The Benefits and Drawbacks Associated With Preserving Garlic
Garlic is a powerful medicine in addition to being an essential ingredient in many recipes. However, garlic is also very sensitive despite it’s hearty appearance. Great care must be taken when processing garlic in order to retain the nutritional benefits over the long-term. Unfortunately, both canning as well as dehydration can significantly reduce its nutritional value almost immediately.
The main disease-fighting compound in garlic is called allicin. It is activated when you smash or chop cloves and allow them to breathe for about 10 minutes prior to consumption. However, allicin is also very sensitive to temperatures, and prolonged exposure to heat can significantly reduce or even eliminate its effectiveness. Consequently, canning or dehydrating garlic for long-term storage may kill off this very important compound. In fact, some research suggests that a significant amount of nutrient loss can occur in as little as 30 minutes of cooking. Furthermore, cooking the garlic before allowing it to breathe can inhibit the benefits of allicin altogether.
What is the Best Method of Preservation?
There is a lot of disagreement about the impact of preservation on the nutritional value of garlic at the present time. Some suggest that dehydrating is the best option since the garlic is not heated to high temperatures. Dehydrating also involves grinding the dried cloves into a coarse powder which may help to activate allicin once water is re-introduced later. Canning minced garlic can also activate the allicin, but the concern is that the high temperatures involved in the process will kill off its potency as well as a number of other enzymes. Freezing is by far the safest way to store garlic over the long-term, but then there’s the risk of losing the stockpile during a power outage.
At the end of the day, it may be best to enjoy garlic in its raw state, and dice it a few minutes before eating. However, you can use any of the methods listed above if you’re looking for a way to capture its flavor instead of worrying about nutrition.
The good news is that you can store fresh, whole garlic bulbs for as long as six months if the conditions are right. Consequently, you can easily keep a stockpile on hand during the winter until a fresh supply can be grown as early as the following spring. The trick is to make sure that the bulbs are completely intact, including keeping about an inch of the stem attached. Garlic bulbs should be kept in a dark, dry and cool place until ready to be used. They hold up best in temperatures between 40-65 degrees.
The bad news is that once the bulbs are broken, and some cloves removed, the rest of the bulb may only be good for a few weeks. The cloves themselves, if left intact can keep for a couple of weeks, but if they are broken, they need to be consumed within a few days in most cases, and the potency of the allicin can start to diminish within a few hours.
If you want to store garlic for the long-term, consider dehydration to be your best option in order to hopefully retain most of its nutritional value. Canning cloves is fine for flavor, but you may end up losing nutrients in the process. Unfortunately, garlic is one of those foods that is very sensitive and susceptible to nutrient loss. Consequently, it’s important to try and consume the garlic as quickly as possible once you break open a bulb in order to obtain the optimal nutritional benefits.