Garlic is a member of the lily family (alliums). It is an edible bulb. Garlic is an annual bulbous herb. One head of garlic (called a bulb) is 12- 16 cloves of garlic. The head is covered in a paper thin white membrane, as well as each clove. The plant grows long flat leaves.
All garlic falls under the species allium sativum, which is divided into two subspecies: hardneck and softneck. These, in turn, can be divided into several varieties and sub varieties, creating more than 600 types of garlic. There are five main varieties of garlic: Artichoke, Rocambole, Porcelain, Silverskin and Purple Stripe.
Garlic has been very important throughout history. It probably originated in western Asia, around the desert of the Kirghiz people. In about 1500, it was revered as a medicine. In ancient Egyptian tablets, there were 22 prescriptions with garlic. Egyptian athletes believed garlic could increase strength and endurance. However, the ancient Greeks disliked garlic and thought it would bring bad luck. But in another account, Greek athletes used garlic as a stimulant. Medieval doctors believed garlic would help cure the whopping cough, and it could be used as a charm against witches. On St. John’s Day, if you purchase garlic, it would keep you safe from poverty from the rest of the year. In 1858, Louis Pasteur discovered garlic could indeed kill bacteria. During the crusades, garlic finally reached Western Europe. Garlic was considered the poor man’s spice.
There are over 30 varieties of garlic. Today some of the common forms of garlic include, white garlic, pink garlic, purple garlic, giant or elephant garlic and Spanish garlic. You can also buy ground garlic, chopped garlic, dried garlic, garlic salt, powdered garlic, roasted garlic, and garlic oil. The longer you cook garlic, the longer the flavor will deviate. Young garlic or garlic greens are also a delicacy.