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Garlic – the flavorful bulb – is an essential ingredient in many recipes.  Some studies have shown that garlic can also be good for your health!  Although it’s a pantry staple year-round, garlic is especially popular in summer dishes.  If you haven’t tried fresh garlic, now’s the time to sample the variety of bulbs in season.

Rocambole is a small, compact bulb with streaks of purple skin.  Its pungent flavor is perfect for tomato sauce.  Green garlic is another variety to try.  When it is immature, it resembles overgrown scallions.  With a sweet and delicate flavor, it pairs nicely with broths or seafood.

You’ve probably seen elephant garlic in the grocery stores.  Elephant garlic is the largest bulb but offers the most subtle flavor of all garlics.  It doesn’t overpower other flavors and mixes nicely with stews, soups or salad.

The potency of the garlic will depend on the type and how you prepare it.  The smaller you chop the cloves, the more intense the flavor.  Dishes such as pesto, ailoi, or marinades are best for using the stronger flavored garlic.  Just a small amount is needed in salad dressings or vinaigrettes.  Sauteing it quickly in a little olive oil will soften its flavor.  Roasted garlic is mellow and sweet, providing a wonderful spread for bread.  Garlic scapes, the green garlic stalk of the plant, can be used raw or lightly cooked.  Use them like chives in eggs or on potatoes.

To select the best garlic, look for bulbs that are firm without soft spots or shriveling.  The best size of a bulb is approximately the size of a golf ball, although rocambole garlic may be a little smaller.  Special utensils aren’t necessary to peel garlic.  Simply take a clove and push on it with the flat side of your knife.  Cut off the root end and remove any dark spots or green sprouts.  Garlic should be stored in a cool, dark dry place.  This will prevent it from sprouting.  Whole heads of garlic will last longer than cloves of garlic.  Be sure to refrigerate garlic scapes and green garlic.

Submitted by Jennifer Even, Extension Educator, Ohio State University Extension, Hamilton County.

Source:  Consumer Reports, July 2012.  What to buy now:  Garlic.

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