The Romans first called garlic “the stinking rose.” Roman nobility refused to touch the stuff, but Roman soldiers were fed a lot of garlic, because they believed it gave them strength. More recent research indicates that garlic consumption can lower blood pressure, fight viral infections, and kill cancer cells.

Good food starts with good ingredients. Here are a few tips to help you extract the most flavor from your garlic cloves:

Buy it fresh

Garlic should be firm, with skin that’s white or purplish in color, depending on the variety. Garlic skin should never be yellow. Loose skin or soggy cloves are also signs of garlic that has gone bad.

Keep it dry

Store garlic in a cool, dry place. Never put garlic in the refrigerator or in any sealed container. A ceramic garlic jar with built-in ventilation works best, or a well-ventilated pantry rack will work, too.

Use it right

The most common mistake people make using garlic is cooking it incorrectly. Crushed or pressed garlic works best for sauces and other dishes where the garlic won’t be cooked. Thinly sliced garlic is best for sautéing, but start with the garlic and cook until it turns translucent, then add your meat or vegetables. If you cook it all together, some of the garlic will become burned and bitter while some will stay uncooked. In other cases — and to be extra careful — the best policy is to remove the garlic from the pan before it has a chance to burn.

Easy Homemade Marinara

When I first tried cooking with garlic, I was 20 years old and trying to impress a young lady. The beef subgum recipe I chose called for three cloves of garlic. Just to be safe, I bought four, but by the time I’d finished peeling and slicing two and a half cloves of garlic, I figured I’d really had enough. Needless to say, the lady was not impressed with my culinary accomplishments, but 40 years later, I still love cooking with garlic.

Here’s one of my favorite recipes for fresh garlic marinara (trust me, it’s a lot easier to master than the beef subgum):

  1. Coat the bottom of a saucepan with a thin layer of olive oil.
  2. Peel and slice two cloves of garlic, toss them in the pan, and cook until they begin turning brown.
  3. Remove the cloves, and pour in a large can of crushed tomatoes.
  4. Cover and simmer for two hours.
  5. Add the cloves back to the marinara.
  6. Serve over your favorite pasta with plenty of parmesan.

Image sources:,,,