Onions & Garlic

Garlic is a species in the onion genus.  Garlic is native to central Asia, and has long been a staple in the Mediterranean region, as well as a frequent seasoning in Asia, Africa, and Europe. It was known to Ancient Egyptians, and has been used both for food flavoring and traditional medicine.  Garlic plants can be grown closely together, leaving enough space for the bulbs to mature, and are easily grown in containers of sufficient depth. Garlic does well in loose, dry, well drained soils in sunny locations.  It is important to pick large bulbs from which to separate cloves. Large cloves, along with proper spacing in the planting bed, will also improve bulb size. Garlic plants prefer to grow in a soil with a high organic material content, but are capable of growing in a wide range of soil conditions and pH levels.

There are different varieties or subspecies of garlic, most notably hardneck garlic and softneck garlic. The latitude where the garlic is grown affects the choice of type as garlic can be day-length sensitive. Hardneck garlic is generally grown in cooler climates; softneck garlic is generally grown closer to the equator.  Garlic is grown globally, but China is by far the largest producer of garlic.  Much of the garlic production in the United States is centered in Gilroy, California, which calls itself the “garlic capital of the world”.

Garlic is widely used around the world for its pungent flavor as a seasoning or condiment.  The garlic plant’s bulb is the most commonly used part of the plant. With the exception of the single clove types, garlic bulbs are normally divided into numerous fleshy sections called cloves. Garlic cloves are used for consumption (raw or cooked) or for medicinal purposes. They have a characteristic pungent, spicy flavor that mellows and sweetens considerably with cooking.  Garlic is a fundamental component in many or most dishes of various regions, including eastern Asia, South Asia, Southeast Asia, the Middle East, northern Africa, southern Europe, and parts of South and Central America. The flavor varies in intensity and aroma with the different cooking methods. It is often paired with onion, tomato, or ginger. The parchment-like skin is much like the skin of an onion, and is typically removed before using in raw or cooked form.  Garlic may be applied to different kinds of bread, usually in a medium of butter or oil, to create a variety of classic dishes, such as garlic bread, garlic toast, bruschetta, crostini and canapé.
Onion also known as the bulb onion or common onion, is a vegetable and is the most widely cultivated species of the genus Allium.  Onions are cultivated and used around the world. As a food item, they are usually served cooked, as a vegetable or part of a prepared savory dish, but can also be eaten raw or used to make pickles or chutneys. They are pungent when chopped and contain certain chemical substances which irritate the eyes.  Common onions are normally available in three color varieties. Yellow or brown onions (called red in some European countries), are full-flavored and are the onions of choice for everyday use. Yellow onions turn a rich, dark brown when caramelized and give French onion soup its sweet flavor. The red onion (called purple in some European countries) is a good choice for fresh use when its color livens up the dish; it is also used in grilling. White onions are the traditional onions used in classic Mexican cuisine; they have a golden color when cooked and a particularly sweet flavor when sautéed.

The pungent juice of onions has been used as a moth repellent and can be rubbed on the skin to prevent insect bites. It has been used to polish glass and copperware and to prevent rust on iron. Onion skins have been used to produce a yellow-brown dye.

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