The Science of a Flavor Powerhouse: Garlic

Let’s be clear—almost any savory dish is made better with a clove of garlic. Whether minced in a soup base, used to add a kick to sauces and sautés, or roasted and eaten whole (don’t knock it ’til you try it), we rely on garlic to lend its sharp and distinct flavor to a large variety of dishes. Even more, its origins date back thousands of years and its culinary prevalence spans cuisines on all continents. Basically, everyone loves a little garlic.

Like onions and scallions, garlic is a part of the allium species of plants, which are characterized by their pungent odors and flavors, as well as their ability to grow in suboptimal conditions. Any area with a generally moderate climate can grow garlic, which is what makes it so accessible to us all. Given that it grows below ground (it’s a root!) and is cheap to maintain, farmers everywhere love to cultivate it.

One of our favorite things about garlic is its unique aroma—for which we can thank Allicin, a sulfur-containing compound. When garlic is chopped or crushed, an enzyme called Alliinase combines with Alliin to produce Allicin. That’s a mouthful, we know, but it’s what’s behind that delicious smell that fills your home the minute you start chopping.

One pesky side effect of garlic? Bad breath. And the cause? One of garlic’s sulfuric compounds is quickly absorbed into the bloodstream after consumption and then released through the skin and lungs. Science proves it: garlic breath is real. This definitely should not deter you from using it! Pop a stick of gum, or eat a few apple slices to neutralize those unwanted smells.

Now that you’ve learned a little something about the flavor powerhouse, it’s time to get cooking. At Plated, we use garlic liberally in many of our recipes, but if you’re looking for a few more, try our cheesy Spaghetti Squash Alfredo or this Tuscan Ribollita with hunks of garlic bread.

Also, here’s a little tip on how to mince garlic with ease:


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