In this post:

  • The flavour of black garlic
  • How was black garlic invented?
  • How is black garlic made?
  • Black garlic health benefits – unsubstantiated
  • Which chefs use black garlic?
  • Where can you buy black garlic?
  • Music to listen to as you read and experiment – The Rolling Stones’ Paint it Black


Sheltering from a downpour in the treasure trove of Bridget’s Market at Bridport, I came upon something which looked very strange. “What is this?” I asked the owner, Marina Price. “Ah” she replied,

“that’s the new magic ingredient, all the chefs are asking for it. It’s black garlic.”

The flavour of black garlic

Reader, I couldn’t resist, and once tried I could see what the chefs were after. This dark allium produces a sort of umami earthy mix of smoke and old leather, slightly balsamic, and chopped finely it adds an exotic appearance to whatever it adorns.

How was black garlic invented?

So I had to investigate. I found out who the producers were and asked them all about it.

Wendy Botwright, of the South-West Garlic Farm,  explained to me, “Mark came across 4,000 year old Korean recipe and translated it. He put some garlic in a tin and put it in the bottom oven of our Aga. After a couple of months the garlic had turned black! and it was from this that Mark then purchased his first oven and began perfecting the quality and taste. We entered it into the Great Taste Awards in 2013 and this is when it took off.”


Mark Botwright - creator of the juicy, flavoursome British black garlic

Mark Botwright – aka Mark the Garlic, creator of the juicy, flavoursome British black garlic


How is black garlic made?

Black garlic, or smoked garlic as it is sometimes called, is produced by a fermentation process which takes forty days under controlled conditions of heat and humidity. The amino acids and sugars react and turn the garlic to a jelly-like consistency and a dark brown colour. Afterwards there is a further ten days of drying, but the British black garlic varies from imported versions in that it never becomes hard – instead it’s juicy and spreadable.


Black garlic health benefits – unsubstantiated

Double-benefit, it is somehow supposed to keep colds at bay as well as being anti-cancer and cholesterol-reducing. I have searched the internet however and I am yet to come up with any serious scientific studies to back up the rumours, but for me the taste is enough – it raises the game of almost any dish you care to add it to.


Which chefs use black garlic?

Mark and Wendy began marketing their garlic to top chefs, delis, and specialist retailers. with great success – Nigella Lawson, Valentine Warner, Mark Hix and Yotam Ottolenghi all use it.


Suggestions for using black garlic

And, back down to earth, so have I. I’ve used it in:

And it would be excellent in:

  • Earthy, spooky mushroom risotto
  • Added to warmed butter and poured over steamed or roasted asparagus
  • mixed with breadcrumbs and made into a crust to cover a shoulder of lamb
  • Nigel Slater (Kitchen Diaries III) infuses cream with smoked garlic while braising potatoes in water and olive oil… he then pours the cream over the drained potatoes and simmers for a few more minutes.
  • You could try adding it to Montepulciano braised potatoes.
  • Ottolenghi roasts 450g halved Brussels sprouts in olive oil. Then he makes a paste of 20 black garlic cloves, a teaspoon of crushed caraway seeds, and a couple of tbsps of thyme. Then he fries the lot with some pumpkin seeds for a few seconds in butter – and serves with a tahinin sauce.

I also found myself nibbling at it on its own (luckily it doesn’t seem to leave you with vampire-proof breath).


Where can you buy black garlic?

It’s available in some supermarkets, in traditional green grocers such as Bridget’s Market, and from the South-West Garlic Farm.


Music to listen to as you experiment 

What else to listen to while you experiment with your black garlic than The Rolling Stones’ Paint it Black.




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