Is garlic a vegetable? Or a herb, or spice? (Explained)

Unravel the culinary mystery of garlic—is it a vegetable, herb, or spice? Journey through the nuanced classification of this kitchen staple and discover its versatile role in gastronomy.

Key Takeaways:

  1. Explore the distinct characteristics that categorize garlic and determine its role in cooking.
  2. Understand how garlic transcends its classification, offering a unique blend of flavors to diverse culinary creations.
  3. Gain clarity on using garlic effectively in your recipes, whether as a vegetable, herb, or spice.

Pasta with garlic, pizza with garlic. Garlic goes with almost everything! Garlic, along with some tasty herbs and spices, must be one of the perennial favorites. But did you know that garlic is a vegetable rather than an herb?

A garlic head is the garlic plant’s bulb, or swollen stem. It is not related to the reproductive cycle and does not contain seeds, unlike fruit. It is not a herb, despite the fact that it is used for flavoring in cooking. Garlic is now classified as a vegetable.

To understand what makes garlic a vegetable, first define what a vegetable is and why garlic fits the bill. Continue reading to learn more about this perennially tasty vegetable.

Is Garlic A Vegetable?

Is garlic a vegetable

Garlic is classified as a vegetable because it is an edible plant part that does not contribute to the reproductive system. The edible part of the garlic plant is the bulb, which is the swollen part of the stem and is classified as a vegetable.

Garlic’s bulb, stem, and long leaves are classified as vegetables by botanists.

Garlic belongs to the Allium family as well.

Garlic is also a member of the Allium family, which includes other vegetables, so it is a vegetable.

Onions, a close relative of garlic and also a vegetable, are members of the Allium family.

Vegetables are defined as a plant’s edible root, stem, leaves, or bulb.

They are unrelated to the reproductive cycle and do not contain seeds.

Botanical Classification

Garlic (Allium sativum) is classified as a vegetable by botanists.

It is a member of the onion family, along with shallots, leeks, and chives.

A vegetable, strictly speaking, is any edible part of a herbaceous plant, such as the roots, leaves, stems, and bulbs.

Garlic plants have a bulb, a tall stem, and long leaves.

Although the plant’s leaves and flowers are edible, the bulb, which contains 10-20 cloves, is the most commonly consumed. It’s covered in a papery husk that’s usually removed before eating.

Garlic comes from an edible plant with a bulb, stem, and leaves. Therefore, it’s botanically considered a vegetable.

Culinary Classification

Garlic is used as a spice or herb rather than a vegetable.

Garlic, unlike other vegetables, is rarely consumed in large quantities or on its own. Given its strong flavor, it is usually added in small amounts to dishes. In fact, it may be the most popular flavored bulb in the world, second only to onions.

Garlic can be cooked whole, crushed, or peeled. It’s usually roasted, boiled, or sautéed.

It can also be purchased chopped, minced, pickled, or as a supplement.

Previously, it was thought that only raw garlic had health benefits. However, studies now show that cooked and commercially prepared products can be just as beneficial.

Garlic is primarily used as an herb or spice, often added in small amounts to dishes to enhance flavor rather than eaten on its own.

More Potent Than The Majority of Other Vegetables.

According to dietary guidelines, fruits and vegetables should account for half of your plate at each meal, or approximately 1.7 pounds (800 grams) per day.

However, there is no need to cover half of your plate in garlic.

This powerful vegetable contains a variety of sulfur compounds, including allicin, which is responsible for the majority of its medicinal properties.

According to research, just 1-2 cloves (4 grams) provide significant health benefits, including:

  • reduced cholesterol
  • lower blood pressure
  • a decreased risk of blood clots.
  • treatment of respiratory infections, such as bronchitis, asthma, and cough.
  • antimicrobial effects
  • enhanced immune function.

Garlic is more potent than most other vegetables and provides numerous benefits, even in small doses.

Is Garlic Considered An Herb?

Garlic, while used primarily for flavor, is not an herb. This is because the bulb, rather than the leaves, flowers, or seeds, is the most commonly used part of the plant. Garlic, unlike plants classified as herbs, is also a perennial.

A plant that bears seeds and dies at the end of the season is referred to as an herb.

The plant must also have seeds, flowers, or leaves that can be used to flavor food.

Garlic is a perennial plant, which means it does not die after each season.

The plant’s bulb, rather than its leaves, flowers, or seeds, is used primarily for flavoring.

This all means that garlic is not an herb.

Moreover, garlic is classified as a vegetable, which is distinct from a herb.

However, keep in mind that garlic is used specifically for flavor in cooking, so it is used similarly to herbs.

This is where some people get confused. It is not classified as a herb.

Is Garlic a Type of Root?

Garlic is frequently misidentified as a root, but it is actually a swollen section of the stem that grows underground known as a bulb. Bulbs serve as the plant’s nutrient storage system. Garlic roots grow from the bulb, but they serve very different purposes.

Roots are plant parts that attach to the substrate and anchor the plant.

They also serve as a pathway for the plant to absorb water and nutrients from the soil.

Garlic plants have roots that allow them to be effectively anchored in the soil.

These are attached to the swollen section we use for cooking, but it is not given a name.

We use the swollen section of the plant composed of cloves, which is not the roots but rather a bulb.

A bulb is a swollen section of a plant’s stem that grows underground.

That is, garlic is not a root.

Why is Garlic Considered a Spice?

Spice, according to Merriam Webster, is any of several aromatic vegetable products, such as pepper or nutmeg, used to season or flavor foods.

Garlic is a vegetable that can be dried, powdered, and stored for long periods of time before being used to flavor foods. Garlic thus qualifies as a spice.

Is Garlic Capable of Growing Underground?

Garlic plants have underground and above-ground sections. It has a stem that can grow to be 18-24 inches tall and will eventually flower if the garlic is not harvested. The bulb and roots are found underground. The bulb is harvested, which is the part that grows beneath the soil.

The garlic plant, like any other plant, has shoots, leaves, and flowers that grow above ground.

It also has underground roots that anchor the plant and allow it to grow strong.

There is also a section of the stem of the garlic plant that grows below the ground.

This is the bulb, which is a modified stem that serves as the plant’s storage system.

This means that the plant grows both above and below the soil’s surface, but the useful part grows specifically underground.

What’s a Clove of Garlic?

A head of garlic is the entire bulb encased in brittle skin. The bulb is composed of smaller individual sections known as “cloves.” These are wedge-shaped curved sections that can be separated and peeled individually. A typical head of garlic contains 10-12 cloves.

The whole bulb, also known as the garlic head, is the section of the garlic plant that we use in cooking.

A single head is basically round, with a thin, brittle skin surrounding it.

When the skin is removed, the head is revealed to be made up of smaller sections.

These are basically wedges with a curve.

One end is slightly rounded, while the other is sharper.

Each of these smaller sections, known as lobes, is its own clove.

A garlic clove is made up of a softer section covered by a fairly thick, brittle skin.

This easily peels away from the softer inside, which contains the garlic’s flavor.

We use peeled garlic cloves to season food by cutting them up or crushing them.

The Distinction Between a Garlic Clove And a Garlic Bulb

Garlic cloves are small pieces of garlic that can be peeled and used in recipes. A garlic bulb is made up of several cloves that grow together. They are joined at the bottom by the garlic roots. Above the bulb, garlic leaves or stems grow.

They are green and photosynthesize to expand the bulb beneath the ground. They mature in over 8 months and can be harvested and stored for months afterwards.

Young garlic can be used in salads or stir fries.

Garlic Advantages

Sure, garlic enhances the flavor of food, but does it serve any other purpose?

Garlic has been used since antiquity and has been extensively researched by scientists. Like most members of the onion family, it contains sulfur compounds and the essential compound allicin.

Fresh garlic is not a bad idea and has been shown to be beneficial. It has the following health advantages:

  • Lowers risk of blood clots
  • Reduces cholesterol
  • Antimicrobial properties due to allicin
  • Boasts immune system functioning.
  • Lowers blood pressure.
  • Treats respiratory-related infections (asthma, coughs, and bronchitis)

There are even some rumors that garlic can boost your life expectancy and make you live longer!

One raw garlic clove (3 grams) contains:

  • Manganese: 2% of the Daily Value (DV)
  • Vitamin B6: 2% of the DV
  • Vitamin C: 1% of the DV
  • Selenium: 1% of the DV
  • Fiber: 0.06 grams
  • Calcium, copper, potassium, phosphorus, iron, and vitamin B1

This has 4.5 calories, 0.2 grams of protein, and 1 gram of carbohydrates.

Is it Possible To Eat All of The Garlic?

Garlic is edible in all parts, including the underground bulb, leaves, and seeds. Garlic can send up a flower and produce seed if left in the ground for more than 8-11 months. These seeds can be saved and used to grow new plants.

Garlic stems can be chopped and used fresh in salads or stir-fried. They have a mild garlic flavor and taste like shallots.

Because the skin of garlic is tough, it is usually peeled before eating. To soften the garlic and infuse the rest of the food with garlic flavor, roast whole garlic bulbs with meat and vegetables in the oven.

Can Raw Garlic Be Eaten?

Garlic is edible raw, but it has a strong smell. Chop it into small pieces and crush it with salt to make it smaller. Crushed raw garlic can be mixed into mayonnaise, gravies, or tabouli to give them a strong garlic flavor.

Start with a small amount, such as 14 teaspoons, and gradually increase the amount. Too much garlic can be overwhelming. Infuse garlic in olive oil to make an easy salad dressing.

How to Keep Garlic Fresh

Garlic is an excellent vegetable because it can be kept for months. Garlic is harvested from the soil and hung to dry once the leaves have died back or turned brown. Garlic bunches can be gathered and hung in a garden shed or under a verandah to keep dry.

They can be stored in a dark cupboard in a box or basket with plenty of air flow after drying for 3-4 weeks. You can use individual cloves in cooking while keeping the rest of the clove in your fruit bowl or cupboard.

How to Remove the Garlic Smell from Your Hands

Garlic is a tasty vegetable, but handling it raw can cause your hands to smell strongly of garlic. The best way to get rid of the smell is to wash your hands with steel “soap” detergent. The strong-smelling dish liquid will suffice to remove the odor.

Rub your hands across your stainless steel sink if they still smell garlicky. The chemical reaction will eliminate the garlic odor. You can even get stainless steel “soap” to use in your kitchen to get rid of the garlic smell.


Garlic is botanically a vegetable, despite its widespread use as a herb or spice.

It has numerous health benefits and is a particularly pungent ingredient that will spice up your favorite dish.

It is less commonly cooked or eaten whole than other vegetables.

If you’re curious, start incorporating garlic into your diet right away.

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