The first step to using garlic is to separate the individual cloves. An easy way to do this is to place the bulb on a cutting board or hard surface and gently, but firmly, apply pressure with the palm of your hand at an angle. This will cause the layers of skin that hold the bulb together to separate.
Peel garlic with a knife or alternatively, separate the skin from the individual cloves by placing a clove with the smooth side down on a cutting board and gently tapping it with the flat side of a wide knife. You can then remove the skin either with your fingers or with a small knife. If there is a green sprout in the clove's center, gently remove it since it is difficult to digest.
Chopping or crushing stimulates the enzymatic process that converts the phytonutrient alliin into allicin, a compound to which many of garlic's health benefits are attributed. In order to allow for maximal allicin production, wait at least 5 minutes before eating or cooking the garlic. Also observe this 5-minute "time out" period before adding any high acidic ingredient to the garlic (for example, lemon juice). Ingredients with a pH below 3.5 can also deactivate the enzymatic process.
Since crushing and chopping are the food preparation steps that activate garlic's enzymes, these steps can help you obtain many of garlic's special benefits. For example, research has shown that microwaving or boiling garlic in uncrushed, whole clove form will deactivate its enzymes, preventing these enzymes from working. For this reason, we recommend that you chop or crush the garlic cloves prior to heating. According to research on garlic preparation methods, it only takes 60 seconds of microwaving whole cloves to lessen some of garlic's health benefits. By contrast, many of garlic's health benefits (including its anti-cancer properties) are preserved if the whole cloves are crushed and allowed to sit for 10 minutes prior to cooking.