Garlic packs a strong flavor and nutritional punch! It grows in underground bulbs and is in the allium family with onions, leeks, chives, and shallots. There are hundreds of varieties of garlic across the globe, but here are a few types you will likely come across most often:
Softneck — This is the most common type found in every grocery store. Its name comes from the papery layers and soft stalk. This is the type that you will sometimes see braided together and hanging at a farmers’ market or in someone’s kitchen. The two most common softneck varieties are Silverskin and Artichoke.
Hardneck — These varieties have very firm stalks that produce thin, green scapes when growing, which can also be used in cooking. Hardneck garlic varieties can be found at farmer’s markets and some specialty grocery stores. Some examples are Rocambole, Porcelain, and Purple Stripe.
Elephant — Despite this variety’s large size, its flavor is milder, similar to leeks. It also doesn’t have the same level of health benefits as other varieties.
For the most health benefits, use fresh garlic, either raw or lightly sautéed. For convenience, garlic can also be found in jars or bottles, dehydrated, or powdered. These processed varieties will still give good garlic flavor, but with less beneficial nutrients.
Garlic is full of sulfur-containing compounds, which act as antioxidants and can also have protective effects for our cardiovascular system. Studies demonstrate that garlic may help lower cholesterol, triglycerides, blood pressure, and inflammation. Some studies also suggest that garlic may have antibacterial and antiviral properties.
Did You Know?
Also, garlic scapes are a fun ingredient to add to recipes.