Garlic is a vegetable from the allium family which also includes onions, leeks, green onions or scallions, chives and shallots. Garlic’s sulfur containing compounds called allyl sulphides have been studied for their ability to inhibit digestive tract cancers. An article published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that eating raw or cooked garlic on a daily basis could reduce the risk of stomach cancer by half in comparison to those that did not eat garlic or ate it rarely.
Garlic also contains flavonoids, phytochemicals, Vitamin C and B6, manganese and selenium. Garlic can help lower cholesterol and inhibit platelet aggregation, both reducing the risk for heart attack and stroke.
Buying and storing your garlic
Look for cloves that are dry but firm and not moldy. Avoid cloves that have sprouted. Store your garlic in a cool dry spot or in a garlic pot, but not near the potatoes. Well stored it can last a few months. If you have lots of garlic you can peel and puree it and then freeze it in ice cube trays and simply thaw a cube as needed.
Peel the clove by laying it on a chopping board and firmly tapping it with the wide end of a chef’s knife. Use a garlic press or a paring knife to chop or crush garlic. Crushing or chopping the garlic clove helps to activate allinase, the enzyme involved in creating the sulphur compounds. Garlic can also be roasted in its’ skin with the tips of the cloves cut off exposing the flesh. Roasting creates a mild sweet flavor and the roasted garlic is soft and spreadable.
I love garlic in salad dressings, sautéed with asparagus or prawns, in tomato sauce, roasted and served with brie and baguette and to flavour meats in marinades with herbs and spices. It’s a flavouring staple I keep on hand at all times.
Garlic scapes are the edible stalk of the flower or seed pod of garlic. They grow up from the leaves in early summer and should be cut once they curl to allow all the nutrition from the soil to be diverted to the bulb or garlic cloves. The young tender scapes have a mild garlic flavor.
Being from the garlic plant, the scapes have similar nutrients to garlic itself. Notably, the sulfur containing compounds such as allyl sulfides which are responsible for improving immune function and fighting colds, cancer prevention, particularly of the GI tract, and heart health benefits such as lowering blood pressure and cholesterol and reducing platelet aggregation. The phytochemicals act as antioxidants, tumor suppressants and detoxifying agents. Chopping and crushing garlic scapes activates the allinase enzyme which sets a series of chemical reactions in motion that produce these health benefits. One scape contains 5 kcal and is a source of vitamin C, folate and vitamin K.
Scapes can be stored in the fridge for 3 weeks in a loose plastic bag or can be frozen without blanching.
There are many ways to use garlic scapes. Raw, they can be blended into a pesto with basil or cilantro and pistachios or hazelnuts, olive oil and sea salt. The pesto can be used as a marinade for chicken or lamb or in a salad dressing for potato salad with snap peas and hard-boiled egg. Garlic scapes are delicious grilled on the BBQ with olive oil and salt or added to stir fry. Eating parsley with or after garlic and their scapes may help improve your breath.