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If it were the laboratory and not Mother Nature who created garlic, then perhaps, it would have been a very expensive prescription drug. Numerous medical studies have shown that garlic can lower cholesterol, prevent dangerous blood clots, reduce blood pressure, prevent cancer, and protect against bacterial and fungal infections.Garlic is one of the most widely used ingredients in the world. Also called “stinking rose” for its unmistakable pungent aroma, it is either loved or hated! When baked or cooked, it develops a sweet, nutty flavor. When using raw garlic, an easy rule of thumb to remember is that the smaller you cut it, the stronger the flavor. Chopping finely or pressing a clove exposes more of its surface to the air, causing a chemical reaction that produces a stronger aroma.
Gilroy, CA is known as the Garlic Capital of the world. California farms account for 90 percent of all garlic produced in the U.S. Most of that garlic is grown within a 90-mile radius of Gilroy, or comes to Gilroy at some point for processing. Gilroy has been hosting the world’s premier garlic festival for 24 years. Last year, about 125,400 visitors attended this food extravaganza. Over 4,000 volunteers help organize this festival.

This year is the 25th anniversary of Gilroy Garlic Festival, which will be celebrated July 25-27. The three-day event features plenty of food, live entertainment, art and crafts, and food contests. Garlic is omnipresent in all the dishes served. You will discover fascinating foods, like garlic fries, garlic scones, garlic ice cream, garlic crackers, garlic chocolate, and garlic brownies. It is definitely a fun and fragrant experience for the whole family. For more information about the festival, visit their website

Garlic odor on hands and breath has always been a problem for some, for garlic undeniably smells! It literally penetrates your body if you eat a fair amount—you breathe it and sweat it—and there is really no way to completely remove it. As for garlic smell on your hands, you can avoid it by using a garlic peeler. Some rub their hands with salt, lemon or parsley. But more simply and less expensively, you can rub your hands on the back of a metal spoon or metal faucet. It works just as well.

As for garlic breath, some suck on a slice of lemon, some chew on anise seed, caraway, or fennel seed. I believe that the best way to deal with garlic odor is to feed garlic to everybody—then no one will sense any odor!

I also love the flavor of garlic chives in my cooking. It has a delicate garlic flavor and is very easy and rewarding to grow at home. All you need to do is prepare a light soil and stick a few little garlic cloves in the ground. Plant the cloves about two inches down, four inches apart, pointy side up. Keep the soil moist. Soon, you will see green chives shooting up. Here is my favorite chutney recipe with garlic chives.

Aromatic Garlic Chives Chutney
10-12 garlic chives
1 green chili
2 tablespoons fresh coconut
1 teaspoon lime juice
½ teaspoon sugar
Salt to taste
Make a smooth puree in the blender. Add warm water to make the blender run smoothly. Serve it as bread spread.

Garlic pickle is a great way to add flavor to meals and enjoy the nutritional goodness of garlic. Meena Annamalai, my good friend, and gourmet cook, makes the most delicious, Chettinad-style garlic pickle.

Chettinad-style Garlic Pickle
2 cups garlic cloves
2 teaspoons cumin seeds
2 teaspoons white gram beans (urad dal)
2 teaspoons coriander seeds
2 teaspoons fenugreek seeds (methi)
½ cup oil
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
1 teaspoon asafetida (hing)
2 cups garlic (cloves)
¾ cup lime/lemon juice
¼ cup salt (or as per taste)
¼ cup red chili powder
2 teaspoons jaggery

Roast cumin seeds, white gram beans, coriander seeds, and fenugreek for 3-4 minutes. Cool completely, and grind to fine powder. Keep aside. Heat oil in a big pot and add mustard seeds and asafetida. Next, throw in the garlic cloves and sauté for 2-3 minutes. Add the spice mix, lime juice, salt, and chili powder, and simmer for 10 minutes.

Finally, add the jaggery and simmer for 2 minutes. Cool completely and store.

Hema’s Hints: Mix 1 teaspoon of cream cheese with 2 teaspoons of pickle to make a refreshing bagel spread.

Garlic Pita Crisps
This is a healthy alternative to chips and tortilla.
2 garlic cloves
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 pita breads

Finely chop garlic and add to olive oil in a small bowl. Heat oven to 400 degrees F. Cut the pita bread into four wedges. Open up and separate the triangles. Brush each piece with garlic oil and place oiled side up, on a baking sheet. Season with salt and chili powder. Bake in the oven for 8-10 minutes until crisp and lightly browned.

Hema Alur-Kundargi is the producer, editor, and host of a television show “Indian Vegetarian Gourmet.”