Glossary of Foods: Garlic

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Garlic doesn't often get to be the star ingredient in a dish, perhaps owing to the fact that too much garlic can linger on your breath long after you've eaten and send friends (and vampires) running. But we think garlic deserves more praise because it's just so versatile and delicious.

garlic on a table

Garlic is a relative of onions, shallots, leeks and chives. It is native to central Asia and has long been used in cooking and in traditional medicine in Asia, Africa, and Europe. Garlic is a bulbous plant that can grow up to 4 feet high. It produces a round, purplish flower that resembles the white puff of a dandelion. The bulb of the pant is what we eat as garlic.

In mild climates, garlic can be grown year round. Surprisingly, most garlic is not grown by seed. Instead, garlic can be propagated by planting one single clove of garlic, and a new bulb will form and sprout. Garlic is grown all around the world, but China is the largest producer of garlic. The only state in the United States that does not grow garlic is Alaska.

When allowed to mature, the garlic bulb separates into single cloves covered by a thin, papery skin. The skin is removed to reveal small, teardrop-shaped cloves used in cooking. Check out this tutorial to learn how to peel garlic quickly and easily.

The intensity of the garlic flavor can be controlled based on the method of preparation and cooking. Garlic chopped into very fine pieces will have a stronger, more pungent flavor than garlic chopped into large pieces. Also, garlic that cooks for a longer time at lower heat will have a sweeter flavor than garlic that cooks shorter and faster. Common cooking methods for garlic include sautéing and roasting. Roasting a whole head of garlic is a clever way to cook lots of garlic at once.


Check out these delicious recipe ideas flavored with garlic. For a magnificent main dish, try these Cheesy Garlic Pork Chops. Or, at your next cozy Sunday dinner, whip up one of these two mashed potato recipes. Try either Skinny Rosemary Garlic Mashed Potatoes or Garlic Mashed Red Potatoes. Spruce up your typical roasted veggies and try Roasted Garlic Rosemary Vegetables.

Plus, think beyond the kitchen. Garlic can be used around the household to help you tackle a number of different things. Read more about garlic's uses in our Household Hacks.