For the Love of Garlic
by Stacey Tress
“There are 5 elements: earth, air, fire, water, and garlic.”—Louis Diat
Who still has a stash of garlic from last fall? I know we are getting low on ours and look forward to this year’s bounty that is to come. I’m heading to Regina next week to connect with something that may be new to you—it’s called Black Garlic (or fermented garlic). I got a taste of this amazingness a few years ago from my friend Keirsten of Culture Mother and haven’t had it since. And so this is how this article is coming together—me dreaming of garlic and then thinking of all the ways my family enjoys it.
I’ll talk a bit on Black Garlic later in the article, chat some on the history and health benefits of garlic, and share a few of my favourite recipes/ideas for how we enjoy it.
What is It?
In the same family as onions and leeks, garlic is not only one of the most popular culinary herbs but is also considered a cure-all for many diseases. The bulb is the part used medicinally.
A variety of sulphur-containing products, including allin, allicin, dially disulfide, and ajoene.
Traditional evidence supports the use of garlic for a number of illnesses such as colds, coughs, diarrhea, and arthritic pain. Most modern scientific research has focused on its use for high blood pressure and high cholesterol. Something that garlic is known to do is to decrease the stickiness of platelets, which may in itself prove useful to people who want to decrease their chances of cardiovascular problems. Allicin, the agent responsible for garlic’s distinctive odour, is antimicrobial, able to kill a number of bacteria and fungi. (The sterilization power of garlic is what gives kimchi some of its health magic.)
How to Grow It
If you’re in the Prairies, this info is specifically for you as I cannot speak of regions where I personally haven’t grown garlic, and it’s my father-in-law who’s the expert on this, not me. One must start with a good quality garlic—I think the first “seed” we got came from Anna at the Garlic Garden (Yorkton). In the late fall, you take your garlic head and split it into individual pieces and plant about 6” to 8” deep, about half-a-foot apart, and water them well; they need a good fall soaking. They will pop up in the spring and grow all summer long. Come mid/late summer the tops start to dry. When dry, it’s time to pull them up (harvest). Some folks love to braid their garlic as a means of drying. I find the mesh racks handy, too. You want to save your best seed so to speak, for next year’s planting. Typically one head of garlic will produce 3 to 5 new plants.
There are over 300 varieties of garlic but only two types: hard necks and soft necks. The soft necks are longer keepers and are the type you often see braided.
In a Crock
Garlic mellows during fermentation. From pastes to whole cloves (and even black garlic which I’ll touch on next), the first thing you’ll notice is that the “sour” or acidic taste is mild and sweet. The bite, or heat, of raw garlic also disappears, but the flavour is still intense. The second thing you’ll find is that fermented garlic is a great way to eat it “raw” because it doesn’t linger on the palate in the way raw garlic does.
Introducing a simple food with a wonderfully complex flavour. Black garlic is “sweet meets savory,” a perfect mix of molasses-like richness and tangy garlic undertones. It has a tender, almost jelly-like texture with a melt-in-your-mouth consistency similar to a soft dried fruit. Hard to believe, but true. It’s as delicious as it is unique.
Black Garlic vs Raw Garlic
Imagine garlic without all of the annoying stuff. Bad breath? Nope. Pungent odour? Nope. Acrid bite? No, sir. You know how a great wine gets better with age? That’s what we’re dealing with here.
In Taoism mythology, black garlic was rumoured to grant immortality. Can’t promise you that, but there’s no doubt that black garlic is great for your health—it’s loaded with nearly twice as many antioxidants as raw garlic. It also contains S-allylcysteine, which is fancy talk for a natural compound that has been proven to be a factor in cancer prevention.
How does garlic become black? People are usually surprised to hear that the unique colour, taste, and texture of black garlic is accomplished without any additives! Black garlic is produced by fermentation, a technique that has been around for many thousands of years.
Garlic contains sugars and amino acids. When garlic undergoes fermentation, these elements produce melanoidin, a dark-coloured substance that is responsible for the colour of black garlic.
Where to Get Black Garlic
The only place locally I know that makes this unique treat is Culture Mother in Gravelbourg, SK—it’s something that I’ve been wanting to make myself too…maybe this year. If you’ve got more questions about black garlic I would contact Keirsten at www.culturemother.ca and find her business page on Facebook, too.
Source Local/Support Local
China is putting California garlic growers out of business and YOU can stop it. Less than 10 years ago, all garlic bought at a grocery store came from the U.S., primarily California. Now, less than 40% is grown there and most of it (60%) is coming from China. You can tell the difference by looking at the bottom. If the roots are all removed, leaving a concave, clean spot, it is Chinese. This is required by the Department of Agriculture to prevent soil-borne plant diseases from entering the country. If the roots are still there, it is probably garlic grown in California (or an even more local source like the Garlic Garden if you are in Yorkton and area).
Is there a difference in quality? Yes, local garlic (source from tests done on CA garlic) routinely scores a higher BRIX scale rating (sugar content) than garlic from China, and Chinese garlic is noted by chefs for its metallic bitterness. Personally, I DO notice a huge difference—like all foods sourced locally (and grown organically), there is no comparison in flavour. If you don’t have access to grow your own, hit up your local farmers’ markets (Saskatoon, Regina, Fort Qu’Appelle, Yorkton, etc.) and stock up! Regina also has The Farmer’s Table and Body Fuel Organics—both have excellent local sources of garlic amongst their selection and a bin service for your convenience.
Like a good Ukrainian friend said to me, “If the recipe calls for one head of garlic, use two.”
And with that fine statement, here are some recipes for you to try out:
Yield: about 1 pint (fermentation vessel: 1 quart)
You’ll want to have this on hand year-round. But fair warning: plan on about an hour of peeling time. It’s worth the effort, though, as the paste is invaluable as a finishing garnish for dishes that otherwise call for fresh garlic.
6–8 heads garlic, cloves separated
2 teaspoons sea salt
Process the garlic to a paste consistency in a food processor. This paste has a sticky, thick, gooey consistency. Sprinkle in the salt. Not much will change after salting, which makes it difficult to distinguish the brine. Don’t worry—it will work. (Note: If available, add 1–2 tbsp fermented brine to add a bit of juice and jumpstart the process. Do NOT add water.)
Press the paste down into a quart jar. Top with a quart-sized ziplock bag. Press the plastic down onto the surface of the ferment, fill it with water and seal.
Set the jar aside on a baking sheet to ferment somewhere nearby, out of direct sunlight, and cool for 14 to 21 days. Check daily to make sure the paste is submerged. You may see scum on top; it’s generally harmless.
You can start to test the ferment on day 14. It’s ready when the garlic is milder than when it was raw and has some acidity.
When it’s ready, tighten the lid, then refrigerate. It will keep about one year.
Oven Roasted Garlic
Roasting whole heads of garlic, drizzled with olive oil, is my favourite. Super simple and “oh yum” your house will smell amazing. I roast them whole, still in skin -> preheat oven to 350ºF and this works for one head or 10+. I put them in an oven dish, drizzle with olive oil, and bake about 45 minutes to one hour. These soft squishy roasted heads will UP your culinary skills and praise! Try with butter smeared on fresh baked sourdough bread!
Garden Therapy Green Goddess Dressing
Yield: approx. 500 ml
Approx. 4” cucumber
2 green onions
1 tsp oregano
Pinch of sugar
Approx. 1/2 cup to 3/4 cup olive oil
Approx. 1/4 cup Kombucha Vinegar
(ups the probiotic goodness!)
Few drops each Lemon and Lime Young Living Food Flavouring Essential Oils
->can also add kale or spinach
Put all ingredients into your blender and blend up.
Taste and adjust as necessary and enjoy!
Herbs to Homeopathy by Michael Smith
Garlic Paste “Fermented Vegetables” by Kirsten Shockey and Christopher Shockey
Garden Therapy Green Goddess Dressing by Stacey Tress
Stacey Tress, a Holistic Nutritional Therapist (HNT) and Young Living Essential Oil Distributor (#2282633), lives in Rhein, SK with her husband and two daughters. She is the owner of Garden Therapy Yorkton which offers fermentation workshops, permaculture design work, organically-grown produce, and more! She also offers essential oil support and carries a wide variety of Young Living Essential Oils and products for sale. To learn more, call 306-641-4239, email: firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Facebook “Garden Therapy Yorkton.” Also see the display ad on page 9 of the 24.1 May/June issue of the WHOLifE Journal.