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Garlic

A strongly flavoured bulbous herb from the same family as the onion and the leek whose folkloric powers are legendary: garlic repels vampires, for example. Each head is made up of a cluster of 10 to 16 cloves, and both head and individual bulbs are covered with a paper–like skin. There are many varieties of garlic, each differing in size, pungency and colour, but the most common are the white–skinned American or Creole garlic; the pink or purple Mexican or Italian garlic; and the larger Tahitian garlic. In dishes such as aïoli, tapenade and pesto, garlic is indispensable, and it adds flavour to a variety of sauces, stews and meats. Don’t be tempted to use more than the specified amount, as garlic will overpower the other flavours in the dish. Garlic is freshest in the summer when the bulbs are firm and the cloves harder to peel. Later in the season, the garlic begins to dry out—it is easier to peel but the flavour is quite intense. Choose fresh, plump–looking garlic with a white skin and fat neck as these have a more delicate flavour; discoloured garlic or bulbs that are sprouting will have a rancid flavour. The green shoots of garlic are also available in some areas. They can be used like chives and snipped onto salads and stir–fries. Garlic can also be eaten as a vegetable, barbecued or roasted whole or as cloves.