How to select for best flavor:
Select firm, dry bulbs with crackly, papery skin. Avoid bulbs that have mold, soft spots or sprouts.
Peak of the season:
Garlic is available all year because it stores well. There are two peak seasons in March and April and again from August through October. Most garlic comes from California, Louisiana and Tennessee. Imported garlic comes from Mexico, Italy and France.
I could write a whole book on nutritional claims that have been made for garlic, from curing the common cold to life extension. It contains a bactericide called crotonaldehyde, which is a strong germ killer. It is especially effective for infections of the nose and respiratory system. Garlic is often recommended for people with high blood pressure. It works as an appetite stimulant and an intestinal antiseptic as well.
Garlic needs to be stored in a cool, dry place. Moisture promotes mold and rot. You should also keep it away from any other foods that could pick up its strong odor.
There are three main varieties of garlic on the market. The Creole, or American, is white-skinned and has the strongest flavor and aroma. The Italian or Mexican can be recognized by its pink or purplish blush. The Tahitian, or elephant, is the largest with bulbs of 2 to 3 inches. Elephant garlic has a very subtle flavor and is excellent for roasting.
Adding garlic cloves whole, with the skins, to recipes gives a nice flavor that is not too strong. This could be good for people who are not particularly fond of garlic, although finding the tough skins in your food can be very annoying.