grandma steeped dried garlic in apple cider and sweetened it with honey. This strange brew was not all that unpleasant to drink and, as I remember, it seemed to work wonders.

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This delectable appetizer earns big raves at all my gatherings. Definitely one of the most “in” ways I know to serve garlic. And once roasted, the odour that some folks fret over does not linger.

Ingredients:

  • 2 heads of garlic, outer skin removed and tops trimmed to expose heads of cloves
  • 3 tablespoons virgin olive oil
  • 3 teaspoons each of fresh basil and rosemary (or dried herbs)
  • pinch salt and fresh grated black pepper
  • 4 tablespoons fine sliced pitted black olives
  • 1 cup white wine or chicken stock
  • parmesan
  • crusty bread

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A little bit of garlic herb butter goes a very long way for instilling wonderful flavour onto broiled dishes and fresh steamed vegetables. Even a dab on bread can trick a conscientious diner into thinking they’re richly indulging!

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound unsalted butter
  • 3/4 cup mashed garlic cloves (peeled cloves from about 2 or 3 heads pounded in mortar with pestle)
  • 1/2 tsp basil
  • 1/2 tsp oregano
  • 3 Tbsp dried parsley

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If I had to pick my pick of pickles, then pickled garlic is the pickle I’d pick! They are so crispy and refreshing and good that sometimes I pair up a couple cloves with a slice of bread and wedge of blue cheese and call it gourmet lunch. I’ve even had drop-in’s go wild over this simple offering!

Ingredients:

  • Enough garlic, separated into cloves and peeled to fill 3 pint jars. (If garlic is difficult to peel, blanch in boiling water for 20 seconds, then submerge in cold water. This should help loosen skins
  • 3-1/2 cups white vinegar (or more as needed)
  • 1 Tbsp pickling salt
  • 2 Tbsp pickling spice
  • 4 Tbsp sugar
  • 1 tsp crushed chilies

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So easy. So quick. This simple, satisfying meal is sure to become a family favourite. I often serve this super fast pasta as a side-dish at company dinners earning big raves for little work.

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups penne
  • 3 Tbsp olive oil
  • 8 cloves garlic, peeled and mashed
  • 2 tsp fresh basil (or 1 tsp dried)
  • seasoned salt, fresh ground pepper to taste
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh parsley
  • parmesan

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This vinegar instills wonderful flavour when used for marinating meat and fish and adds delightful spark to salad dressings. Only good quality wine vinegar should be used so as not to overpower the garlic and herbs. This vinegar will keep for several months if stored in fridge.

Ingredients:

  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 6 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
  • 2 Tbsp marjoram
  • 1 tsp each chopped fresh thyme and rosemary
  • 3 black peppercorns
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 6 cups white wine vinegar

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The following recipe comes to us courtesy of Foodland Ontario and features the locally grown harvest.

(Serves 6). This smooth soup gets lots of flavour from Ontario’s onion family. It makes a great make-ahead first course for a dinner party. Use this easy method for roasting garlic in many other recipes as well. Preparation time is 20 minutes, while the cooking time is about 1-1/2 hours.

Ingredients:

  • 4 heads Ontario Garlic
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 Tbsp butter
  • 4 Ontario Leeks, chopped
  • 1 Ontario Onion, chopped
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour (or kamut or spelt flour)
  • 5 cups chicken or vegetable broth
  • 1/2 cup dry vermouth or additional chicken broth
  • 1/4 tsp dried marjoram and thyme
  • 1 cup light cream, milk, or soymilk
  • 4 oz. Roquefort or Stilton cheese, crumbled
  • 2 Tbsp each snipped fresh chives and chopped parsley

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