Aged Black Garlic: a new superfood?

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Why is it that Asian ingredients that are “good for you” are so darn ugly and nasty sounding? Mom used to feed me and my brother bird’s nest soup, chilled frog jelly soup and countless other strange protein specimens that would probably make you wonder how I’m still alive today.

The latest “it” ingredient is aged black garlic. It’s matte-black and gooey-soft with a chewyishy texture. It’s the new plaything of gourmet restaurant kitchens across the U.S.. and its recent appearance on Top Chef and Iron Chef television shows created newfound fame for this otherwise frightful thing. Trust me, if you found this on your kitchen counter and didn’t know that it was supposed to be black, you’d probably think it was rotten.

Well, good thing it’s not rotten, but rather “aged,” a more pleasant way to describe the process of letting time and temperature do its thing. I spoke with Scott Kim, CEO of Black Garlic, Inc. and he told me that garlic heads either grown in Korea or California are put into a machine he invented which fluctuates temperature and humidity for thirty days. What results is supposedly a garlic that has twice the antioxidants as regular garlic.

I think there’s a lot of misinformation and mystery about black garlic – some articles hint that black garlic has been used for hundreds of years in Korea and Japan as a superfood and Kim claims to have invented the machine a handful of years ago after a story he heard from someone in the garlic business in Korea. I asked, “Is the black garlic exposed to light source in his machine (as I’ve read online)?” Kim answered no.

I asked him how people used to make black garlic before his magical machine and he told me he didn’t know. How do they make black garlic in Japan? He didn’t know either. The scientific study done in Korea of the antioxidant level is not available online, though Kim did offer to send me information in Korean.ย 

So, I’m highly skeptical on its superfood status and the origins of black garlic until I can find more information. But there’s one thing I’m sure of – and that is I love the taste of black garlic. It’s sweet, mild, caramelly and reminds me of molasses. When you bite into a raw clove, you don’t get the harsh-hit-you-in-the-face that regular garlic has. It’s smooth, soft and the garlic flavor is mellowed out times one-hundred.

I was lucky enough to get a few heads to play with from my friend Chef David Eger of (and in exchange I let him use the photo of black garlic that I shot), where they sell four ounces of black garlic for $10.00. I’ve sliced a few cloves (as best as I could…it’s so soft that it’s difficult to slice), fried them in olive oil with scallops and it was dynamo.

Black Garlic at our Blogger Playdate

My friends, Chef Mark and Jennifer of The Culinary Media Network in New York made a bruschetta out of a few cloves for our dinner party and guests could not stop eating it. I had to steal bruschetta off of people’s plates just to get a photograph of it! If you want to see black garlic in action, watch the Culinary Media Network video below (note: I didn’t speak with Scott Kim, founder of Black Garlic, Inc. until the day after this video was shot – so the comment about the garlic being exposed to light is incorrect.)

Superfood Status?

Is it an ancient Asian secret superfood? I don’t know and am trying to hold my judgement until an independant lab in the U.S. can verify and publish the results in English. But try aged, black garlic for its taste. I like using the black garlic is raw (like in a bruschetta), roasted whole cloves and then smeared on toasted bread with a drizzle of olive oil or sliced and fried like in this recipe.


Black Garlic with Scallops Recipe

Even if you don’t have black garlic, this is a simple recipe for scallops. Just substitute the black garlic with regular garlic. Just don’t expect any nooky tonight, unless you’re both having the dish!3 tablespoons butter, divided
16 extra-large dry-packed scallops, patted very dry (about 1 ยฝ pounds)
salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 cloves black garlic, thinly sliced (or use regular garlic)
1-2 teaspoons finely minced jalepeno pepper
ยผ cup white wine
2 teaspoons good balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

Heat a large frying pan with just 2 tablespoons of the butter over high heat. Season the scallops with salt and pepper, and when the butter is bubbling, gently lay the scallops in the pan, not touching. Sear the scallops and cook for 4 minutes, turning once. They should have a lovely golden brown color on both sides. Transfer to a platter.

To the same hot pan on high heat, add the remaining 1 tablespoon of butter. Add the garlic slices and the jalepeno pepper and fry until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Pour in the white wine and the balsamic vinegar into the pan. Let simmer for 1 minute, season with salt and pepper and add the fresh parsley. Pour over scallops.

Serves 4

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Comments 82

  1. Jacqueline

    I’m also experimenting with this product. Found the same research you did. I think to be fair, there’s a language issue at work. I asked him about umami and he didn’t know the word but said it sounds Japanese (bingo).

    I have written to Harold McGee to see if he can shed any light and also asked my Mom to ask around (she’s Japanese). We certainly eat a fair amount of fermented stuff (tofu, being one notable example, and natto, ick).

    My sense is that the company is new and they are not confident their technology is protected via patent or trademark or what have you. They also are dealing with a language barrier. We press for transparency and that is right and good to do.But how many of us have pressed Kraft Foods or ConAgra for the same transparency? We simply have more access to these guys because they’re two guys who answer their own email.

    I love the stuff and am working to learn more about it. Maybe the company is so new they’re deserving of a little break? Maybe they’re slick snake oil salesmen, who knows. But I don’t feel like I have the answer yet which it is.

    Maybe we could try to persuade them to use some organic California garlic. With a smaller company we might have the opportunity to influence those types of decisions.

    So far no one I know who’s tried it has not fallen in love with it, myself included.

    Am roasting a chicken this week with a compound butter I’ll make with it. Can’t wait!

    If you’re interested I wrote about it on my gourmet food column on Suite101. Including two ways I’ve already used it.


    Yes, there is a language barrier – English is their second language. But what I”m getting at is that all of the articles that I’ve read online have been bragging about Black Garlic’s health benefits…with no other research to back it up. I didn’t make the initial phone call with doubt in my mind – in fact, the night before we enjoyed the Black Garlic so much that I wanted to write an article to help promote their product.

    If the health benefits are totally legit, perhaps the company would benefit from a PR expert to help them get their story straight and speak with media. It’s one thing to sell a product based on taste…and another to call it a “superfood,” which Mr. Kim did several times with me on the phone. I totally recommend the product for its taste, just not as a healthy food. ~jaden

  2. Robin at Caviar and Codfish

    Never been a fan of the word superfoods. Advertising mumbo-jumbo, I think. But on your recommendation of tastiness, I just may go spend that much on black garlic, whether it fills my body up to the brim with antioxidants or not. ๐Ÿ˜€

  3. Susan

    SuperFood? maybe. SuperSleuth? Yes you are. I enjoyed the read and can’t wait to try your recipe.

    Perhaps my daughter-in-law in South Korea can give you a few more clues. She tells me that she has seen it advertised and is going to get more information about which variety of garlic is grown on Jeju and how & where it is aged, etc.

    I am going to visit Korea in May, I will bring back some if I can so we can compare.

  4. Barry

    Forget whether its a Superfood. I just want to try the freaky stuff. Saw this last Thanksgiving and forgot all about it. Thanks for the reminder. Gorgeous picture too!

  5. Dallas from Bitchin' Lifestyle

    Thanks for this very comprehensive post. I really appreciate your honesty about various foods and new “fads.” It’s also really cool that you share so many videos and “behind-the-scenes” stuff. I always look forward to what you’re going to share next, and learn so much from you ๐Ÿ™‚

  6. Diana

    I’m so excited, I am getting a sample this week and can’t wait to play with it. The bruschetta sounds delish!

  7. Debbie

    Jade…I love your style of ‘chat’ (newsletter)…I love the way you present your recipes…the way you involve your sons.
    I am soooo thankful my daughter introduced me to your ‘site’ w/your bread recipe…who knew I’d fall for your style of presenting?
    I have now added another item to my “Bucket List”.
    I would love someday, to meet’cha and watch/taste what you cook IRL.
    just an admirer of your talents!
    Debbie in Oregon; salivating over your delicious pictures!

  8. Debbie

    oops..I know you are Jaden…just typed too fasssst!
    (no edit button)
    my apologies.
    ;o) Debbie

  9. argus joon

    Love the colours of the cover of your upcoming cookbook!
    Congratulations, Mrs Hair. ๐Ÿ™‚
    By the way, black garlic sounds quite appetizing, actually.

  10. Joie de vivre

    I had a teachers aide my second year teaching that was constantly telling me to eat bird’s nest soup whenever I’d get sick. ๐Ÿ™‚ Black garlic looks interesting but pricey! Thanks for the info!

  11. Allen of EOL

    Ahhhh – so this is black garlic! In California, there was a local ramen shop that was known for their black garlic ramen … it was dark and incredibly delicious. Now I know what I was actually eating ๐Ÿ™‚

  12. Debbie

    ok..I went to amaZon and pre-ordered not one but 4 of your cookbooks…one for each of my kids and their incredible spouses, and one for me! *just a love present to them. I also ordered the black garlic! (will share (?) w/my daughter). laughing here..
    thank you thank you Jaden!

  13. Katja

    Thanks for commenting in my blog – and me finding yours! I’m in amazement of all the great recipes, info & photos… And black garlic – never even heard of. So nice to “meet” you, your lovely blog and learn new things!

  14. Jennifer Iannolo

    Jaden, I had a hard time getting past your gorgeous photos to read the rest of the article! There’s nothing better than a delicious food that has side benefits, so big win on this discovery. Thanks for introducing us to it!

  15. Lynette

    I have never heard of black garlic I am going to find some today Thanks for sharing sound wonderful.

  16. jesse

    Those things remind me of thousand-year eggs… they do sound pretty delicious, but what blows me away is that picture of your scallops. THOSE look amazing!

  17. Carrie Oliver

    Jaden, I could eat that garlic morning, noon, and night. It was delicious, almost like candy (the roasted version had a hint of anise flavor to it, yum). Thanks for bringing it to the Food Blogger Playdate and introducing me to more fabulous flavors.

  18. Cakebrain

    I’m wondering why it’s always good for you when it’s black in colour…like those Chinese bitter black “teas” brewed from twigs and gecko parts. I’m waiting for people to tell me those preserved black thousand year old eggs are full of antioxidants or something! I find it amazing how you can make something so ugly look so gorgeously delectable, Jaden.

  19. Just Cook it

    I am totally intrigued by this, having never seen nor heard of it. I’ll be on the look out for it though as I am a big fan of all things garlic.

    Thanks for the kind comments on the blog. Love your work, especially the photography. Wonderful.

  20. Lynn

    Interesting. I’ve never even heard of black garlic. You’re right – if that showed up on my counter, I’d pitch it. The scallops look divine!

  21. Sarah Caron

    Alright, I will admit that I have never seen or heard of this before and if it ended up unannounced in my kitchen, I would be horrified. But after hearing you — and everyone on the video — rave about it, I am really intrigued. I LOVE roasted garlic ….

  22. Native_Momma

    Super Food or Super Marketing Team LOL
    I am glad to hear it is good tasting though it is icky looking. I’ll have to get me some.

    yeah it is pretty icky looking! jaden

  23. Chuck

    When I came across your blog and saw the aged black garlic. I thought wow I could make a bread with these. Then as I read your post I thought OK no way. Then as I read more I thought OK this could be good. Then, I read more and thought No this is to strange. I’m so confused lol.

    I think it could be interesting in a bread. What do you think?

    LOL – you are too funny. We loved the taste. You should get some and just try it out – it’s not too expensive!

    It would be fabulous in bread.

    ๐Ÿ˜‰ jaden

  24. Jeff

    This is new to me but from your description of it’s taste and texture, I think it might be worth the $10 to pick some of this up. I use garlic in a lot of my recipes and I can think of a few to use this in.

  25. Barry

    Just got my shipment yesterday! Can’t wait to try the recipe above tonight! I apparently love exclamation marks!

  26. betty fussell

    Jaden, WOW WOW WOW. Thank you so much for sending me a box of those incredible black garlic heads that I, and the others, swooned over at the recent Bloggers Playdate. Can’t get over this combo of sweet earthiness. And glad to have the recipes above in order to play around and around in a dance of black garlic cloves. Who knew??? Gratefully, Betty

  27. Laura

    This sounds like a very interesting ingredient! I love the look of it, the picture of it clinging to your knife is what is persuading me to order some! Now I just have to find out where I can score some in Quebec!

  28. Kelly Bennett

    Aloha everyone,

    My name is Kelly Bennett. I first encountered black garlic when I was in Japan last November. I was quite sick before the trip, and I almost cancelled it. When I arrived Japan, I got worse. My friend gave me some packets of black garlic extract from Korea. I took it daily because I knew the health benefits of garlic.

    To make a long story short. After 3 weeks in Japan, I returned home tired, but not ill. My tour guide,”Koki” got the Tokyo flu, but I was okay. I was convinced that it was the black garlic extract that I took while I was in Japan. I contacted the company to order more. I was told that it was not available in America. I was so shocked that such a good product was not available. I contacted the company and offered to be the United States distributor for their products. They did not return my email for a couple month. After much thought and consideration, the company finally gave an exclusive right to sell offer for their product, MSDFarm brand, in America. You see, they did not want to hand over their products to just anyone.

    I personally experienced the health benefits of black garlic, and was sure about the product. Not until I did much research on the black garlic, the manufacturer and the technology behind the black garlic, I had little idea about this wonder food.

    First, the technology was first developed in Japan in 1997. Mr. Scott Kim is not the inventor of this technology. That is probably why he does not know much about the technology. MSDFarm followed these events from the beginning as they attended the Food convention in Shimonosaeki,Osaka in September and October of 1997. It was there, they first discussed the black garlic production. However,it took 10 years to perfect the process. In 2007, MSDFarm patented its black garlic production techinology. In 2008 MSDFarm was the Grand Prize winner for developing and perfecting the technology behind their black garlic production in Korea. MSDFarm has their own farm, research center and manufacturing center. MSDFarm has all the certifications and recognition to back their award winning products.

    MSDFarm teamed up with a local University to further study the health benefits of black garlic. The research results confirmed that black garlic has twice the health benefits of regular garlic and also found a compound called, S-allycystaine which was only in the black garlic. This compound inhibits cancer cell proliferation. Much of this information can be found at and see why black garlic soon will replace the regular garlic in usage.

    Not all black garlic is created equal. MSDFarm brand may not be the first company to introduce its product to the United States, but they are the best. The facility is located in Pusan, Korea, Namhae providence. Namhae’s garlic is famous and considered the best in nation and world. It is important to understand the significance of the location where the garlic is grown and produced. MSDFarm’s garlic is from this region, which gives it the best quality. Why? Because the rich soil content is of primary importance in the production of superior garlic and black garlic is 100% garlic. The best ingredients make the best products. There are a couple brands of black garlic in the market, but be sure to test each one, and you will see the difference in taste and quality. If you are paying over $100 for 10 packs of black garlic extract, then you are paying way too much. It should be around $100-120 for 30 individual packs. I would also steer away from black garlic made in China.

    Any questions or comments are welcome and I look forward to hearing from you.



  29. Pille

    We had black garlic at El Bulli in April 2008 – I quite liked the texture and the taste, I must admit ๐Ÿ™‚

  30. Candace

    I manage an independent kitchen shop in Bloomington, IN. A customer who had been visiting her son on the west coast asked if we could get some. That was the end of last winter. We sell about 2 lbs. a week. Our customers love it. All it takes is a sniff and they are sold.

  31. Mr. Black Garlic

    Whoever wrote this article is extremely miss informed. As you said do more research before you terrorize the name of Black Garlic. This is the new age of Garlic and will soon take over!!! Sweet delicious taste, double the antioxidants, and non pungent smell. Better than regular garlic? Yes!!!! More expensive sure because you will never find a magical taste such as this. Can you bite into raw garlic an enjoy it? Never!!!!I LOVE BLACK GARLIC I LOVE BLACK GARLIC I LOVE BLACK GARLIC!!!!

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