Did you know that sticking a clove of garlic in your ear could stop an earache? For centuries, this now commonplace staple has been thought to add physical strength to those who consume it.

Garlic is a member of the lily family, along with leeks, chives, onions and shallots. The bulb – which is the edible bit – grows beneath the ground, just like potatoes. Readily available in supermarkets around the world, the major suppliers today include California, Texas, Louisiana, France, Spain, Italy and Mexico. In this country, we’ve got three kinds to choose from – white-skinned American garlic, Mexican or Italian garlic (mauve-colored and milder in taste) and elephant garlic, which is actually a leek, not garlic (quite monstrous, and the mildest of the three.)

Though available in other forms – powder and flakes – garlic is such a wonderful spice that not using the fresh variety is almost sinful. It’s easy to peel, crush or dice and is one of the more versatile spices available. Remember, the way to know if you have a good garlic press is if you can crush a clove without peeling it. If you can’t – time to get a new one.

Fresh garlic is best stored in an open container in a cool, dark place. Bulbs should be able to keep for eight weeks at a time – whereas if you break the cloves off individually, they will begin to dry after about three days.

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