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Synonym: common garlic

botanical name: Allium sativum var. sativum

family: Alliaceae (onion)



Garlic is probably native to Southwestern Asia, where it was first cultivated about 6000 years ago. It is thus one of the oldest cultivated plants.


At first garlic was used only for medicinal and cultic purposes, and it plays a large role in the mythology of almost all peoples. Via the Near East, garlic then reached the Balkans and Western Europe.


Garlic was already grown in 2000 b.c. in ancient Egypt, where it had many uses.


Today it is grown worldwide. Among the main areas of cultivation are China, India, Thailand, Egypt, South Korea, the USA and Europe, where it is grown particularly in Spain, Italy, France and Turkey. The city of Gilroy in California calls itself the "Garlic Capital of the World". The main suppliers of garlic are Italy, Spain, the Balkan countries, Hungary, the Czech Republic and Egypt.




Garlic is well-suited for growing in your own garden. Winter garlic, i.e. varieties that are planted in October, can be harvested beginning in July. Spring garlic is planted in March and does not ripen until the end of August.


The dried bulbs can be purchased all year, either loose or worked into braids. During the summer months the unripe bulbs are sold with green, often cut stalks. Dried preparations and pickled goods are available all year.


Appearance, taste, characteristics


The garlic plant belongs botanically to the leek family; earlier it was included in the lily family. Depending on the variety, the plant can grow to between 25 and 90 cm tall. It has oblong, tapered, grey-green to bluish-grey, flat scapes.


When garlic is ripe, the scapes turn yellow from the tip down. In the white garlic bulb there are 8-20 so-called daughter bulbs, or ancillary bulbs, also known as cloves. These are oblong, angular and curved, and up to 3 cm long, 1-2 cm wide and about 1 cm thick.


Each of these cloves is covered with a white or reddish skin, which also covers the entire bulb in several layers. With fresh young bulbs this skin is thick and soft; with ripe bulbs these skins become papery, thin and porous after they have dried.


When ripe garlic is cut it has a characteristic sharp, penetrating and slightly sulphurous odour. Raw, it is bitingly sharp and stinging.


Undried, fresh bulbs, called summer produce, are almost odourless when whole and taste somewhat milder.




The characteristic odour and taste of garlic is due to its content of organic sulphur compounds, particularly alliin, present at 0.5-1.3%. At first, these substances are odourless. However, when the tissue of the garlic is damaged they react immediately with an enzyme that is also present in the garlic. Strongly antimicrobial substances with a piercing odour are formed as a reaction product; ten different such substances have been identified to date, such as allicin.


The human organism further metabolizes the sulphurous compounds and excretes them in small amounts via the breath and the skin.

100 g contain:




Energy (kcal)


Water (g)


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Carbohydrates (g)


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Vitamin B1 (µg)


Vitamin C (mg)


Nicotinamide (µg)


Calcium (mg)


Phosphorus (mg)



Harmful substances


Large amounts of garlic can irritate the mucous membranes of sensitive persons and lead to heartburn, stomach pains and nausea. Persons with stomach trouble should avoid eating raw garlic if it leads to indigestion.


Flatulence, colic, fever and diarrhoea can also result from eating garlic. For this reason it is better for nursing mothers not to eat any garlic, as the essential oils enter the breast milk and can give the baby gas.


Quality criteria, optimal storage conditions


Fresh, still-green garlic bulbs can be kept in the vegetable drawer of the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks; the dry bulbs will keep for a considerably longer time. Spring garlic can be stored longer than the winter varieties.


Ideal storage conditions for the bulbs are a dry, airy room and 0-2°C.


The skins of the bulbs should be firm and dry. If this is the case, winter garlic can be stored maximally until February; however, at 5°C it will begin to sprout again even earlier.


Spring garlic will keep until May under optimal conditions. The bulbs even tolerate frost if they are not bruised.


Presumed effect on health


Garlic is one of man's oldest natural remedies. Today many health-promoting effects are attributed to it. Garlic is an appetizer and a digestive; it has an antimicrobial effect and stimulates the immune system. It is recommended for coughs, colds and bronchial asthma. It has an anti-inflammatory effect on harmful bacteria in the stomach and intestines and is used topically as a disinfectant in the treatment of wounds.


In addition, it is supposed that regular consumption of garlic reduces the risk of cancer. Apparently, it not only influences the metabolism but also inhibits the formation of harmful substances such as nitrosamines during the preparation of food.


It has been observed in many clinical studies that daily consumption of garlic reduces the risk of myocardial infarction: Garlic lowers the blood fat values and high blood pressure, inhibits atherosclerotic changes in the arteries and reduces thrombophilia.


Form of consumption, use, processing, practical tips for preparation


Garlic can be bought fresh, dried and freeze-dried. The ripe bulbs are dried following the harvest and freed of their scapes or braided.


Fresh summer produce is not completely ripe and is sold with still-green stalks, soft skins and not-yet marked pungency.


Dried or freeze-dried garlic is sold as sliced, flaked, large-grained, granulate, powdered and garlic salt. Processed products such as garlic purée, paste, oil, cloves preserved in oil or pickled, and smoked bulbs can also be used to season foods. Smoked garlic is a speciality in France.


Garlic is used most in Eastern and Southeast Asia, but in the Mediterranean area as well, the bulb is used quite a lot. Meat dishes, particularly lamb, mutton and pork, but also veal, rabbit and poultry, taste good with garlic. Sausage products, seafood and fish dishes take on an aromatic note with garlic.


Noodle dishes, salads, soups, herbal sauces and vegetables can be seasoned with garlic, as can rice dishes, home-fried potatoes, omelettes and pizza. Very popular as well are herbed butter, tzatziki, dips and mayonnaise that contain garlic, such as aïoli from the Provence or Greek skordalia. For a typical garlic baguette, the baguette is spread with butter, garlic and parsley, wrapped in aluminium foil and baked for 10 minutes. Sliced fresh garlic can also be placed on a piece of bread.


To use garlic in cooking, the garlic clove must first be skinned then finely minced, crushed or put through a garlic press. If you want to add only a touch of garlic to a dish, just rub the meat, the pot or the pan with a cut or crushed clove. Garlic is said to be more digestible if the core of the clove is removed or if the clove is soaked in milk for several hours before it is used.


Seasoning tip


Garlic harmonizes with most herbs and spices.




The smell of garlic is excreted not through the mouth but through the skin. Nevertheless, there are many tips for combating unpleasant garlic breath, for instance: chewing some parsley, peppermint, 1-2 spice cloves or preserved slices of ginger, or drinking fresh milk or strong coffee.





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