In the recent times, there has been an increased attention being paid to black garlic due to the fact that white garlic demonstrates a sharp strong taste smell that makes it difficult for most people to appreciate it. Once only found on the shelves of Asian stores (in western countries), specialty organic shops and as a ‘special’ ingredients in high-end restaurants, black garlic has not only become a favorite of food connoisseurs, but also to health concious folks wanting to increase nutritional content of their dishes.
So, what is black garlic and how is it different from its alter-ego, the common white garlic?
Thus, we set out out to explore, in this article, how white garlic becomes black garlic and what are the health benefits of black garlic. As a bonus, we show you how easily you can make your own black garlic!
The first thing that comes into our minds when we hear the word “garlic” or fresh garlic (Allium sativum L.) is a medicinal herb that has been used since primitive times right up to the modern era whose benefits have been observed and scientifically proven. Records from the past indicate that garlic have been used for several reasons such as diuretic, digestive aid, antibiotic, anti-parasitic, infections and a wide variety of ailments. The good news is that the long history of the use of garlic in various studies have not revealed any credible adverse biological effects.
Scientists have reported that each clove of garlic contains up to more than 400 beneficial compounds that are found within the oil. The key compound in garlic is known to be allicin which contributes to the characteristic flavour and taste of garlic and is one of the most potent antioxidants from the plant kingdom. It is found that the enzyme called allinase present in each bulb of garlic combines with allinin to form the active compound allicin which possesses the health enhancing properties and at the same time gives garlic its distinctive pungent odour.
Garlic is known to be rich in manganese, calcium, phosphorus, selenium, and vitamins B6 and C, so it is beneficial for our bones and thyroid gland. Furthermore, garlic also assists the human body in getting rid of heavy metals, such as lead, mercury, cadmium, and arsenic. It is believed that garlic has several health benefits such as :
However, do take note that because garlic has blood thinning properties, whoever is on anticoagulant medications should consult their doctor first before taking any garlic supplements. Besides this, for some people, eating raw garlic may irritate the digestive system.
Black garlic is produced when raw garlic is subjected to the fermentation process at a high temperature (typically 40 to 60 °C) under high humidity, for a period of three to four weeks, where the duration of the fermentation is also dependent on cultures, manufacturers and purposes. This results in the formation of black garlic which has a sweet taste and a soft, jelly-like texture that is more palatable and appealing to most individuals. As for its famously distinctive black colour, this comes from the production of a compound called melanoidin.
Interestingly, there are researchers that suggests the production of black garlic is not a fermentation process as it does not involve microorganisms – specifically, enzymatic breakdown and the Maillard Reaction are responsible for the caramelization of the sugars, dark colour and deep, complex flavor profile. Others described the taste as “earthy, umami-packed flavor”, “tasted like a dried fruit,” and “tangy with a syrupy, balsamic flavor”, which is certainly sounds more palatable than raw garlic.
Well, in comparison with fresh garlic, black garlic does not produce the strong off-flavour and pungent odour due to its reduced amount of allicin, which is converted into antioxidant compounds such as bioactive alkaloids and flavonoid compounds during the fermentation process. The enhanced bioactivity of black garlic as compared to fresh garlic is due to the changes of the physicochemical properties.
For starters, black garlic contains higher amounts of a very specific compound called S-Allycysteine (SAC) as compared to fresh garlic which is water soluble and hence absorbed easily within the body. S-Allycysteine (SAC) is known to help with the absorption of allicin and is thought to help lower cholesterol and decrease the risk of cancer. As far as the antioxidant levels are concerned, black garlic demonstrates significantly much higher antioxidant activity as compared with white garlic.
Unlike normal garlic, black garlic is more tolerable by the digestive system so the chance of gastric distress may be minimised.
Black garlic has a relatively higher percentage of glucose and fructose content (as a result of the Maillard reaction mentioned earlier) but this also means that fresh garlic has stronger anti-inflammatory properties because of its lower sugar content.
Yes, we can definitely save some money by making our own black garlic – it’s fun, productive and you can adjust ‘texture’ (i.e. how chewy or ‘gummy’) of the black garlic by reducing or increasing the fermenting period accordingly.
Sounds great? Good! So to begin, you will need :
1. Unpeeled garlic bulbs – make sure these are properly cleaned
2. A basic rice cooker – yes, really basic model with no fancy led display or programmable functions
That’s all? Yes, that’s all you need to get started.
The process :
1. Put the clean unpeeled scrubbed garlic bulbs into the rice cooker. Make you space the bulbs apart so they that do not touch.
2. Set your rice cooker to warm (NOT low nor ‘Cook Rice’!). At this point, you might want to know that there will be a strong garlic odor emanating throughout the entire process.
3. Then wait for 3 weeks (21 days). During this period, make sure rice cooker is still on the ‘Warm’ setting, the rice cooker is switched on for the whole duration. DO NOT open the rice cooker lid.
4. On the 21st day, open the lid. Beautiful glorious black garlic looking at you, begging you to take bite!
5. You can remove the bulbs from the skin easily as they would have shrunk a bit.
6. Store in containers – freeze or dry them.
So, there you you go – it is not that hard to make your own black garlic right? You only need lots of patience and be able to withstand the extremely overwhelming ‘garlic’ smell emanating from your kitchen or wherever you place your rice cooker a.k.a black garlic maker.
By the way, 21 days is just the usual timeframe for fermentation, you can certainly try various duration and see whether you like the outcome from these various different fermentation time, which basically affects the flavour and/or texture.