Although it is part of the onion family, garlic or Allium sativum has it own distinct personality in aroma, flavor and healing capabilities such as lowering cholesterol and high blood pressure, which makes it an essential herb to keep on hand. Growing in grass-like clumps, garlic produces small green-white or rose-white bulbs underground. Inside these large bulbs are individual sections called cloves.
Cutting one unleashes what is inside these pungent cloves, an essential oil (alliin that converts to diallydisulphide, the antibacterial sulfur compound), an enzyme (alliinase), vitamins (A, B1, B2, C, thiamin, niacin, riboflavin), and minerals (magnesium, phosphorus, potassium). Many find it hard to believe that something called “the stinking rose” can be so healthful. The stronger the smell is the more potent and better quality the garlic.
The Amazing Appeal of Garlic
Garlic has vast health restoration powers. For instance, high cholesterol is a major factor in impotence and mental fog or sluggishness. Recent studies prove that using small doses of one or two cloves daily do lower cholesterol. It also aids in preventing heart disease by thinning the blood and reducing triglycerides.
It is also been used as an antibiotic, antioxidant, diuretic and to improve digestion. Used as an oil or vinegar, it is used to treat ear and mouth infections. Researchers note success in treating fungal infections, whooping cough, lead poisoning and some carcinomas. Case studies show it is effective in treating hepatitis, retina conditions, and almost every lung condition.
Cultivation and Growing Tips
This annual herb germinates in one to three weeks. Plant the seed in the fall. The bulbs need to be separated into individual cloves and planted with the pointed side up in the early spring or mid fall in rich well-drained soil. Planting cloves in March will yield fresh produce in July or August. The outer cloves seem to develop the best quality.
Garlic loves full sun. Heat seems to develop the best flavor. Garlic should be kept well watered during dry periods until it ripens. Then, water should be withheld. The bulbs are ready to be harvested when the leaves have turned yellow. The bulbs should be dried in the sun for a day to prepare them storage and use.
The Origins of Garlic
Originating in central Asia and Mediterranean areas, garlic has been used for medical and culinary purposes for centuries. According to Herodotus, the Greek historian, it was eaten for endurance by the slaves who built the Cheops pyramid and was found in King Tut’s tomb. Roman soldiers on long marches were fed a daily ration of garlic for strength and to prevent illnesses.
In the 18th century, French priests used garlic to protect themselves from the highly contagious fever in the poor section of London. In World War I and World War II, European doctors used garlic with sphagnum moss to dress wounds and prevent gangrene. It was also the main ingredient in the “Four Thieves Vinegar” used by 4 thieves in Marseilles who confessed that it protected them as they robbed the bodies of plague victims.
In the culinary arena of the past and present, garlic is one of the most popular flavors in the world. It is included in vinegars, butters, salts, dried seasonings, salad dressings, soups, and many food recipes. Garlic dishes were often served with fresh parsley embellishments to reduce the aftertaste or lingering aroma of garlic after a meal.
Worth Its Weight in Gold
In the first century, the East Indian herbalist Charaka said garlic would be worth its weight in gold, if it wasn’t for its smell. The fame, power and mystic of garlic is so great that it runs the gambit, encompassing everything from general health usage to lower cholesterol and regulate high blood pressure to protection from evil forces to delicious culinary adventures. The stamina and versatility of garlic through the years should earn it a place in every pantry and medicine cabinet.