Garlic has been cultivated for so long that it is impossible to determine precisely its place of origin, though it is generally considered native to Asia. It is now grown in most warm lands, especially in Italy and southern France, California, and throughout the Mediterranean. It is recorded in Egypt from the earliest times and was eaten by the builders of the Pyramids
Garlic is also known as “the stinking rose”, the term going back to Greek and Roman times. Known in Europe as ‘the noblest onion‘, garlic was used as a medicine and a charm in classical and medieval times. According to an Arab legend, garlic grew from the Devil’s footprint as he left Eden.
Culpeper, the herbalist, advises that stale garlic breath is freshened by chewing some cumin or green beans. We suggest that several glasses of red wine will sweeten garlicky breath, or at least reduce one’s self consciousness about it.
Garlic is a bulb of a lily-like plant, belonging to the same family as onions, chives, leeks and scallions. It is similar in shape to an onion, but ridged. The bulb is compound, consisting of anything up to twenty segments, called ‘cloves’. Usually there are about ten cloves to a bulb, packed side by side around a thin central core, separated by scaly membranes and enclosed by a brittle parchment-like skin.
Garlic is widely variable in size, some Continental bulbs are minute. Many varieties of garlic exist. In South East Asia a small variety with only four to six cloves grows and is similar to rocambole (Spanish garlic, A llium sativum ophioscorodon). A giant variety is grown in California. Garlic is best bought whole, but also available in the form of granules (minced), powder or garlic salt.
The uses of garlic are infinite and it is an important ingredient in the cuisine of most nations. A small amount will ‘lift’ dishes of meat, fish and vegetables and be virtually undetectable.
Separate a clove from the bulb as necessary. Either peel like an onion, first slicing off the ends, or crush the clove with the flat of a knife when the skin will be much easier to remove. The garlic can then be chopped or mashed with the addition of a little salt – this will absorb the juice which would otherwise be lost and also prevent the pieces from slipping about. Although it is usually advised to use the point of a knife to mash garlic, a fork is even better.
Garlic has been used since ancient times for innumerable complaints and amongst the properties attributed to it are: diaphoretic, diuretic, expectorant and intestinally antispasmodic.
Garlic is considered to be nature’s very own antibiotic. Unlike most antibiotics, it will not deplete the body of flora, and is considered to be the cure-all herb because of its effectiveness on the entire body.
Popularly used as a digestive aid, garlic increases bile production while enhancing digestion and reducing stomach gases. Garlic has also been used for lowering cholesterol, reducing high blood pressure, and treating respiratory problems such as bronchitis and asthma.
Garlic is a source of selenium, which must be present in the body for proper immune response, and which acts as an antioxidant in combination with vitamin E. A host of epidemiological studies say garlic appears to work against prostate and stomach cancers, with some studies suggesting it may block breast, liver and colon cancer. Rich in potassium, zinc, selenium, and Vitamins A & C, garlic is commonly used to fight infection, increase circulation and help prevent cardiovascular disease.
Garlic has been known to detoxify the body by cleansing the kidneys and increasing urine flow. Furthermore, garlic’s healing properties make it an ideal agent for fighting colds and flu, bacteria, and fungi. Garlic oil is often administered in odorless gelatine capsules to obviate the unpleasantness of the smell. The aphrodisiac properties of garlic have been much praised; however, it is advisable that both partners take the recommended prescription.
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