How has garlic been used as a folk remedy? Ancient Egyptian papyrus documents indicate garlic was used for dozens of ailments. In ancient Greece and Rome, garlic was valued for its antivenom attributes; in China, it was used as a general cure-all; and during the Middle Ages, it was believed to ward off the plague.
Does garlic supply vitamins and minerals? Like its Allium relatives (onions, scallions, leeks and shallots), garlic is not a nutritional powerhouse. Moreover, because we consume it in such small amounts, it contributes little to our vitamin/mineral needs.
Is it okay to eat garlic if it has sprouted? Yes. But some of the compounds responsible for its pungency will seep into the sprouts, leaving the bulb itself diminished in flavor (and potential health benefits), so you may need to include more garlic in recipes to compensate for the milder taste. To prevent sprouting, garlic should be kept in a loosely covered container in a dark but airy spot.
What is elephant garlic? Actually, it’s not garlic, but more closely related to leeks. It has the same compounds as garlic, but less of them by weight. Use it if you want something milder.
Can garlic-in-oil combinations cause food poisoning? Yes, garlic can pick up the bacterium that causes botulism from the soil. Immersing the garlic in oil gives the botulism spores the oxygen-free environment they need to germinate, if left at room temperature. The resulting toxin has no taste or smell. Commercial garlic-in-oil products are required to contain an antibacterial or acidifying agent, such as phosphoric or citric acid, to keep them safe.
If you find one that says “keep refrigerated,” or that doesn’t list a bacterial inhibitor on the label, don’t buy it. If you make a garlic-in-oil or garlic-in-butter blend, keep it refrigerated, but for no longer than two weeks.
Adapted from The University of California, Berkeley Wellness Letter (January 2012)