Does Size Matter….Garlic Cloves

Peeled Garlic Cloves of Different Sizes

Garlic Cloves of Different Sizes

I do love garlic, whether browned and simmered whole in a slow cooked marinara sauce, sliced thin and sauteed with anchovies and olive oil then tossed with pasta, used in a stir fry with broccoli or rubbed raw on toast and eaten with steak tartar.

The aroma, flavor and versatility of garlic (Allium sativum) make it a frequent component of my cooking. Garlic is a close relative of onions, shallots, leeks and chives which are all in the plant Genus: Allium. There are two subspecies of Garlic, but Elephant Garlic is in neither subspecies. In fact, Elephant Garlic is not even garlic, but a Wild Leek (Allium ampeloprasum).

Despite my love and frequent use of Garlic, even I know when too much garlic has been used in meal. We have all read recipes that say to use 4 – 6 garlic cloves. What exactly does that mean? Is it a function of the cook’s preference or is there this universal understanding that not all garlic cloves are the same size? In the picture accompanying this post, I have laid out 11 garlic cloves that I recently used in a recipe. I arranged them by size, with the top left clove being the largest and the bottom right being the smallest. It is apparent that there is significant variation in the size of the garlic. Aside from experience, intuitive knowledge and some pure guessing, is there enough room for error when using garlic that size of the clove does not matter?

This very unscientific analysis has created another level of questions for me to ponder on the topics of potency, volume, weight and median (whole, sliced, ground, minced, dried, fresh) in which spices and herbs are used in recipes.


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