Garlic: strength, health, protection, and flavor

Garlic has long been my favorite vegetable.  I love it so much that, in college, I used to eat raw cloves.  My roommate’s mother, a Taiwanese lady who rarely spoke to me when she visited, made a point to call me out on it one day.

Garlic bulbs

“You eat garlic like the Red Army.  They’re strong, healthy.  Good girl.”

I think that was the most she ever said to me at one time, until a couple of years later when she asked when I was going to get married to the man I was seeing (fortunately for me, he loves garlic as much as I do).

Garlic was also my ally and protector when I served as a Peace Corps volunteer in the Republic of Moldova, where it supposedly helped me ward off the Evil Eye.  Except the one time when it didn’t, and one of my local colleagues removed it for me through a ritual involving spitting and hushed words I didn’t understand.

Today, garlic’s role in my life seems much less romantic, and is much more culinary.

Garlic 1

The intense flavor, pungent aroma, and even hot sensation might be overwhelming to some, but I add it to nearly every savory dish I make – often in great quantities, often as the focal point of the dish.

This is why I was excited to make it through the weeds in my neglected garden this month and realize that most of the shoots had dried and detached from the garlic I planted last fall.


I grabbed a rusty pry-bar I’d found buried in the dirt and began to dig where I remembered nestling the cloves of the only annual that seems to grow well in my wind-swept yard.

Heirloom Garlic bulbs

The 4 heirloom varieties of spicy, pungent garlic came up intact.  Only one lone clove had spoiled.

I will save a bulb of each type to plant again this fall.  The rest will be eaten in a way that highlights them – not uses them as a background flavor.  No.  With their shades of rose and purple and their raw, fiery taste, these tiny bulbs were meant to shine.

Over the next few weeks (home grown garlic tends to keep well for months at room temperature), here are a handful of the ways I will be using these bulbs:

brined radishes

Looking for more garlic recipes?

 What is your favorite way to eat garlic?  Do you like milder or hotter varieties?


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