The local garlic has been harvested and is abundant at our local farm markets. A native of central Asia, garlic is one of the oldest cultivated plants in the world and has played a role in the culture of many civilizations.
Garlic was cultivated by the ancient Egyptians, and was given to the Egyptian slaves to promote endurance and strength. Ancient Greek and Roman soldiers and athletes ate garlic to enhance their strength, and by the 6th century BC, China and India both recognized the health-benefits of this plant.
Most recently, researchers have validated many of the health-and wellness claims surrounding this vegetable; garlic contains powerful anti-oxidants and anti-inflammatory properties, can lower cholesterol and triglycerides by 5-15%, can lower blood pressure, improve iron metabolism and it has anti-viral and anti-bacterial properties to boot!
Garlic is an excellent source of manganese and a very good source of vitamins B6, thiamin (B1) and C, and a good source of phosphorus, selenium, calcium, and copper.
Garlic consists of small separate cloves which together form a bulb which is encased in a papery wrapper. When purchasing garlic, make sure it is plump; gently squeeze the bulb between your fingertips to make sure the bulb is firm but not hard and dried out. Avoid any garlic that is mold, hard and shriveled or has begun to sprout (although if you have garlic that has just begun to sprout, it is perfectly good to use, but you need to use it right away as it will not last much longer.
Store your fresh garlic in an uncovered or loosely covered container in a cool, dark place. Do not expose it to heat and sunlight and do not refrigerate it (the cold refrigerator may stimulate the growth cycle and the garlic will think it is time to start sprouting!).
Depending upon the variety of garlic (hard neck or soft neck?) and its age, garlic bulbs will keep fresh for at least a month if properly stored. Check your stored garlic frequently and remove any cloves which are moldy or dried out. If you do remove a clove from a bulb of garlic, the shelf life of that bulb is then reduced to only a few days.
By the way, garlic and oil mixtures MUST go into the refrigerator, as storing them at room temperature creates the perfect environment for botulism.
Mincing garlic and keeping it in olive oil in a jar in the refrigerator makes it quick and convenient to add to your favorite dishes.
You can see some of the local garlic and other produce in the slideshow.
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