What is Black Garlic?

Understanding Spices

If you’ve never seen black garlic before, you’d be forgiven for thinking it’s just regular garlic gone bad. But don’t bin it just yet – black garlic is actually a fantastic addition to have in your kitchen. From the outside, it looks just like a regular bulb of garlic with a slight brown tinge to its skin. However when you cut it open, the cloves are an inky black colour. 

This is garlic that has been aged for weeks or months under humid, low-heat conditions in a process called the Maillard reaction. The cloves turn black and the garlic’s texture becomes creamy and jam-like. As for the taste, black garlic has a deliciously sweet, earthy and robust flavour, with a slight tang and hints of balsamic. 

Black garlic is nothing new. It’s been used for flavour and medicinal properties for centuries, particularly in Asian cuisines. In Korea, it’s a highly valued ingredient for its health benefits.

How to use black garlic

Black garlic is very versatile and can be used in many ways. As the texture is so soft, it’s easily spreadable on toast or made into a dip. It’s a great addition to a cheese board, dressings, pasta sauces, soups and stews, or rubbed into chicken and fish before roasting. It’s worth keeping in mind that since the flavour is milder than regular garlic, you should taste as you add it to your dishes.

Health benefits of black garlic

No doubt you’re aware of garlic’s multiple health benefits. This hardy perennial is highly nutritious and contains high levels of vitamins and minerals like vitamin B6, vitamin C, selenium, manganese, potassium, iron and copper. Many of garlic’s health benefits come from its active ingredient allicin. This is the compound that gives garlic its pungent smell and taste.

While black garlic contains less allicin than fresh garlic, it does boast higher amounts of nutrients and antioxidants. Here are just some of the health benefits of black garlic:

  • High in antioxidants
  • During the fermentation process, allicin is converted into antioxidants. These are compounds that protect your cells from oxidative damage which would otherwise leads to various diseases.
  • Reduces the risk of heart disease
  • Studies have shown that black garlic can help open up circulation to protect against heart damage. It helps to reduce blood fats, triglycerides and cholesterol, which are all risk factors in heart disease. Not only does it lower bad cholesterol in the body, but black garlic also increases levels of good cholesterol.
  • May have anticancer properties
  • There have been several studies which have shown black garlic to be effective in fighting cancer cells. This is due to the antioxidant properties which block free radicals in the body. This reduces cell damage and limits the growth and spread of cancer cells.

Where to find black garlic

You can buy black garlic from the Garlic Farm on the Isle of Wright or from the South West Garlic Farm, Bridport. If you have the time and patience, you can also make it yourself – that’s if you can spare your Instant Pot or rice cooker for a few weeks. All you need to do is wrap some bulbs of garlic in plastic wrap and a layer of foil, place them at the bottom of the rice cooker and hit ‘warm’.

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