It may sound like much ado about something trivial, but the dilemma of preparing and measuring garlic for your recipes is one of the most confounding issues in culinary arts. This guide examines the relationship between different methods of preparing garlic and how this affects the measurements you should use in your recipes.
Basic Terminology Associated With Measuring Garlic
Let us begin by clarifying what some of the basic terminology associated with measuring garlic for recipes is meant.
What is a Head of Garlic?
One of the most common phrases you will find being thrown around in cookery shows and recipe websites is ‘head of garlic’ or ‘garlic head’. The term garlic head means exactly the same thing as “bulb of garlic”. A garlic head is a lumpy, bulbous vegetable tuber about the size of a toddler’s clenched fist.
What is a Clove of Garlic?
A head of garlic is made of several individual pieces or segments called garlic cloves. The garlic cloves are arranged side by side symmetrically to make the bulb of garlic.
A few layers of papery skin envelop the cloves in a garlic bulb. You must peel off these skin layers to get to the cloves held inside.
Garlic cloves are the main edible parts of garlic. Their shape is roughly like that of a crescent moon just before it gets to the first quarter.
Garlic clove has one pointy end. This is the end that is attached to the stalk. The other end is much flatter, the side to which the roots are attached.
Other than the skin covering the bulbs, each garlic clove is further wrapped in an even thinner paper-like skin.
Differences Between the Soft Neck and the Hard Neck Garlic
Not all garlic bulbs and cloves are the same. The major differences depend on whether they are harvested from soft neck garlic or hard neck garlic.
The garlic you buy from your local grocery store or farmers market is most likely of soft neck variety.
Softneck garlic plants are so named because they have normal leafy shoots, much like onions. Hardneck garlic varieties, on the other hand, are characterized by a single hardened stalk that grows off the top of the bulb.
Grocery stores and supermarkets prefer stocking up soft neck garlic as these are bulbs that have a much longer shelf life. Hardneck varieties are not as common since they spoil a lot quicker.
Garlic Varieties and Longevity
The garlic variety with the longest shelf life is the silverskin. It will keep fresh under normal storage for six months at least.
It is true that there are some hard neck varieties that come close in terms of longevity to silverskin garlic. A good example is porcelain garlic, which can stay fresh for four to six months without the need for cold storage.
Most hard neck bulbs have a very short shelf life. They are past their freshest in just one or two months. These include popular ones such as the Asiatic garlic and the Rocambole.
Variety in Size and Shape of Garlic Cloves and Bulbs
Garlic is no different from any other type of crop. There is no standard size or even shape for the bulbs and the cloves beneath.
Depending on growing conditions, variety of garlic, weather, and availability of the essential nutrients needed for garlic to grow and mature, garlic cloves can be big or small.
Bulbs from soft neck garlic have a lot more cloves per bulb than hard neck varieties. Understandably, hard neck cloves are often larger than those of soft neck garlic varieties.
Different Methods of Preparing Garlic Affect Measurements
Before measuring your garlic readiness for your recipes, you need to prepare it. There are different ways to prepare fresh garlic for cooking or dressing food. Each of these has an effect to how you should measure out that fresh garlic for our recipes.
Minced and Diced Garlic
While the terms minced garlic and diced garlic are often used interchangeably, they do not mean the same thing.
Both diced and minced garlic are cut or chopped cloves of garlic. Minced garlic clove is cut into very fine pieces, each of which measures about a sixteenth of an inch.
A diced garlic clove is cut into pieces about twice the size of minced garlic. In other words, a piece of diced garlic would measure about an eighth of an inch in length.
The Finer the Pieces, the Greater the Flavor
Cutting garlic into finer and finer pieces, such as minced garlic, allows the garlic oils and flavors to come out more effectively. Therefore, it would be best if you used minced garlic for dishes that require lots of flavoring and diced garlic where the garlic flavor should be more subtle.
Processed and Packaged Garlic
When garlic cloves are processed and packaged for the market, this can take a variety of forms. While it is possible to buy jarred minced garlic from the store, most store garlic comes in the form of garlic powder, granulated garlic, garlic flakes, and garlic juice.
What is Garlic Powder?
Garlic powder is made from garlic cloves that have been dried and then ground to a flour-like consistency. Because of the exceedingly small size of its granules, garlic powder has a very potent flavoring quality. You also do not have to cook it for as long to get these flavors and oils out into your food.
What is Granulated Garlic?
Granulated garlic is often confused with powdered garlic. Indeed, granulated garlic is also made from dried-up cloves of garlic which are then ground to sand or salt-like consistency. This means you need to use a bit more granulated garlic to get the same sort of garlic flavor you can extract from a measure of powdered garlic.
What Are Garlic Flakes?
Garlic flakes are made when cloves of garlic are sliced and the slices dried up to increase their longevity. To make garlic flakes, cloves of garlic can be sliced lengthwise or laterally.
What is Garlic Juice?
garlic juice is the liquid produced by minced, crushed, or chopped garlic cloves. There are some food processing companies that produce garlic juice not from chopped garlic but from machine-pressed cloves of garlic.
Garlic juice is a very pungent, spicy, and potent form of garlic. You only need a tiny drop to replicate the effect of a minced clove of garlic.
Garlic paste is a form of store-bought, packaged garlic that is nonetheless gaining popularity. Fresh cloves of garlic are crushed into a fine paste, then packaged into a squeezable tube for easy dispensing.
What Are Garlic Scapes?
Garlic cloves are not the only edible parts of a garlic plant. Garlic scapes, the stem and flower of the hard neck garlic plant, is a popular food, especially in the United States and Canada.
Garlic scapes usually grow as firm and straight stalks in a young garlic plant. However, as the plant matures, the scapes coil curve and coil up much like curly green beans.
Garlic scapes are harvested in late spring and early summer, months before the garlic bulbs are harvested. If the scapes are not harvested, the garlic will devote plenty of nutrients in feeding the stem and flower. This makes the bulb a lot smaller and even flavorless.
How to Prepare and Cook Garlic Scapes
It is easy to prepare and cook garlic scapes. Most scapes have a little bulb at the top. This is what grows into a flower. It would be best if you cut off the tip bulb before cutting the scapes to the size you desire.
Scapes are as versatile as cloves and scallions are. They can be sautéed, roasted, pickled, or even pureed.
Garlic scapes are suitable for use in a great number of recipes. But it is important to use neutral oils when frying scapes as that make it easier for subtle garlic flavors to shine through.
The Paradox of Measuring Garlic by Cloves, Teaspoons, and Tablespoons
After the foregoing, it is clear that it is not easy to decide exactly how many teaspoons or tablespoons of minced garlic equals one clove or two cloves of garlic. At times, one garlic clove can suffice for one teaspoon measure, while in others, you would need at least two cloves of garlic for the same effect.
How Many Teaspoons Are There in a Tablespoon of Garlic?
For your convenience, here are some handy references on how to perform conversions on how many cloves of garlic are equivalent to a teaspoon or tablespoon of kitchen-prepared or store-bought garlic.
As an estimate, one tablespoon of garlic measures about two teaspoons.
Conversion Guide for One Clove of Garlic
One fresh garlic clove is equivalent to:
- Half a tablespoon of chopped fresh garlic
- One teaspoon of garlic cloves
- Half a teaspoon of garlic paste
- Half a teaspoon of minced garlic
It is essential to keep in mind that garlic does not come in uniform, standard, or even easily estimable sizes or measures. Therefore, estimating how many tablespoons or teaspoons of garlic are available in one fresh garlic clove can be a very frustrating exercise. Moreover, how many tablespoons of minced garlic are equivalent to a clove of garlic is different when we are talking of chopped garlic, garlic powder, or dried garlic. Nevertheless, by following our comprehensive guide and tips, you should be able to measure just the right amount of garlic you need for your recipe.