I’m sitting across the kitchen island from my youngest daughter when she slides some small charcoal-black lumps over to me. “Try it,” she says. “It’s black garlic.”

I nibble a clove. It’s darkly sweet, like a dried fig or licorice, slightly tart, like balsamic vinegar, but with a faint aftertaste of garlic. She keeps passing cloves my way and I keep eating them. Garlic is good for you, right?

The very next day, I arrive at my oldest daughter’s home and she presses a half-loaf of her dark, dense sourdough bread on me. It’s gorgeous, like an artisanal loaf from a fancy bakery, its tan-flecked interior studded with black ovals. “Olive?,” I guess. “Nope,” she replies. “Black garlic.”

Now some might say that we have children to pass on our genes, or to support us in our old age, but to me, a child’s primary responsibility is to keep me au courant, clueing me in to the newest trends in clothing or makeup, passing me the latest hot book or new tomato variety. After all those years of life lessons, when I steadied the back of the two-wheeler for that first shaky ride or helped make the science fair display, demonstrated how to iron a shirt or clean a brook trout, now it’s payback time. The kids get to introduce me to black garlic.

How have I slipped so far out of the loop as to have missed the arrival of this subtly wonderful food on the culinary scene? Was I blinded by kale or garlic scapes? It hardly matters, now that I’ve finally been introduced to its dark mysteries. Some say black garlic originated aeons ago in Korea, where it was preserved by exposing it to heat and moisture for more than a month, during which a chemical reaction between the sugars and amino acids transforms regular bulbs into the sweet, sticky black garlic that has a shelf life of six months or more. Those who believe it’s Korean in origin attribute its funky flavor to fermentation but, in fact, it’s more like a very deep caramelization that converts the natural sugar to something indescribable.

The health benefits of eating black garlic are also a topic of much speculation, but knowing what I’ve heard for many years, any benefits from garlic consumption derive from eating the raw cloves, so slow-roasted garlic, while exotic, has fewer benefits.

My youngest daughter made her own black garlic by placing whole unpeeled heads of it in her rice cooker, which she set on “warm” and ran for two whole weeks before it had turned to molasses-y sweetness. Oldest daughter had the great good fortune to receive a pillow-sized bag of it for Christmas.

No matter how you procure your black garlic, it adds a sultry touch to many recipes, such as the aforementioned bread. You can mash up some of the cloves with soy and chili sauce to add to ramens or stir-fry recipes, or puree some cloves with olive oil to paint on chicken or fish before roasting. Pop a few cloves into the blender with some mayonnaise to use as a condiment for burgers or dip for fries. For a different salad dressing, try a black buttermilk ranch. Combine a half-cup each sour cream and buttermilk, a quarter-cup good mayonnaise, 4 cloves black garlic, mashed up, salt and pepper, a tablespoon of lemon juice and a dash or two of Tabasco. Whisk all together in a bowl and ask yourself why you ever thought of using bottled dressing.