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5 Facts About Garlic, a Favorite Italian Ingredient

From garlic bread to tomato sauce, garlic is a vital component of many favorite Italian dishes. Your pizza, pasta, and salad would not have the same zing without this unique, bulbous herb. But beyond loving garlic, how much do you really know about it? Here are five awesome facts about this popular ingredient.
1. Garlic Has Numerous Health Benefits
How often do you come across a food that is both healthy and delicious? Garlic is one of the few. NDTV Food says that it contains a compound called allicin at helps regulate blood pressure and blood sugar levels, helping to protect against cancer and heart disease. It is also known to help kill bacteria and parasites. Some studies have shown garlic to be useful for cancer prevention, especially in the case of colorectal cancer. 
The idea of rubbing garlic on your skin may sound a little smelly, but doing so may actually help slow the aging process and ease symptoms of eczema. Additionally, if you get a splinter, you can bandage a piece of garlic over it-and the splinter should come out the next day. 
2. Garlic Is Used in the South of Italy
Americans often have the perception that garlic is used extensively throughout Italy. This is not quite the case. According to La Gazzetta Italiana, It's not used often at all in the northern part of the country.
However, it is a more common ingredient in southern Italy. Southern Italians often use garlic in stews. They sauté it and add it to sauces, and they use it to preserve various meats. The garlic flavor in Southern Italian dishes tends to be milder than in Italian-American dishes.
3. Americans Eat a Ton of Garlic
Americans may actually love garlic more than Italians. The average American eats about two pounds of garlic per year. If Italian restaurants are your go-to choice, you might eat even more than that!
The United States produced more than 511 pounds of garlic in 2017 alone, much of which was produced in California. Some of the garlic used in the U.S. is also imported from China. In fact, China is the world's largest producer of garlic. The U.S. is only the world's 11th largest producer. Mexico and Bangladesh also produce a lot of garlic.
4. Garlic Originated in Asia
Many people assume that garlic originated in Italy, or at least in Europe. But actually, it is thought to have originated in Asia, according to Wikipedia. Historians have found evidence of garlic being used in Asia as long as 7,000 years ago. Over the centuries, it spread through the Middle East, and the European crusaders began bringing it home with them.
La Gazzetta Italiana says that garlic was not popular in the U.S. until the early 20th century, when people from southern Europe began immigrating. These immigrants brought garlic cloves in their trunks, and they planted them in the U.S. upon arrival. Garlic was well suited to the climate in the northern states, so it caught on quickly and soon became a staple in American grocery stores and farmers' markets.
5. There Are Many Types of Garlic
Just as there are many varieties of corn and tomatoes, there are many types of garlic. The most common type is softneck garlic, which has a pliable neck in the middle of the cloves. Subtypes of softneck garlic include silverskin garlic, which has a really strong flavor, and artichoke garlic, which has large cloves and a milder flavor.
Hardneck garlic is another type; it has an inflexible neck that stands a bit above the level of the cloves. A few subtypes of hardneck garlic are racombole, which has a full-bodied flavor, and porcelain, which has huge cloves and stores for a long time.
Now that you know a little more about garlic, sit down and enjoy some! Picano's Italian Grille serves delicious Caesar Salad, shrimp scampi, and other dishes that feature the robust flavor of garlic. Treat yourself to a delicious lunch or dinner here.