Meet Me, I’m Garlic



According to scientists, garlic (Allium sativum L.) is a perennial bulbous vegetable of the lily family. The stem is erect, 30-60 cm tall, about half-covered with leaflets, the upper part of the stem is usually spiral before flowering and the lower part is leafy. Leaves are linear, flat, pointed, rough-edged, up to 12 mm wide. Flowers about 3 mm long, on long pedicels, clustered in an umbel of small flowers. The perianth is corolla-shaped, hexagonal, white, or pale purple. Fruit does not set from a seed. Reproduces by bulbs (cotyledons). The bulb of garlic is ovoid, consisting of 6-10, sometimes up to 30 cloves, surrounded by a common, usually white or greenish, sheath. It is true that varieties of garlic have now been developed in which the bulb is solid and without lobes. The intact garlic bulb is odorless.

However, if it is crushed, cut, or otherwise damaged, a specific garlic aroma is released. It was only in the middle of the last century that scientists were able to determine that the special smell of garlic is due to the interaction of two substances contained in the plant – alliinase. As long as the bulb is intact, the interaction between alliin and alliinase. As long as the bulb is intact, the alliinase ‘resides’ in the vacuole of the cotyledon and the alliin in the cytoplasm. When the integrity of the bulb is compromised, these substances react with each other to form allicin. Allicin is very stable and instantly breaks down into more durable compounds. One of these is diallyl disulfide. This is what gives garlic its distinctive, unmistakable smell.

There are around 400 known varieties of garlic in the world. Garlic is cultivated as a vegetable, herb, and medicinal plant. Garlic comes in spicy and sweet varieties. The spicy varieties are mainly found in the northern and mid-latitudes, the sweet ones in the south. Southern sweet varieties have a sweeter smell. The most popular garlic in Europe is chives (Allium schoenoprasum L.), perhaps better known to some as tribulis. It is a perennial plant of the garlic family. The bulbs of chives are elongated, small, 0,75-1 cm in diameter, thin-skinned, and grow one or more at a time from short rhizomes. The stem is round, usually bare, 15-30 cm high. Leaves are basal, hollow, 2-6 mm wide. Inflorescence is globose or semi-globose, dense, multi-flowered, without bulbs. The perianth leaflets are violet-pink, lanceolate. Blooms profusely. Young leaves are best for food. They have not only a taste of beer but also various valuable properties. There are many cultivars and varieties of chives.


Where does garlic come from?

The most common places scientists point to are Western, Southern, Central Asia, and India. Some researchers tend to believe that the first garlic grew on the plain between the Altai Mountains and the Tian Shan. Whatever the case, this valuable vegetable quickly spread across continents. In ancient times, garlic was already given for reduced appetite, exhaustion, coughs, stomach aches, skin, and other ailments. Garlic is mentioned in the Bible, the Koran, and sacred Hindu writings. They had a ritual significance and were believed to be able to ward off misfortune and remove the effects of poison. In ancient China, garlic was believed to ward off evil spirits during burial rites. Garlic is known to have been cultivated and used for food and medicine by the Sumerians, the builders of the Egyptian pyramids. Garlic was also popular in ancient Greece and the Roman Empire.

However, the nobility did not like the pungent smell of garlic, so it was mostly considered as food and medicine for the poor. Hippocrates (Hippocrates, 460-ca. 377) recommended it as a urinary stimulant and digestive aid. Pythagoras (c. 570-ca. 500 BC) called garlic the king of all spices. Garlic was described as a medicinal plant in the first century AD by the Greek-Roman physician Dioscorides. In his most important work, ‘On Medicinal Preparations’, he described probably all the medicinal substances of plant, mineral, and animal origin known at that time. The famous Central Asian scientist and philosopher, the court physician Avicenna (Ibn Sina Abu Ali Hussein ibn Abdallah, c. 980-1037) also recommended that garlic should be eaten ‘for all kinds of diseases, and the Canon of Medicine, which was written by Avicenna, is known to have been the source of study for centuries by student physicians and doctors.

And AS I READ, ancient Roman gladiators and warriors used to wrap the garlic in braids before a fight, as it was believed to give them more strength and increase their courage.

BUT in 1979, Gilroy, a city in California (USA), was named Garlic Capital of the World! It is indeed a place where many of these valuable vegetables are grown.


Why is this vegetable so appreciated?

Certainly because of its composition and the unique healing properties it brings. The chemical composition of the plant varies to some extent depending on the species and where it grows. Garlic bulbs typically contain ~65 % water, ~7 % protein, 26 % carbohydrates, 0,06 % fat, 0,8 % cellulose, 1,4 % minerals (calcium, sodium, iron, phosphorus, potassium, calcium, copper, sulfur, molybdenum, cobalt, zirconium, vanadium, titanium, etc.), vitamins C, B, and some other vitamins, essential oils, and other substances. For example, sulfur compounds or sulfides, of which there are more than 100 in garlic, help fight infectious diseases. This is the reason for garlic’s special power to kill staphylococci, tuberculosis, dysentery, typhoid, cholera, and various fungal diseases. Garlic is used to treat scurvy, malaria, and watery eyes. The substances in garlic strengthen the body’s resistance and reduce the risk of tumor diseases. Garlic regulates high blood pressure, reduces blood clotting and thrombus formation, normalizes cholesterol levels, dilates peripheral coronary vessels, and slows the heart rate.

Regular use of garlic reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease. In hypertension and atherosclerosis, garlic is often used as a remedy for dizziness, headaches, insomnia, and mental weakness. It is worth remembering that garlic also lowers blood sugar levels. Garlic is also useful in digestive diseases. It improves appetite, increases digestive enzymes and bile secretion, aids absorption, kills helminths, and relieves stomach and intestinal pain. Medicine suggests using garlic to treat kidney and bladder stones, rheumatism, and gout. The therapeutic effect of garlic in respiratory diseases is well known: acute respiratory and pneumonia. When chewed for a few minutes, it kills all bacteria in the oral cavity. Dentists have found that garlic reduces complications after tooth extraction. The volatile phytoncides of the crushed bulb, inhaled repeatedly, cure flu and strep throat.

For colds, bronchial asthma, and whooping cough, rub garlic puree mixed with butter or lard on the chest. Garlic cooked in milk speeds up the maturation of abscesses and softens painful sores. Warts, diaper rash, eczema, and other skin diseases are treated with fresh garlic puree or juice. To strengthen the hair, garlic juice is rubbed into the scalp. However, no matter how effective a remedy may seem, it must always be weighed very carefully to see if it is really right for you. Check with your GP!

BUT, garlic weakens the harmful effects of stress on the body and even lifts the mood!

garlic in the basket
Garlic in the basket

And I FIGURE that garlic increases serotonin in the body. Serotonin is a biologically active substance synthesized in the brain that regulates mental processes such as fear, pain, anxiety, sleep, and memory. Higher levels of serotonin reduce stress, calm, soothe and dispel depression.

Various species of wild garlic have valuable properties. For Eastern Europeans, perhaps the best known is bear garlic. It is one of the earliest flowering plants. Bear garlic is a perennial plant of the lily family, up to 50 cm tall. Its leaves resemble those of tulips, with two basal, oblong-lanceolate leaves, tapering to a petiole, 10-15 cm long, 3-5 cm wide. The inflorescence is umbellate, the flowers are white and fragrant. Bulb 2-3 cm long, about 1 cm across, enclosed by a translucent whitish or yellowish sheath, sometimes with a small bulb nearby. Seeds are almost spherical. Bear garlic is a rare plant of conservation concern. It flowers in May in Eastern Europe. It grows in tall, mostly deciduous forests. It prefers moist, fertile soils. Bear garlic is one of the most valuable spring vegetables. Its leaves are rich in ascorbic acid, essential oil, organic and mineral substances, etc. Fresh bear garlic leaves can be eaten alone or mixed with other salad vegetables. These not only enrich the body with vitamins but also improve appetite, digestion and treat atherosclerosis. It is possible to grow a lot of it. It should be planted in the shade in moist and humusy soil.

Garlic is often used in the modern pharmaceutical industry to produce medicinal products. However, we can also make our own effective medicines using the experience of our grandparents. Garlic infusions are often used. For the infusion, finely chop the garlic cloves, place them in a ceramic or enameled container and cover with boiling water. Be sure to cover the container tightly and wrap it warmly. The water you use is very important. Spring or well water is best. If it is not available, distilled water is also suitable. It should be borne in mind that the preparation of the decoction results in the loss of a large part of the garlic’s volatile substances. Only cook decoctions in enameled containers. First, add water to the vessel and bring to a boil. As soon as the water starts to boil, add the finely chopped garlic. Do not boil for long, remove the pan from the heat and leave it to steep. Drain before use.

Our ancestors also knew how to make garlic ointment. To make the ointment, chop the garlic very finely, place it in an enameled pot, cover with hot water and cook over low heat until the water is reduced by half. Drain, mix with hot olive or other vegetable oil, and add a little beeswax to make a thick, creamy ointment. To make it last longer, a little tree resin was added. Garlic vinegar is an effective and often used remedy. To prepare it, simply pour a glass of apple or wine vinegar over a peeled garlic clove and leave it for 2 weeks to soak. Garlic oil is recommended for a number of diseases. Take 2 garlic cloves, peel them, crush them with a wooden pestle, put the puree in a jar, gradually add about half a glass of fresh olive oil, stir well, close the jar tightly and place it on a sunny window sill. The jar must remain in the sun for at least 10 days. During this time, stir the remedies well 2-3 times a day. After 10 days, strain the oil, add a few drops of purified glycerine and transfer it to a dark glass, tightly stoppered bottle. Store the oil in the refrigerator. This oil can be used for 2-2,5 months after production. It should be warmed to 30-35 °C before use. Children usually do not like garlic, so you can make garlic syrup to treat them. Place the very finely chopped garlic in an enameled pot, pour in fresh dark honey, and cook over low heat, stirring, until the garlic is fully cooked. Then cover the pot with a lid and heat the syrup, which has not yet ripened, then strain it and store it in the fridge.

BUT, garlic is an excellent natural antidote.

I READ that Roman emperors used to prophylactically pick garlic cloves for fear of being poisoned.

Garlic is widely used in cooking. The bulbs are used fresh, dried, pickled, and salted. The leaves are suitable for marinades, salads, and garnishing dishes. The popularity of this spice can be seen just by listing the foods to which it is added. Garlic is very suitable for salads, cold dishes, spreads, marinades and pickles, soups, second courses, and even for flavoring some drinks. Garlic has long been known to accompany lamb, pork, beef, poultry, in short, meat dishes. It is also a good seasoning for rice and pasta dishes, some baked goods, and vegetable dishes. In addition to adding a distinctive flavor to food, garlic has a positive effect on our well-being: it improves digestion, appetite, reduces intestinal cramps, and inhibits flatulence.

BUT, garlic has long been known to have aphrodisiac properties…

Read More

Related Articles