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Black garlic from A to Z: 26 things you need to know

Black garlic from A to Z: 26 things you need to know

Is black garlic obtained by fermentation? Does it pair well with chocolate? Where did it come from? Discover more about this delicacy and how to use it.

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Asia. The exact origin of black garlic is a controversial point: some say it comes from the Far East, others from Egypt. What we do know for sure is that it is a popular ingredient in the cuisines of South Korea, Japan and Thailand.

Botwright. This is the name of the farmer who, in 2009, made black garlic famous in the UK by presenting it on Something for the Weekend broadcast by the BBC. Mark Botwright states that he discovered it when wracking his brains on how to preserve the 900,000 garlic bulbs harvested on his farm: he apparently did so by following an ancient Korean recipe dating back 4,000 years. In California, however, equal merit goes to Scott Kim, a Korean researcher and current owner of the company Black Garlic Inc.

Chocolate. Black garlic and chocolate? Indeed! This unusual combination (garlic cloves coated in chocolate and sprinkled with cocoa powder) was an idea conceived by Japanese-born Takko Shoji for Valentine’s Day. A pairing that soon made news all around the world and led to a medley of new ideas.

Desserts. Katy Peetz of the "Blanca" restaurant of Brooklyn (New York) was one of the first to experiment with black garlic in desserts: having shot to fame with her parsley crumble with lemon granita and fennel and black garlic ice-cream, the young pastry chef declared that its original caramel-flavoured notes are perfect in sweets. No less daring are those who flock to the Toronto Garlic Festival every year, with its offering of macarons, tarts, bread pudding, ice-cream and brownies. All containing... black garlic!

Effective remedy. Black garlic seems to give an excellent help for feverishness, coughs and sore throats. Apparently, its active component is allicin.

Fermentation. Is fermentation needed for black garlic? No indeed! The process used to transform garlic does not involve fermentation. The bulbs are “aged” for several weeks in special heat and humidity conditions at controlled temperatures of around 60°C, after which they are dried.

Glue. Have you ever tried to peel a clove of garlic, squeeze it, and filter the juice? The result is an extremely sticky liquid which can be used to glue paper and smaller pieces of wood or ceramics. Try it!

Healthy food. Black garlic boasts a lower content of allicin and a great concentration of antioxidants than traditional garlic. Its antioxidants seems to be very helpful to prevent heart disease, reduce cholesterol levels and combat infections.

Insects. Garlic is a natural insecticide. In order to keep many kinds of parasites away from your plants, all you have to do is bury a few cloves nearby, or prepare a garlic infusion and spray it onto them. 

Japan. Black garlic is very popular in Japan, where it is considered like a real medicine. In the past, for two years in a row, the nation hosted the International Black Garlic Summit, as well: the manifesto of the congress spoke about the black garlic as something "spreading out the world since it originally was produced in Japan".

Kilocalories. Just 40 calories are contained in one black garlic bulb.

Licorice. According to most of those who have tasted it, it regales a sweet aftertaste to the palate, reminiscent of licorice. And that’s not all: black garlic lovers also appreciate its notes of balsamic vinegar, tamarind, caramel, treacle, chocolate, dried prunes, soy sauce, dates and umami. Wow!

Maillard Reaction. It is actually thanks to this reaction that white garlic turns black: this occurs when the sugars and amino acids react to heat and produce complex molecules. The dark colour of black garlic depends on the presence of melanoidine, also responsible for the dark colour of beer.

Nutritional facts. Black garlic is more digestible than its white counterpart since it contains less allicin (the substance responsible for its characteristic smell and taste). Furthermore, it is rich in magnesium, calcium, phosphorus, selenium, vitamins B6 and C.

Oil. The Internet is full of suggestions to use black garlic in your own kitchen, but one of the most popular uses especially in the Far East is the black garlic oil, also called mayu: a perfect condiment for Japanese ramen allowing you to add a delicious punch of umami flavor to add depth to any Asian soup dish.

Popularity. While black garlic rose to fame in Great Britain with the BBC programme Something for the Weekend, in the United States it became popular thanks to an episode of Top Chef: New York, when it was presented with monkfish in a recipe by the well-known New York restaurant Le Bernardin, and in the seventh edition (episode 11) of Iron Chef America.

Quality. Black garlic must be 100% natural, that is to say, produced without additives to accelerate the “cooking” process and without any added preservatives. The cloves must be of a uniform and deep shade of black.

Recipes. Black garlic is so versatile. It is superlative with cheese (especially caprino) and butter (try mixing butter, honey and black garlic for spreading on croutons or bruschetta!), it enhances meat and confers a certain je-ne-sais-quoi to fish, it is excellent with vegetables and pulses (in hummus for example) and even with pizza. It can be used raw or cooked (so long as a gentle heat is used to preserve its delicate taste). Why don't you try these chard and ricotta ravioli with black ceci and black garlic by Mario Batali?

Sac (S-allyl-cysteine). One bulb of black garlic contains approximately 850 mg of S-allyl-cysteine, a natural compound of powerful anti-free radical properties, 30 times less “toxic” than the allicin contained in fresh garlic.

Taoism. In Taoist mythology, it was believed that black garlic could guarantee immortality.

United States. Allium Nigrum means black garlic in Latin, but it is not the plant that originates the gloves but an ornamental plant in European and North American gardens. It has become naturalized in some regions, including parts of the United States (especially Washington and Oregon). Garlic, in its different varieties, grows all over the USA, apart from Alaska. It is produced in the greatest quantity in California. In the American kitchens, the discovery of black garlic was defined as sensational and it was also included in the list of the five most resounding discoveries of 2008.

Vinaigrettes. Along with an infinite number of meat, fish, vegetable and pulse-based recipes, black garlic occupies a place of honour in the preparation of vinaigrettes.

Water. 80% of a garlic bulb is made up of water. Other nutritionally interesting substances found in them are carbohydrates (8%) and fiber ( 3%). Proteins and fats are present in minimal quantities.

Xeric plants. These are plants, including some species of garlic, which have become adapted to very dry climates. Living in these extreme conditions means that they have less parasites to contend with. 

Yellow. Check out the coloration of your garlic (once peeled). Garlic should appear white. If it looks yellowish or has brown spots on the surface, this is a clear indication that it has turned and/or is starting to go moldy. At this stage, it will start to develop more of a “hot” taste. 

Zero fat. A triumph of different flavours and yet fats under or equal to zero: one garlic clove actually contains 0.99 g of sugar, 0 fats and 0 mg of cholesterol.


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