It may be one of the most pungent flavors in the culinary world, but garlic plays a major flavoring role in many cuisines around the world from Asia, to Africa, to the Middle East, to Europe, and the Americas. Garlic is a member of the family Alliaceae along with onions, chives, and leeks. It has been in use for well over 4000 years.
The garlic plant consists of five major parts: the roots, the bulb which is comprised of multiple sections called cloves, the leaves, stems called scapes, and small bulbs that form on the tops of the scapes called bulbils. Although most people commonly consume the cloves, the scapes and bulbils are also edible. Garlic that has not yet formed bulbs called green garlic can also be harvested and consumed. There are two main types of garlic, hardneck and softneck. Hardneck garlic has a milder flavor and can withstand hardier weather conditions than softnecks.
Garlic has been used as a medicinal herb for many years and has received some attention in the past as a possible functional food for lowering total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol levels, although much research still needs to be done to prove this. Garlic pairs with many foods including beans, eggplant, potatoes, spinach, tomatoes, and zucchini. So next time you are looking to add a little zing to a dish, consider the pungent, yet incredible, edible garlic.