AROUND THE CO-OP
|Nutritional Notes: Garlic|
Anyone who visits Wheatsfield might recognize Alice McGary, who farms at Mustard Seed Community Farm and works as a cashier, in part for the colorful layers which keep her warm in the climate controlled co-op. Many autumns ago I rode past Alice who was walking near the old store, resplendent in whites, off whites and ivories. When I commented on the simple beauty of that ensemble, she told me that she'd been inspired to wear whites because she'd been planting garlic bulbs the day before!
This summer, when I asked Joe Lynch, farmer at Onion Creek Farm, which vegetables might be timely to write about in August, he mentioned that the garlic was coming up unusually early. I was excited. I am definitely in the “love garlic” camp and I have no shortage of ideas of how to include this bulbous plant in recipes.
Who would think that such an innocuous, colorless, papery head would illicit so much lore, offer so many potential health benefits, please gardeners and farmers for centuries, pack so much flavor, be used in so many cuisines around the world and even inspire an clothing?
Garlic is mysterious. We take the subterranean garlic head, peel away its papery layers to find a host of smaller bulbs scrunched together. We use these like a spice or an herb but garlic is really more of a vegetable. Like it's edible cousins - onions, shallots, leeks and scallions – garlic is a member of the lily family. Eaten raw, it is strong and spicy, sometimes overpowering. Roasted or sauteed, it becomes mellow, almost sweet, lending a bass note to any dish. Garlic is versatile; garlic is universal; garlic is awesome.
I used to dry my season's harvest from my Seattle P-Patch in beautiful braids, releasing each cured head throughout the winter like a countdown to spring when I'd have fresh garlic scapes marking the hidden bulbs below, planted the previous autumn.
After moving back to Iowa and not gardening for a long while, I fell pray to the ease a jar of minced garlic offered – stir fry already had a lot of steps involved, I multi-tasked all the time and I had little ones to look after while I was in the kitchen. But as I prepared my family's meals I began to really consider the implications of “overseas organics” and the country of origin relating to my food. Somewhere during those busy days I came out of the haze of convenience and I realized that my garlic in a jar was super processed a far cry from the garlic I used to grow myself! Garlic became another item on my Wheatsfield produce list because local garlic's potential health benefits and amazing flavor hadn't been processed or irradiated away before coming home to my kitchen.
Speaking of health - part of the appeal of that prepared garlic is that raw garlic is one of my migraine triggers (perhaps because it expands blood vessels as it lowers blood pressure). So like many parts of life, I've come to a compromise with my friend, garlic. I try to only eat it cooked or roasted. Though garlic looses some of its' cancer fighting properties when heated, other healthy sulfur compounds are created during cooking. I make extra roasted garlic so I don't have to resort to garlic powder for my killer guacamole too often.
Use these tips to maximize the health benefits and flavor out of each and every clove:
How to Peel a Clove of Garlic
Separate individual cloves of garlic from the head by peeling layers of the papery skin until the bulb is visible. Lay the bulb sideways on a cutting board and hit or press with the side of a wide kitchen knife. Remove the skin with your fingers. Discard any green sprouts in the center of the clove.
Store fresh garlic uncovered or loosely covered container in a cool, dark place away from exposure to heat and light. It is not necessary to refrigerate garlic. Freezing peeled garlic reduces its flavor profile and changes its texture.
Garlic and our Health
Although garlic was once thought to repel vampires, a range of health benefits have been ascribed to it throughout recorded history.
As a vegetable, garlic is high in manganese which is essential in our diets and is often lacking in supplements which include other minerals. Symptoms of manganese deficiency include joint pain and inflammation. Garlic is also a good source of Vitamin B6, Vitamin C and a reliable source of the trace mineral selenium which is a important part of our antioxidant defense, increases our inflammatory and immune responses and helps with regulation of the thyroid hormones.
Furthermore, with the advent of modern scientific testing we know that substances in garlic can inhibit the clumping of blood cells (a factor in heart attacks and strokes) and they might possess a cholesterol-lowering ability (which especially protects against the cholesterol-raising effects of fat). Additionally, garlic derived organosulfur compounds have been found to inhibit the activity of the inflammatory enzymes which appear to play an important role in the the pathology of cardiovascular disease.
Many report that allicin-derived compounds extracted from garlic, possess antibacterial (and antifungal) properties which makes it an easy first line of defense against any season's colds and flues. It's sulfur compounds also appear to be effective against candida and have long been recognized as having anti-inflammatory properties.
Garlic-derived organosulfur compounds induce apoptosis, a normal physiological process for the self-destruction of cells that are genetically damaged or no longer necessary. Most of the cancer related research related to these compounds is very preliminary at this time. Most research on garlic has been on it's extracts or derivative compounds rather than garlic in its whole food form.
Consuming more than a typical daily
serving of garlic is not recommended unless first consulting your
Ebersole Cattle Co
Ebersole Cattle Co. is a small family ranch located in the rolling hills of Southern Iowa (Kellerton). They raise antibiotic-free and hormone-free cattle and beef from birth which they've sloganed as "Healthy.HAPPY.Beef.".