In the past 20 years the consumption of garlic in Australia has increased. It is used mainly as a flavouring for other foods and as a health food. Garlic contains alliin which is converted to allicin, a natural antibiotic compound, when garlic is cut or crushed. Various health claims including cardiovascular health have been made relating to allicin.
Garlic plants grow to 40–60cm high. The leaves are flat with a slight 'v' shape. The mature garlic bulb consists of modified storage leaves that contain six to 30 segments or cloves, held together by outer skins.
White, pink and purple-skinned varieties are available. Plants produce only a few flowers which are sterile and do not produce seed. Cloves are used as planting material.
New producers are advised to grow only a small area in the first year to gain an understanding of the crop before expanding. It may take several years to obtain an economic return. Garlic has a high value compared to many vegetables because of the high labour requirement for production and preparation for market. The high cost of planting material also contributes to the cost of production for new growers.