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Garlic is part of the "lily" family and is closely related to onions, shallots, garlic-chives, and leeks. A garlic plant resembles an onion plant with long flat leaves and a single stalk about a foot and a half long. Underground is the edible blub which is composed of several smaller buds commonly called cloves of garlic. The bulb is enclosed in a papery exterior coating that varies from white to purple.
Garlic, like other plants, has a defense system composed of as many different components as the human immune system. In order to protect itself from insects and fungi, garlic enzymatically produces allicin when it is injured. It is allicin that gives the garlic its characteristic smell.
Pick heads that are firm. Do not buy garlic that has green growth. Also, avoid any garlic that appears musty. Squeeze garlic heads. If one of the cloves yields, it is past its prime. Store garlic in a cool dark bin.