Black garlic has made a comeback after it first rose to popularity centuries ago in Asian cuisine, for medicinal purposes and a touch of sweet flavor to add to sauces. Now, aged fermented garlic is trending again, as chefs from around the world present upscale foods made with black garlic for its unique color and distinctive flavor.

You may have seen protein topped with a black garlic butter sauce, and other times you'll see veggies dipped into a black garlic aioli. These dishes might be made for aesthetic purposes but unlike other meals presented in a spooky way, like charcoal, black garlic is extremely healthy and delivers special health benefits that include containing more antioxidants than raw garlic and helping to protect against various diseases. So next time you're out to eat and your friend wants to order the appetizer with black garlic for a photo opp, they're doing everyone at the table a favor, in terms of good health.

The taste of black garlic is sweeter than raw garlic because the sugars and amino acids are broken down and produce a higher level of fructose and glucose. This is why black garlic is often served with savory protein or added to a yogurt sauce. The texture is softer and smoother than garlic, and sometimes can feel like jelly, depending on the cooking style and humidity level. Here are the answers to the most asked questions about black garlic and five health benefits that might just make you start the aging process tonight.

What is Black Garlic?

Simply, black garlic is the product of aging or heating raw garlic blubs for about four weeks at 140 degrees Fahrenheit in a humid environment, while making sure the garlic doesn't dry out. It's almost like a slow roasting process. It gets its color from a chemical reaction that breaks down sugars and amino acids that create new flavor compounds, and a new color. The taste of black garlic is much sweeter than raw garlic and has hints of syrup aftertaste. People describe it as "sweet balsamic vinegar."

How Do I Make Black Garlic at Home?

There are a couple of ways to age your garlic at home. If you're roasting the garlic in a dehydrator, first wrap the garlic in saran wrap, then in tin foil to keep the moisture. In the dehydrator, you'll set the temperature to 140 degrees Fahrenheit. Some people find it easiest to use a rice cooker or an Instant Pot and heat their garlic (with the skin) using the "Keep Warm" function.

You'll do the exact same preparation: Wrap the garlic in saran wrap then in tin foil to keep the moisture. The difference is that you need a small grate to put on the bottom of the rice cooker or Instant Pot to keep the garlic from getting dry. It only takes 5 minutes to assemble the garlic for the fermentation process but you do have to wait weeks for the final product, but its health benefits and exquisite taste make it worthwhile. Here's a video tutorial for extra help.

Where Can I Buy Black Garlic?

Black garlic was first used as an ingredient in Asian cuisine for extra flavor added to sauces and for its medicinal purposes and was often used in high-end restaurants for an upscale garnish, but now that it's becoming more mainstream, you can find black garlic at select grocery stores including Trader Joe's and online at Amazon.

How Do I Eat Black Garlic?

A majority of dishes that call for black garlic are sauces, just as with regular garlic. Because black garlic is sweeter, people enjoy it in an aioli sauce for veggie burgers, artichokes, and dipping sliced vegetables. It's also enjoyed as a butter sauce that can be easily made vegan by swapping dairy for non-dairy butter. Here's an easy one: Add the black garlic vegan butter sauce to a sweet potato for a delicious snack or side dish. If you're looking to create a work of art, here's a black garlic tofu recipe that looks delicious.

Five Health Benefits of Black Garlic

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1. Black garlic has more antioxidants than raw garlic, which helps to protect your cells against disease and boost immunity. In a review study, researchers analyzed the changes in garlic during the aging process and found that antioxidant levels increased as the garlic aged, including the total polyphenol and total flavonoids contents. More significantly, the antioxidant levels increased the most significantly on the 21st day of the aging process, according to the study. "These results indicate that black garlic can be considered to not only possess antioxidant properties during the aging period but also to reach its optimal antioxidant properties on the 21st day of aging," according to the authors.

In addition, a different study discovered that the antioxidant activity of fermented aged black garlic was stronger than non-fermented black garlic.

2. Black garlic may help lower cholesterol and inflammation in the body, as well as regulate healthier eating habits. Researchers described black garlic as a "functional food with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties," so they analyzed the effects of black garlic extract in rats that ate a high-fat diet, in a study. In conclusion, researchers found that black garlic helped the rats lower inflammation, cholesterol, and regulated their food intake, boosting metabolic health.

3. Fermented black garlic may reduce the risk of diabetes and diabetic complications. Researchers fed fermented aged black garlic to obese mice that ate a high-fat diet, according to another study. When garlic goes through fermentation, natural chemicals including yeast are increased, and researchers hypothesized that fermented and aged black garlic could help improve the oxidative defense system in older patients or patients affected by oxidative stress, for example, "diabetes and diabetic complications." After their 91 day trial, black garlic and fermented black garlic showed "favorable hepatoprotective, nephroprotective, hypolipidemic, and antiobesity effects," according to the researchers, meaning that both fermented black garlic and black garlic may help protect against liver damage, preserve kidney function, lower cholesterol, and prevent obesity.

4. Aged garlic extract may be useful for improving short-term memory loss and inflammation in the brain. In one study, adult male rats were given aged garlic extract every day for 56 days. Just seven days into the trial, results showed improvements for short-term memory recognition in cognitively impaired rats. Researchers also found that the extract significantly lowered inflammatory responses in the brain.

5. Black garlic may contain anticancer activities. Researchers examined the different health benefits of consuming raw garlic versus black garlic on 21 volunteers, in another study. They found that the black garlic extract showed the strongest antioxidant and anticancer activities. "Black garlic extract showed stronger immunostimulatory activities than raw garlic extract," said the authors. They concluded by saying that the difference between black garlic and raw garlic is that there are changes in the composition of black garlic during its processing phase.

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