Where Does Black Garlic Come From?

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Very little is known about the origin of black garlic. But data shows that it has long been used in Asia, especially in Korea, Japan, and Thailand. In Korea, it has long been utilized as a food condiment. Subsequently, black garlic has also become a health product in that country and is sometimes added to energy-boosting drinks.

In Thailand, it is believed to lengthen a person’s lifespan. In some other areas of the world, it is used to produce black garlic chocolate. Its popularity is growing, and at present, it is already used in the U.S. as a highly sought-after ingredient for delicious cuisine.

Where does Black Garlic come from

Black garlic is not a certain type of garlic (Allium Sativum), nor is it a subspecies of allium sativum. But if it is not a subspecies of garlic, what is it?

Black garlic is actually a byproduct of aging the ordinary fresh garlic that you can grow in your yard or buy at the supermarket. So, the question as to “where black garlic came from” is best answered as it was invented in Asia. But the more important question for many is “How is black garlic produced?”

How Do People Produce Black Garlic?

You may be a bit confused now as to what black garlic really is. That’s only natural considering that the first time I heard about it, I was also surprised. I didn’t think I had never tasted or even seen it before. But, if you have tried eating at some high-end restaurants, you might have already tasted black garlic as it is a highly-sought after ingredient in many types of cuisine. The reason isn’t only because it’s different, but because of the exquisite taste and health benefits it provides without the garlicy scent or taste.

As to how they produce black garlic, you should understand that black garlic is simply an aged form of ordinary garlic. It is a garlic in itself; but it has undergone the fermentation or ageing process in a highly-controlled environment .

Now that your curiosity about black garlic has been piqued, let me further explain how the process of turning ordinary garlic into the dark-colored black garlic happens.

Black garlic is produced by heating ordinary garlic for several weeks. This process needs to be highly controlled because the taste and quality of black garlic are best maintained by monitoring this process. You also need to make sure the garlic stays safe from harmful bacteria and mold during the fermentation process.

“So, how does it become dark-colored?” you may ask.

The ageing process of black garlic takes several weeks, and this is done under highly controlled conditions within a specific range of humidity and heat. During the ageing process, the bulbs are warmed to temperatures usually range from 140 degrees Fahrenheit to 170 degrees Fahrenheit. This heating process then slowly turns the cloves of each bulb a dark-brown color. This aging process is completed within a period of 60 to 90 days. At such low temperature, the bulbs do not burn and you don’t need to add any preservatives or other additives to help the process.

Ordinary fresh garlic is packed with powerful enzymes, and for this reason, it is one of the healthiest substances that you could ever put into your body. These enzymes also give the garlic its sharp taste and stinging smell. During the aging process, though, these enzymes readily break down due to the continuous exposure to the controlled heat and humidity facilitating the Maillard reaction.

What is the Maillard Reaction?

The Maillard reaction is a chemical reaction wherein the amino acids and reducing sugars of any organic food react with each other to give food its distinctive color and taste. It was named after Louis-Camille Maillard who first described this process in the year 1912 while trying to reproduce protein synthesis. The Maillard reaction is a form or type of non-enzymatic browning that happens when you heat food constantly at a certain temperature and humidity.

The Effect of Fungal Bacteria

There is another factor that play a critical role in the chemical changes within the garlic as it transforms into black garlic. This factor is the presence of fungal bacteria called endophytes that are known to enable fermentation to happen. These bacteria are capable of resisting heat and are found to be present in both garlic and black garlic. They are not harmful , nor will you notice them. They are necessary for the fermentation process to occur.

Culinary Uses of Black Garlic

Black garlic has long been used as a food condiment in Asia, especially in Korea. Its garlic flavor, however, softens or almost disappears after it ferments. Its flavor, however, is dependent on the type of fresh garlic being used to make the black garlic. If the fresh garlic type that was used had high sugar content, then it produces a caramel-like flavor. If the garlic type, however, had less sugar content, then the black garlic produced carries a sharper acidic taste similar to the taste of a tomato paste. Moreover, the length of heating and the amount of temperature during the aging process factors into the taste of the black garlic. Black garlic, that is heated longer than necessary, for example, has a burnt flavor. Furthermore, if the garlic is heated too much, it quickly turns to its black color well before it can reach its full level of sweetness.

You can eat black garlic alone or together on bread, in sauces, soups, or in mayonnaise in the form of crushed black garlic. You can also taste them when they are used as a spice in dishes or as a meat rub. Black garlic easily becomes soft as it absorbs more water. Its taste is also muted unlike that of the white garlic from which it came. This is due to the fact that some of the white garlic enzymes had already broken down when it underwent the heating and aging process as it turned into black garlic. Additionally, the most obvious taste imparted by black garlic to any dish is its sweetness as long as you use enough to notice it.

The Increasing Popularity of Black Garlic

If you hadn't read this article, you might still not be aware that black garlic really existed. However, the popularity of black garlic is surely increasing, and more and more people are becoming aware of it. This is because some television shows that focus on cooking and lifestyle, most notably Iron Chef America episode 11 and Top Chef New York, have showcased the use of black garlic in their dishes. Moreover, in 2011, black garlic was used in Food Network's Chopped Champions as a required ingredient for the final round. Because of this television exposure, black garlic has slowly entered the consciousness of the Western World. Restaurant chefs started using it after seeing the television shows, and now many cooks are using it at home, and even fermenting it themselves.

Health Benefits of Black Garlic

Garlic and black garlic have long been used as flavorings for food; both have also long been used for health purposes. You may be familiar, for example, with the myriads of benefits offered by white garlic and you might have used it yourself for its antioxidant, anticarcinogenic, anti-obesity, and anti-inflammatory properties. You may have also used it for its hepatoprotective function, immunomodulatory effect, an dreduction of blood lipid effect.

But with black garlic, we are not so sure yet whether the healthful benefits derivable from white garlic are also retained in black garlic. Studies, however, have shown that instead of diminishing white garlic’s healthful properties, white garlic—when turned into black garlic—becomes even more potent for health protection than when it is in its fresh garlic form.

First, the antioxidant property of garlic is affected when it is aged and becomes BG. During the aging process, for example, Allicin—a very unstable compound in ordinary garlic—is readily converted into SAC as the fresh garlic is heated. SAC is S-Allyl cysteine, which is an organic compound that is naturally found in fresh garlic and is used for its antioxidant, anti-obesity, and chemo-preventive properties. Studies have shown that black garlic has higher radical scavenging activity , which means that it has higher antioxidant activity compared to fresh garlic. Studies on animals have also shown that both garlic and black garlic have the capability of decreasing the reactive substances or free radicals in the body.

Anticarcinogenic Properties of Black Garlic

Garlic has been known to have anticarcinogenic properties. In studies that were conducted on patients with cancer, it was learned that black garlic has better anticarcinogenic properties than fresh ginger. These studies dealt more with patients with leukemic cancer, gastric cancer, and colon cancer than other common types of the disease.

Anti-Obesity Benefits of Black Garlic

Obesity is not a disease in itself. It is, rather, an inducer of many other diseases, such as Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and liver disease. As such, it is bad for one's health to be obese. In a study conducted in the Female Institute for Cancer Research, fat mice were fed black garlic for 28 days. While the results for each mouse varied, the diet led to a significant decrease in the body weight of all of them.

Hepatoprotective Benefits of Black Garlic

In a specific study on rats with induced liver disease, it was shown that BG (black garlic) improved the functions of the rats' livers by reducing the levels of plasma markers of the liver, such as those of AST, ALT, ALP, and LDH. Another study has also shown that BG decreases AST and ALT levels in the liver when rats are provided with 200mg of BG.

Immunomodulatory Effect of BG

Some studies have looked into the possibility of using BG to remedy atherosclerosis. Atherosclerosis is one of the chronic diseases that afflicts humans as it affects the arterial walls. This is due to vascular inflammation, endothelial dysfunction, and plaque formation. The use of BG to remedy this disease has shown some positive results because BG has some chemical properties that could protect the arterial wall and could lessen the onset of atherosclerosis.

Black Garlic’s Reduction of Blood Lipid

Some studies have indicated that BG extract has the potent capability to improve lipid profiles among patients with hypercholesterolemia. In one particular study involving 60 participants who were divided into two groups, a placebo was given to one group while BG extract was provided to the other group. The result was a significant increase in the HDL cholesterol levels of those who were given BG extract for 12 weeks. This study shows that BG can be used as supplement in reducing bad cholesterols.

Conclusion

It appears from the abovementioned studies that the use of black garlic as a herbal supplement comes with many health benefits. Moreover, it is apparent from the abovementioned studies that turning fresh garlic into black garlic further enhances the health benefits of garlic. However, it is also obvious that when you make black garlic at home, you need to be careful not to disrupt the process as you could change the factors that affect the chemical constituents of black garlic during the aging process. If the fermentation process is not controlled properly, some of BG’s beneficial properties may decrease in potency.

The question as to “where black garlic came from” is that it first came from Asia, but it can now come from your back yard and kitchen. No one knows for sure who in the past first heated fresh garlic for so long to turn it into black garlic. What is important is that we know now that black garlic appears to be more potent for medicinal purposes than fresh garlic, and because the process of aging garlic into black garlic is so easy, we can enjoy its benefits without paying a lot for it. You can even grow the garlic you ferment in your own garden or flowerbed for a completely free, sustainable supply of black garlic.


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