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Selecting Garlic

With garlic being the popular ingredient that it is, it's important to know how to properly select and prepare it.

Most varieties of garlic have the same characteristic pungent odor and bite. Pink-skinned garlic tastes a little sweeter and keeps longer than white garlic. Elephant garlic, a large-clove variety, is milder in flavor than regular garlic and should be used like a leek. But most varieties can be used interchangeably in recipes.

Roasted Garlic Hummus Recipe
Garlic is featured in the
Roasted Garlic Hummus recipe.

Choose loose garlic if you can find it. It's easier to check the quality of what you're getting than with those hiding behind cellophane. Its appearance can clue you in to its freshness; paper-white skins are your best bet. Then pick up the garlic; choose a head that is firm to the touch with no visible damp or brown spots.

Don't expect the flavor of garlic powder to mimic fresh garlic. Much of the flavor is processed out. Garlic powder, however, may retain some active components. Garlic salt, of course, contains large amounts of sodium -- as much as 900 milligrams per teaspoon, so avoid using it.

Store garlic in a cool, dark, dry spot. If you don't use it regularly, check it occasionally to be sure it's usable. Garlic may last only a few weeks or a few months. If one or two cloves have gone bad, remove them, but don't nick remaining cloves; any skin punctures will hasten the demise of what's left. If garlic begins to sprout, it's still okay to use, but it may have a milder flavor, just remove the tough, green sprout.

Tips for Preparing and Serving Garlic

Garlic squeezed through a garlic press is ten times stronger in flavor than garlic minced with a knife, so use pressed garlic when you want full-force flavor to come through; use minced when you want to curtail it; and for a buttery flavor, bake whole cloves until tender. The longer the garlic is cooked, the more mild the flavor.

For just a delicate touch of garlic in salads, rub the bottom of the salad bowl with a cut clove before adding the salad greens. For more flavor, add freshly crushed garlic to the salad.

Chew on fresh parsley, fresh mint, or citrus peel to neutralize the pungent aroma garlic leaves on your breath -- a common complaint among garlic lovers. This doesn't work for everyone, but it just might help you.

In order to reap the benefits of garlic's healing compounds, cut or crush garlic, then let it sit in the air for about 10 minutes before using. Crushed garlic needs time to interact with oxygen to form the beneficial substances.

Keep reading to learn about the many health benefits of garlic.

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