It has a mellow, sweet taste, like slow-roasted garlic, with none of the acridness of regular raw garlic. Some compare the taste to liquorice or balsamic vinegar. Any garlic smell is gone.
The garlic is chewy and sticky from the sugars in it. It is naturally black; no artificial colouring or flavouring is needed. The fermentation produces melanoidin, which makes it black.
Most of the Black Garlic sold in North America comes through the Black Garlic Company of Hayward, California (founded 2008 by Scott Kim and John Yi. ) The company puts fresh, unpeeled garlic heads in a heat and humidity controlled patented machine to ferment for three weeks, then it is then cooled and dried for a week before being sold on.
In South Korea, companies such as Ui-Seong Black Garlic use a different process: theirs is aged and fermented on trays in artificial cellars.
The process of making Black Garlic frees up S-Arylcysteine in the garlic, which some believe has properties to fight cancer and cholesterol. It is not certain yet if the nutritional claims are actually valid. At the time of writing (2010), there was only one study, in Korean, and so unavailable to Western researchers.
Black Garlic was historically made in Japan, Korea and Thailand. It was sealed in ceramic or earthenware pots and let sit in a cool area for several months to ferment naturally.
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Bain, Jennifer. Black garlic: Old, ugly and delicious. Toronto Star. 9 September 2009.
Benwick, Bonnie S. Inventive Chefs and the Rise of an ‘It’ Ingredient. Washington Post. 25 February 2009. Page F04.
Laiskonis, Michael. Black-Garlic Magic. New York: Gourmet Magazine. June 2009.
Renton, Alex. Shock of the new . . . black garlic, mini lemons and sweet broccoli. London: The Times. 27 August 2009.
Wallop, Harry. London: Daily Telegraph. Black garlic: all the taste, with none of the bad breath. 9 March 2010.