Black garlic, hailed as a treasure trove of disease-fighting phytochemicals, is leaping its way to the top of the American "superfood" chain. Between the browned, crinkly walls of the fermented bulb, the gooey dark innards are packed with antioxidants and antibacterial agents. And the unexpectedly sweet flavor has culinary experts singing its praise.
San Francisco restaurateur Bruce Hill, credited as the first United States chef to use black garlic, says he discovered the exotic bulb while traveling in Japan in 2007. Hill likens the taste to a gummy bear, and states, "you could eat it and not ever know that it's garlic." Bizarre appearances aside, it doesn't take a sophisticated palate to appreciate this food.
Black garlic is not its own species; it is plain old white garlic that has been fermented at a high temperature. Long consumed in Asian cultures, black garlic is used in energy drinks in Korea and as a life-extending supplement in China. Hill has tried the nutritious energy beverage, and says, "it really gives you a lift." TV physician Dr. Oz recently featured black garlic as an anti-aging skin healer, and noted on his show that it has double the antioxidants as its white counterpart.
Shortly after Hill introduced this food to the haute cuisine scene in his restaurant Bix, it became culinary black gold, and was even featured in a monkfish recipe on the Bravo TV show "Top Chef."
Experts soon revealed the healing properties of black garlic, and the darkly hued bulb rose from trend status to "superfood," a term used to describe edibles with unusually high nutritional value.
Los Angeles chef and author Sarah Simms is also a black garlic fan, and recommends it on pizza with caramelized onions and fontina cheese, or spread over goat cheese on crostini. In Simm's experience, foodies love black garlic because it is something new. As for the less adventurous, "once they get past the visual and try it, they love it too."
Black garlic is more expensive than white, and significantly harder to find. Some Whole Foods and other natural markets carry it, or shoppers can buy it online for between $2 and $10 and ounce. Fermenting it at home is a much cheaper, if substantially more time-consuming, option ' the recipe will leave the oven or rice cooker tied up for about 40 days.