A pungent, bulbous herb. When buying garlic, choose a head that is plump and firm with no discoloration. Store it in a cool, dry place or in an aerated jar at room temperature; use within 2 to 3 weeks.
To use a clove (individual section), pull it from the head and peel it. The skin will loosen easily if you place the clove on a board, concave side down, and press it with your thumb or hit it sharply with the flat side of a knife.
Garlic can have different degrees of potency; raw garlic imparts more flavor to food than cooked (the longer it cooks, the milder it becomes); cut up or pressed garlic is more potent than whole. For the most delicate flavor, rub the inside of a clove against a bowl in which food will be prepared, or saute a whole clove in oil, then remove it.
(Cook it just until golden; garlic burns easily in hot oil and develops a bitter, acrid flavor.) To obtain garlic juice, crush a clove in a garlic press.