Garlic Deconstructed

The end of warm weather ushers in hardneck garlic, with larger bulbs, and truer garlic flavor.

The end of warm weather ushers in hardneck garlic, with larger bulbs, and—most importantly—truer garlic flavor. — Molly Jacob

Photo courtesy of DenisNata/shutterstock

bloodsuckers beware

“Garlic was long acknowledged in rural Europe as a protection against evil,” says Elizabeth Miller, professor at Memorial University of Newfoundland and an expert on Bram Stoker’s “Dracula”. (In fact, Bram Stoker’s great-grand nephew referred Miller for this interview.)

With garlic as food staple in many countries with rampant belief in vampires, “it came to symbolize stability, cohesion, protection and a communal bond,” Miller writes in an email. If someone was suspected of being a vampire, according to Miller, they would be served food with garlic; if they refused to eat it, the villagers had their proof.

take it easy

Nate Waugaman, chef at Tallula in Arlington, says the biggest mistake people make when prepping garlic is using a dull knife or food processor. “Garlic bruises easily,” says Waugaman. “If you don’t use a sharp knife, it gets a kerosene-y, chemical flavor. In a couple hours after cutting, you’ll notice a different taste.”

deep cleanse

“Although kale is a popular superfood, and lemons, carrots and beets are considered to be liver-supportive, the somewhat subtle spicy taste imparted by the garlic in this beverage is what really provides the added secret weapon,” says Elizabeth Howard of her hearty juice cocktail. Howard, a certified nutritional therapist and owner of Lizz Creative Juices in Fredericksburg, uses garlic, nicknamed “Russian penicillin,” to ward off microbes and disease, clear digestive tracts and reduce cholesterol.

back in black

Not to be mistaken for the rare six-clove variety of the same name, black garlic is fermented and aged hardneck garlic.

“What was a sulfuric, subtly sweet but spicy garlic clove becomes a very sweet mushroom, earthy truffle-like quality,” says Daniel Stevens, chef at Mokomandy in Sterling.

One of Mokomandy’s entrees, the bulgogi beef, incorporates black garlic to bring balsamic tones to the dish. Stevens recommends using fermented cloves to modify sauces and add sweetness to spicy dishes. When cooking with delicate black garlic, tenderness counts: Stevens  suggests removing the root off the bottom as if it were a banana peel.

an odoriferous occasion

Rebec Vineyards will celebrate the cluster of cloves with over 20,000 people in the 23rd Wine and Garlic Festival, Oct. 12-13; the only festival of its kind in the state. Relish garlicky dishes, buy produce and products from Virginia garlic farmers and see who wins the Garlic Queen Contest and the Garlic Cook-Off. /