April 19th is Garlic Day, even though in my opinion Garlic Day should really be in July when the Garlic Harvest is going on full scale in Gilroy, California which is the Garlic Capitol of the World. If you have ever been to the Garlic Festival in Gilroy or even have just been in Gilroy around Harvest Time, you will certainly know that Garlic grows here! When you get out of the car your nostrils are assailed with the aroma of Garlic growing, Garlic Roasting and so on. If you love Garlic, as I do, you will be in Garlic Heaven. If you do not like Garlic as my husband does, then you probably won’t even get out of the car as he doesn’t.
One year I, my Daughter-in-Law Nereida and my Grand Daughter, Nesbyth and her Cousin, Christina all went up to Gilroy for the Garlic Festival. There were the Fire Chefs – BBQ with lots of Garlic; their specialty was big flames to show off their BBQ Skill and their food was very tasty, as you can imagine what with all the garlic that was used. There was Garlic Ice Cream, both in Vanilla and Chocolate Varieties. Of course, we all bought Garlic Shirts and braids of Garlic to take home with us. The Garlic Braid shown in the photo above was recently purchased at Garlic World in Gilroy. Even though Garlic Season isn’t until summer, they still have plenty of garlic on hand to sell.
Back now to Garlic. There are many varieties of Garlic, even though you will probably only find one or two in the Supermarket. It is said that there are over 600 cultivated sub-varieties of garlic in the world. Hard to imagine, but probably true. The sub-varieties were cultivated from about 6 main varieties. Garlic grows in bulbs, which are called heads. There are multiple cloves (individual pieces) in each head of garlic, except for one variety, which is a single clove, although it is still round as is a head of garlic.
There is white garlic, red garlic, purple garlic and green garlic. You can purchase Garlic Chives at the Farmer’s Market. There is even a Garlic Plant called Society Garlic which is really more of a flower with a mild garlic aroma. It is not offensive and you can see it growing along the borders of flower beds. The blossom is usually a light purple or lavender color.
There are small bulbs of garlic and large heads of garlic. One of the larger heads is called Elephant Garlic, and it is said that it is not really a true garlic but is really a shallot, which is also in the onion family. A shallot is smaller than an onion and larger than garlic and is milder than either one. Elephant Garlic is milder than its smaller cousins. It seems that as with Chilies, the larger the garlic head or clove, the more flavor it has.
Garlic is used in cooking in everything from salads to sauces and even desserts, such as Garlic Ice Cream. I love Garlic and cook with it all the time. One thing that I like to do with Garlic is to roast the whole head. This can be done, by wrapping a head (or more) of garlic in foil and then roasting it in the oven for about 45 minutes. The result is that you have creamy garlic cloves (which are easy to remove form their skin) that can be rubbed on a piece of toasted (or not) French Bread or can be used in salads and other delectable dishes.
Garlic is good for healthy blood pressure and it used to be used to keep away ‘vampires’ and other bad spirits. You can even buy garlic pills if you don’t like the taste of this amazing vegetable and want the health advantages it possesses.
Some of my favorite foods that contain garlic are:
Bruschetta (the chopped Tomato, Basil Salad that is usually served with the small toasted bread slices) (Mexican) mexican-pizza/
Mafungo – A Puerto Rican dish made with Plantains that are cooked and mashed with Garlic. This dish is the absolute love/hate relationship. I love eating it, but can’t stand the aftertaste that lingers all night.
Try some Garlic in your food today and see how the flavors are enhanced. I think that this year I am going to try growing some Garlic, but I better get to it as pretty soon it will be too late to do so. Look for ‘The Garlic Chronicles’!