Vampires Beware, we’ve been eating garlic!

Vampires cross the street when they walk by our house, especially since our visit to Virginia Ambrose from Scarecrow Farm. We met her at the Hudson Farmers Market last weekend. And we’re glad we did.

If you have a question about garlic, ask Virginia. She knows her garlic. They grow more hardneck varieties than softneck. Apparently hardneck is the garlic connoisseur’s choice. The flavor is said to be more complex. The cloves are larger, but fewer. They are easier to peel but don’t store as well as the softnecks. Softneck garlic is the type you most often see in the supermarket, though I doubt our local supermarkets carry either the Korean Red or Mediterranean Soft neck that Scarecrow Farms grows.

Scarecrow Farm has many types of garlic, each with their own characteristics. Virginia will mark each bulb with the name so you can go home and have your very own garlic tasting, which is exactly what we did.

I methodically set up for the tasting. First I labeled plates with each type of garlic.

The line-up was:
Two porcelain hardnecks: Carpathian and Romanian Red
One purple stripe hardneck: Siberian
One soft neck: Mediterranean.

Then I heated up bread with a little butter and placed the raw, minced garlic on each piece. I’m sure you could also conduct this taste test with cooked garlic, but I felt we would catch more subtleties eating it raw. Plus vampires hate raw garlic.

We sampled each one, noting their bouquet, start and finish. We cleansed our pallet between each sample, which with raw garlic is no small feat.

I had hoped to be able to pick out the nuances of each variety and write something that mimicked a wine review, but my pallet just isn’t trained that way. The only thing I got was hot and hotter. The Carpathian was by far the hottest.

My husband claimed that after our dog got a whiff of his garlic breath, she hopped off the couch, something she usually only does with great reluctance and a dirty look.

I’ve always used a lot of garlic in my cooking— going through at least a head a week, if not more. Conventional wisdom says that I’m doing my body a favor. Garlic is purported to have a host of medicinal properties including anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant, antibacterial and antiviral benefits. I do believe it can ward off a cold, which may or may not be the result of its lingering aroma. In my experience, other people are the main cause of colds, so I feel garlic is pretty effective at keeping them at arm’s length. They don’t call it “the stinking rose” for nothing.

All food prices have increased in the last year but the price of garlic has skyrocketed. Last year I found that much of the garlic that you find in the supermarket comes from China. Apparently there has been a bit of speculation in the China garlic market and people have been pouring money into it. I read stories of farmers hoarding their garlic crop and of businessmen investing in fields of garlic rather than real estate. Is there irrational exuberance in the China garlic market?

I don’t know what the price of garlic in China has to do with our local crop, but the prices have risen here also. Last year I paid 50¢ a head, this year it is double that.

But I buy it anyway. Maybe if I hold on to it, I can sell it and double my money next year. Yes, I’m giving out investment advice in a food column!

Roasted Garlic
While I will eat garlic raw, I love the mellow taste of roasted garlic. Roasting garlic caramelized the cloves and creates a delicious, creamy paste. Spread it on bread or toss it into mashed potatoes.

Ingredients
Whole heads of garlic
Olive oil

Method

  • Preheat the oven to 400ºF.
  • Peel away any loose outer skin of the garlic bulb. Using a knife, or kitchen shears, cut off about 1/4 inch of the top of bulb, exposing the individual cloves.
  • Place the garlic in a baking dish, I use a small ramekin for each head, but they can all be in the same dish. Drizzle each with olive oil.
  • Cover with foil and bake at 400 degrees for 30 to 35 minutes, or until the cloves feel soft when pressed.
  • Allow the garlic to cool. You can either use a fork to gently pull each clove out or squeeze the garlic clove directly into your mouth, I mean directly on a piece of nice, crusty French bread.

Roasted garlic may be stored in a tightly covered container in the refrigerator for several days.

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Shared on The Nourishing Gourmet.

Garlic Roasted Beans

A few weeks ago my friend David made a delicious snack by roasting Garbanzo beans. They were tasty, salty, and crunchy—the three things I look for in a good snack. I ate them with impunity, knowing I was getting protein and folic acid along with my snack-food fix.

Roasted garbanzo beans are a traditional Spanish tapas— but why stop at garbanzo beans? I had a jar of beautiful anasazi Beans so I tried them. I also tried white beans. The garbanzo beans held their shape the best; they went in the oven looking like garbanzo beans and came out looking like garbanzo beans. The other beans opened up as they cooked. This gave them a delicious, airy crunch.

2 cups of cooked beans, drained (I start off with dried beans. Click here for bean-cooking details.)
1 garlic clove, minced
1 teaspoon of sea salt (or more to taste)
1/2 teaspoon of pepper (black or cayenne, I use both)
1 Tablespoon of olive oil (you can actually omit this if you want)

Preheat oven to 375º F.

Toss all ingredients until well coated.

Spread out in a single layer in a baking sheet with sides (if you omitted the olive oil, lightly grease the pan).

Bake for 35-50 minutes (smaller beans will take less time, large beans, more), stirring every 15 minutes or so. When done, they should be crispy.

Experiment with different spices/herbs. Cumin? Rosemary? Wait until after the beans are roasted before you add fresh herbs (or cheese…ymmm). Buen apetito!