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Garlic – All You Need to Know | Instacart Guide to Fresh Produce

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Jun 17, 2021

What is garlic?

A plant in the onion (Allium) family, garlic is similar to leeks, shallots, chives, and onions. It comes in a bulb, which is called a garlic clove. Each bulb is comprised of anywhere from 10 to 20 cloves.

Garlic is often known for its pungent flavor and odor. But those sensory aspects aren’t released until cloves are peeled and chopped or crushed. Once that happens, sulfur compounds are released. Those compounds are what contribute to the plant’s strong smell and taste. Typically, you’ll find garlic with fresh vegetables in the produce section.

Many varieties of garlic exist, so you have a ton of choices when shopping. Elephant garlic is sometimes confused for garlic, but it is actually a member of the leek family. Large in size and very mild, it is tasty but not a substitute for true garlic.

Garlic is a popular ingredient in many dishes, including dressings, marinades, and sauces. It also adds a distinct flavor to soups, stews, meats, and vegetables—some chefs roast entire garlic cloves for a nice pop to dishes. Every savvy home chef keeps at least 1 garlic bulb in their kitchen.

Where did garlic originate from?

Garlic dates back to ancient times and is one of the oldest crops. References to garlic appear about 5,000 years ago. Historians report that gladiators chewed garlic before they went into battle and also that Egyptian slaves ate it to get stronger before building pyramids.

It originally came from Central Asia and northeastern Iran. Garlic grew wild in India, Egypt, and even Ukraine. Today, China produces most of the world’s garlic.

Despite the long and versatile history of garlic, the ability to domesticate it didn’t happen until the 1980s. Crop scientists became more sophisticated in planting it and identifying/replicating certain species.

What is the nutritional value of garlic?

Hippocrates, an ancient Greek physician (who was considered the father of Western medicine), used garlic to treat a wide range of medical symptoms and conditions.

Fast forward to modern life. Health professionals know now that the sulfur in garlic enters the digestive tract and travels throughout the human body, contributing to wellness.

In fact, some studies report that cold and flu symptoms are reduced by as much as 70% when a patient consumes garlic.

Garlic has also been reported to reduce blood pressure and cholesterol, slow dementia, improve bone health, and even increase longevity.

Low in calories, garlic packs a healthy vitamin punch. Rich in vitamins C and B6, it also contains manganese, selenium, and fiber. In addition, garlic also has calcium, potassium, iron, Vitamin B1, and copper.

How is garlic grown?

Garlic grows best in the fall or early spring. It needs chilly weather to develop properly. It can even survive a light frost. Garlic grows from cloves. The cloves multiply in the earth, and each one creates a new bulb comprised of 5 to 10 more cloves. The size of the cloves planted will determine the size of the new bulbs.

Garlic should be planted in shallow soil, a few inches apart. The health of the soil is important for farmers growing large patches of garlic. They often fertilize the earth with compost, manure, leaf mulch, and aged straw.

When is garlic in season?

Garlic is a staple of the fresh produce section and can be found year-round. It is typically harvested in the summer months (June through August).

Because of its long shelf life, garlic can be purchased weeks or even months before you plan to use it.

How do you pick garlic at the grocery store?

Look for firm garlic bulbs. By giving the bulb a light squeeze, shoppers can make sure that the cloves aren’t too dry or soft. Make sure that the bulbs don’t have sprouts growing out of them.

Shop via Instacart when you need garlic. Once you’ve added garlic and other fresh produce to your cart, use the “Instructions” option to give specific preferences or directions on choosing the best products. Shop for fresh garlic here.

How to store garlic

Do not peel garlic when it arrives in your kitchen. Store it in a dry and cool place away from sunlight. When stored in the refrigerator, a plastic bag is the best place for it. To avoid the fragrance affecting other produce and products, store it in the crisper where it can stay isolated.

When left unpeeled, cloves last about 3 weeks. Peeled cloves only last up to a week. If garlic is chopped, cover it in olive oil to extend its life expectancy to 2 or 3 days. But entire heads (bulbs) of garlic left unpeeled may last up to 6 months.

How to tell if garlic is bad

When brown spots appear and the color of cloves changes from white to tan or yellow, the garlic is going bad. When the bulb is soft and pliable rather than tight and hard, it’s also turning bad.

Green roots may also start to appear in the center of the cloves when garlic is spoiling.

The taste of aging garlic will be hotter. Although garlic can be stored for a long while, the sooner it’s used, the better the taste.

What can I substitute for garlic?

Although other onion family members can be used in cooking, the best substitute for fresh garlic is other forms of garlic, including jarred minced garlic, garlic flames, garlic powder, garlic salt, and granulated garlic.

Home chefs should keep at least one of these products on hand.

How can I find garlic near me?

Whether stocking up on fresh garlic bulbs or filling your spice cabinet with fragrant alternatives, find a wide range of garlic options with Instacart. Enjoy produce delivery straight to your door with same-day delivery. Order fresh garlic now.

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