Garlic is a kitchen staple. It is one of the main ingredients we all use to infuse our meals with potent flavors. It is also a very versatile ingredient that you can put in sauces, pasta, or stir-fries, and even incorporate in baked goods.
But how confident are you about your knowledge of garlic? Is garlic a vegetable? Is it a spice? Or is it a herb? Keep reading for some interesting facts about garlic!
Is Garlic A Vegetable?
It can be a little tricky to classify garlic.
When you look into its botanical classification, garlic (Allium sativum) falls under the category of vegetables.
It is also part of the family of onions like its other cousins — chives, leeks, and shallots.
A vegetable is the edible part of any herbaceous plant which can include bulbs, leaves, roots, and stems.
The garlic plant meets this criterion because it has a bulb, stem, and leaves. Although the garlic’s plant leaves and flowers are also edible, it is the bulb that we use the most.
The garlic bulb is made up of 10 to 20 cloves and is covered in a paper-like covering that you have to remove before using it in your dishes.
So, given how it is typically consumed, garlic may be categorized as a vegetable but it is used more like a herb or spice.
You wouldn’t consume garlic on its own. However, in some Asian countries like China, garlic is eaten raw as it is traditionally believed that garlic can aid cardiovascular health.
Difference Between A Vegetable And A Herb
Vegetables and herbs are usually the two major components in any flavorful dish. But what makes one unique from the other?
Herbs are a subcategory of vegetables and are used for adding aroma and flavoring and as a garnish in any dish. Some herbs are also used for medicinal purposes.
Typically, herbs are the flavorful and potent leaves of certain plants like basil, cilantro, dill, oregano, parsley, sage, and thyme. Thanks to their pungent flavor and aroma, herbs can enhance the overall taste of a dish.
On the other hand, vegetables are consumed primarily for their nutrient and caloric content. Vegetables can be any edible part of a plant, including the bulb or root vegetables like beets, carrots, garlic, potatoes, radishes, and yams.
The flowers of a plant can also be classified as a vegetable, such as an artichoke, broccoli, and cauliflower. Or you may be consuming the plant’s fruit like beans, cucumber, eggplants, olives, pumpkins, and a lot more.
So, both the herbs and vegetables come from plants, but the main difference is how they are consumed.
What Does Garlic Taste Like?
Tasting a garlic clove on its own can be overwhelming. It is slightly spicy but it doesn’t have the heat of peppercorns or chili peppers. Garlic has more of a warm pungent taste that comes across as peppery and hot when you bite into it. But as the spiciness mellows down, you can enjoy a more earthy flavor.
Surprisingly enough, when you cook garlic, it develops a sweet taste.
Garlic is best enjoyed when cooked, either by itself or with other herbs that complement its flavor.
The Right Way To Cook With Garlic
The potential uses of garlic in any cuisine are endless. You can use it in dishes that are baked, braised, fried, roasted, or sautéed and add an explosion of flavor to it.
The first step to adding garlic cloves to any dish is getting its paper-like skin off. The quickest way to do this is to press down on the clove using the flat side of a knife.
Once the skin is removed, you can go ahead and use garlic any way you like. You can chop, crush, grate, mince, press, or slice it depending on the dish you’re preparing.
Here are two of the most common (and correct) ways to cook garlic:
When you roast garlic, its flavor and texture change dramatically and it develops a mild, nutty taste.
Just slice off the garlic head while preheating the oven to 400°F. Drizzle olive oil, salt, and pepper on the garlic and wrap it in foil. Place it in a shallow dish, slide it into the oven, and let it roast for about 40 minutes until the garlic becomes golden and soft.
Allow the garlic to cool, and you can use this roasted goodness in a variety of dishes.
Frying garlic can give it a slightly sweet, caramelized flavor that makes for a great addition to a number of dishes.
All you have to do is mince or chop the garlic, heat oil in a pan, and when the oil starts bubbling, add the garlic.
Remember, garlic browns quickly, so be careful not to burn it as burnt garlic can taste very bitter. As soon as the garlic turns slightly golden, turn off the heat.