Black garlic has been used in Asia for centuries for culinary and medicinal purposes. In Thailand it is believed to grant longevity and immortality in Taoist mythology. It is currently very popular in Korea as a health supplement. But where did it come from, what are its benefits, and how do you prepare it?
Black garlic is nothing more than regular garlic which has been aged in specific conditions of warmth and humidity, imparting it with a dark color. The browning effect is a result of the Maillard reaction, and not carmelization. Whole garlic bulbs are heated over the span of one to three months, and there are no preservatives, added ingredients, or cooking involved. The color is imparted when the sugars and amino acids in garlic produce melanoidin during fermentation.
When it exploded on the culinary scene in 2008, black garlic was a smash hit and could be found around the world in the finest restaurants. The Maillard reaction that browns the garlic creates new flavor compounds, and gives black garlic a sweet and syrupy taste with hints of seared meat, fried onions, balsamic vinegar and tamarind.
The History of Black Garlic
Black garlic has a murky history, with several possible origin stories. A garlic farmer in the United Kingdom claimed in 2009 that he used a 4,000 year-old Korean recipe to make black garlic. More recent origin stories point to the early 20th century . In 2004 a Korean inventor patented a device to make black garlic, and stated that “No matter what you’ve heard, black garlic isn’t an ancient food from Korea…I created it and have three patents for my proprietary process.”
There are also claims from Japanese and Korean families that they have been creating and using black garlic for centuries. It’s likely that these are all plausible origin stories, and that black garlic was simply “rediscovered” independently multiple times throughout history. Whatever the origin, one common myth in Ayurveda is that garlic and onion are prohibited. Fear not, and eat away while enjoying the numerous health benefits!
The Benefits of Black Garlic Consumption
Black garlic imparts all of the well-known health benefits of garlic, along with the benefits from the fermentation process. The benefits of consuming black garlic include:
- Cholesterol – Black garlic helps lower LDL cholesterol counts
- Anti-oxidant – Black garlic is a powerful anti-oxidant
- Cleansing – Black garlic helps the liver remove heavy metals from the body
- Digestion – Black garlic’s enzymes and probiotic organisms aid in digestion
- Immunity – Black garlic boosts the immune system with Vitamins C, B6 and manganese
- Allicin – Black garlic contains allicin, which has anti-fungal and anti-biotic properties
- Cancer Fighting – Black garlic has been shown to reduce rates of stomach and colorectal cancers
Producing Black Garlic at Home
Making black garlic is luckily much simpler than determining its origin and history. To make black garlic, all you need are whole cloves of garlic and a rice cooker. Put the unpeeled garlic into the rice cooker, close it and set it to warm. Let it run for three weeks, allowing the sugars to transform the garlic, and when it’s ready, dry it in the sun and seal it in an airtight container until you are ready to use it. With just a little time, you’ll have your own supply of this ingredient used in high-end restaurants!
Have you tried black garlic? What do you think?