Unique sale: Diameter of garlic sold at Oxford Farmers Market determines price

Local garlic is available from several growers at the Oxford Farmers Market. Both white and black garlic can be found.

Garlic is a suitable subject for our run-up to Halloween. Use it to ward off Dracula and other trick-or-treating vampires.

Why garlic wards off vampires is unclear. In Eastern Europe, garlic has long been used to ward off evil spirits, as well as curing coughs and colds.

The ability of garlic to ward off vampires may have originated with the rabies disease. Rabid humans and animals were thought to have a tendency to bite people, and the pungent smell of garlic may have kept a rapid creature at bay.

In medieval times, people wore garlic around their necks to ward off werewolves. Eating more garlic may be one of the most effective ways to ward off today’s werewolf — cancer.

Jo Robinson writes in Eating on the Wild Side that most of today’s cultivated fruits and vegetables are much less nutritious than their wild predecessors. One of the rare exceptions is garlic.

“In the history of agriculture,” Robinson writes, “no one has mounted a concerted campaign to make garlic bulbs larger, sweeter, or milder tasting. For this reason, they have retained most of their wild nutrients.”

Buying white garlic at the Oxford Farmers Market from the Harkrider family’s Stoney Hedgerow Farm is especially entertaining. Select a bulb and place it in a wooden trapezoidal-shaped device that measures its diameter on a scale from 1 to 10. The scale number determines the price.

Stoney Hedgerow has an unusually large variety of garlic, ranging from relatively mild to pungent. Tell Craig Harkrider your preference, and he’ll recommend a variety.

Less familiar is black garlic, available from Jennifer Bayne’s 7 Wonders Farm. Black garlic contains twice the antioxidants of white garlic, including antioxidants that are created through the fermentation process.

Black garlic is white garlic that has been fermented. During the several-months of fermenting, a dark compound is produced, called melanoidin, that is responsible for the black color.

Black garlic is softer and chewier than white garlic. Black garlic can substitute for white garlic in any recipe, but black garlic is much less harsh than white garlic so is especially useful if one prefers a milder flavor.

To mince a garlic clove for cooking, wait at least 10 minutes before using it. Researchers have determined that heating garlic immediately after crushing or cutting it destroys 90% of the cancer-fighting ability. Ignore recipe instructions that tell you to cook the garlic first.

The health benefits of garlic derive primarily from allicin, which is a compound formed when two constituents of garlic (alliin and alliinase) come in contact with each other through crushing or mincing.

However, it takes time for the alliin and alliinase to join up, at least 10 minutes. Heating minced garlic before the 10 minutes are up destroys the alliinase, thereby preventing it from forming the allicin compound. And thus no health benefits.

MOON Co-op is Oxford’s consumer-owned full-service grocery, featuring natural, local, organic, sustainable, and Earth-friendly products. The store, located at 516 S. Locust St. in Oxford, is open to the public every day. Check it out online at www.mooncoop.coop.

About the Author