Meet Herb

The other night, I was privileged to be asked to judge the Tomato and Pesto Competition for our local Herb Guild. It was an evening of some merriment and included a few really wonderful tomatoes and some superb pestos. The decision was not an easy one, but a winner for each was chosen and then Bev took the specimens, combined them with some fresh mushrooms, onions and eggplant and turned the whole into a wonderfully aromatic sauce for pasta. We gorged and were in heaven!

Going home that night, I pondered the really simple things that had combined to make the evening's fare spectacular. Tomatoes, fresh from the vine. Basil and garlic combined with other things to make a truly wonderful concoction! Lori told me she grows her own garlic and would never use any other! "There's nothing like it!", she said. Not all of the ladies present grew their own; from what I learned that night, garlic is very particular about where it grows. Well, that was all I needed. A new column was born.

So, this month, we talk about Garlic. Much maligned and misunderstood, nevertheless -- according to Penzey's -- it is probably the most heavily used seasoning in the world. Used in a multitude of cuisine from Chinese to Italian to French and increasingly in North America and beyond, Penzey's avers that the world's finest is grown in California. Gilroy, the California town most famous for garlic worldwide, even has a web page dedicated entirely to its annual Garlic Festival. Check it out at http://www.garlicfest.com.

Garlic has flat grey-green leaves about one inch wide and twelve inches long. The stalks produce small white, mauvish flowers and can reach as much as two feet or more in height. It's a perennial and one of its most common varieties is pink skinned. If you're going to try to grow your own, and I have it on authority that you should, then plant the individual cloves one inch deep and six to eight inches apart. They should be planted in the fall for a good result and they respond well to occasional feeding.

Garlic has a special affinity for most meats, especially lamb and poultry. Add it to your potato dishes -- try boiling and mashing a couple of cloves into your next batch of mashed potatoes -- amaaaazing!

Garlic has lots of medicinal uses as well. It's said that rubbing a fresh clove on the face does wonders for acne. Use it as a steam inhalation for cough. Make it into a poultice for cuts and scrapes. Combine eight chopped cloves of garlic with four tablespoons of clear organic honey and take one teaspoon at two hour intervals for relief of coughs.

Or try this Garlic Hair Conditioner: Crush ten large cloves of garlic and stir them into one half cup of hot castor oil. Combine well. Cover and allow to sit about two days then strain and it's ready for use. Massage into the scalp, wrap the hair in a towel and leave it for about one hour. Shampoo thoroughly with your favourite fragranced shampoo. This is great for the treatment of dull, lifeless hair and can aid in the healing of scalp conditions.

For a more traditional approach to the uses of garlic try the following recipes:

Chilled Garlic Soup

  • 12 blanched almonds
  • 6 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 thick slices white bread, cubed and with crusts removed
  • 2 1/2 cups chicken broth
  • 2/3 cup dry white wine
  • salt and white pepper
  • 2 tbsp chives, snipped

Process the almonds and garlic to a paste in a blender or food processor, or pound them with a mortar and pestle. Heat the oil in a small pan and fry the garlic paste and bread cubes over medium heat until the bread is golden brown.

Pour the chicken broth and wine into a blender or food processor, add the garlic and bread mixture, and season with salt and pepper. Process until the soup is smooth.

Stir in the chives, then chill for at least one hour. Before serving, taste and adjust seasoning if necessary. Garnish with croutons.

  • Yields: 4 servings
  • Preparation Time: 1 1/2 hours (includes chilling time)
Also try this recipe which came to me via an Internet News Group I subscribe to and it's wonderful!

Toasted Garlic/Pepper Oil

  • 1 cup oil
  • Finely chopped garlic to taste (the lady who posted this used 2 tbsp, I used 4)
  • Shredded chile to taste (she used 1 dried arbol chile, I used 2)
  • Pinch of salt

Mix garlic, chile and salt in a metal container and place on a potholder. Heat oil in a small pot until it barely begins to smoke. Remove oil from heat and pour over garlic mixture. Allow to cool.

This can be used in salad dressings, brushed on toasted bread, in marinades etc. Keep it in the fridge to avoid problems.

  • Yields: 1 cup
  • Preparation Time: 15 to 20 minutes

And try this different coleslaw!

Garlic Coleslaw

  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/3 cup white sugar (I've done this with as little as 1 tbsp and it's fine)
  • 1/3 cup cider vinegar
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 2 tbsp mayonnaise
  • 2 tbsp minced garlic

Whisk it all together and pour over 8 cups finely shredded cabbage which have been mixed with 1 cup grated carrot and 1/2 cup thinly sliced celery.

  • Yields: Lots
  • Preparation Time: about 30 minutes

Before I say TTFN (Ta-Ta For Now) for this month, I want to tell you about some other www sites that may interest you. In honour of this month's article, they are all garlic related. Try them right now! (I have no affiliation with any of them.)

Also try your favourite search engine on the key word "garlic". I only tried the Mining Company and they came back with pages and pages of stuff.

Well, here's garlic bread at ya!

TTFN

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