Black garlic has long been prized by Asians for its health benefits, but it became widely available in Western markets only a few years ago. Developed in Korea, black garlic has gained popularity among Western foodies for several years now, but it has recently caught the eye of the health-minded due to studies revealing its impressive nutritional properties.
The black bulb is created by fermenting raw garlic through prolonged exposure to heat and humidity, giving it a sweet, mellow flavor and an inky hue. No additives, no preservatives… just pure garlic. Fermentation takes place in a humidity-controlled environment in temperatures of about 140 to 170 degrees F for 30 days. Once out of the heat, the bulbs are then left to oxidize in a clean room for 45 days.This lengthy process causes the garlic cloves to turn black and develop a soft, chewy texture with flavors reminiscent of “balsamic vinegar” and “soy sauce,” with a sweet “prune-like” taste. In addition to the sulfuric compounds that provide garlic with its heart-healthy and anticancer benefits, the fermented cloves are a source of important probiotics. “Fermented foods help stabilize our intestinal flora. When the intestine is in good shape, it strengthens our immune system,” says Bellatti. Black garlic has been increasingly sought-after in high-end cuisine, and it is often used to make sauces, dressings, and dips.
Although the process is consistently described as “fermentation,” it really isn’t that in the strictest sense, as the transformation does not involve microbial processes—specifically, enzymatic breakdown and the Maillard Reaction are responsible for the caramelization of the sugars, dark color and deep, complex flavor profile. As the pearly white cloves slowly transition into their final black appearance, compounds in the fresh garlic transform into a whole new range of compounds. Compared to fresh garlic, black garlic is low in alliin but it is astonishingly high in other antioxidants.
Black garlic was found to have twice the antioxidant levels as fresh—the aging/fermenting process appears to double the antioxidants. Aficionados claim the flavor will impress even the most avid garlic-hater, as the pungency and spiciness is gone
Perhaps this is why Mandarin oil painter Choo Keng Kwang experienced a complete reversal of his psoriasis after just four days of eating half a bulb of black garlic a day—this, after trying countless medically prescribed skin creams that were all complete failures.