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Store fresh garlic in either an uncovered or a loosely covered container in a cool, dark place away from exposure to heat and sunlight. This will help maintain its maximum freshness and help prevent sprouting, which reduces its flavor and causes excess waste. It is not necessary to refrigerate garlic. Some people freeze peeled garlic; however, this process reduces its flavor profile and changes its texture.
Depending upon its age and variety, whole garlic bulbs will keep fresh from two weeks to two months.

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Origins and Culture

Native to central Asia, garlic is one of the oldest cultivated plants in the world and has been grown for over 5000 years. Ancient Egyptians seem to have been the first to cultivate this plant that played an important role in their culture.

Garlic was not only bestowed with sacred qualities and placed in the tomb of Pharaohs, but it was given to the slaves that built the Pyramids to enhance their endurance and strength. This strength-enhancing quality was also honored by the ancient Greeks and Romans, civilizations in which athletes ate garlic before sporting events, and soldiers consumed it before going off to war.

Garlic was introduced into various regions throughout the globe by migrating cultural tribes and explorers. By the 6th century BC, garlic was known in both China and India, the latter country using it for therapeutic purposes.

Throughout the millennia, garlic has been a beloved plant in many cultures for both its culinary and medicinal properties. Over the last few years, it has gained unprecedented popularity since researchers have been scientifically validating its numerous health benefits.

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Nutritional and Medicinal Properties

Garlic's medicinal properties are legendary. Although it may not drive away vampires, garlic does seem to drive away illness. Hippocratees, the founder of Western medicine, treated wounds and pneumonia with garlic. In 1858, Louis Pasteur noted that garlic could kill bacteria. It was not until the mid-20th century, however, that scientists extracted allicin, the strong-smelling substance that kills bacteria, from garlic. Garlic helps to protect against cancer, especially in the stomach, colon, and rectum; diminishes the signs of aging; reduces cholesterol; protects against heart disease; lowers blood pressure; and aides in digestion. Garlic contains good amounts of vitamin C and B6, plus potassium, selenium, phosphorus, quercetin, cyanidin, and bioflavonoids. In addition, scientists have discovered in garlic over 30 substances that help control cancer. Garlic is so good for you that some doctors recommend up to 3 cloves per day.

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Basic Cooking Instructions

The first step to using garlic (unless you are roasting the entire bulb) is to separate the individual cloves. An easy way to do this is to place the bulb on a cutting board or hard surface and gently, but firmly, apply pressure with the palm of your hand at an angle. This will cause the layers of skin that hold the bulb together to separate.

To separate the skin from the individual cloves, place a clove with the smooth side down on a cutting board and gently tap it with the flat side of a wide knife. You can then remove the skin either with your fingers or with a small knife. If there is a green sprout in the clove's center, gently remove it since it is difficult to digest.

Chopping or crushing stimulates the enzymatic process that converts the phytonutrient alliin into allicin, a compound to which many of garlic's health benefits are attributed. In order to allow for maximal allicin production, wait several minutes before eating or cooking the garlic.

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