Garlic: A valuable seasoning and medicinal herb
Perhaps the most indispensable of herbs – so much so that many people consider it to be a vegetable – garlic has a long and distinguished history that gives credence to its reputation as a one of the most valuable and seasoning and medicinal herbs in existence.
Garlic fondly goes by the epithet ‘stinky rose’ that indicates its powerful and pungent aroma which however may not enamor everyone; Shakespeare makes unflattering mention of it in his plays, and the ancient Roman poet Horace deems it as vulgar and foul-smelling. However, his opinion did not stop the Roman masses in his time, who consumed it with relish.
Garlic is mentioned by name in the Old Testament and the Muslim Quran as one of the foods the Israelites missed most during their years of wandering. Garlic was also considered sacred among the ancient Egyptians who buried it in the tombs of their deceased kings.
Garlic in Cooking
In appearance, Garlic is bulb-like, with a white papery covering on the outside, and inside made up of sections of cloves. Garlic can be used to flavor almost any spicy dish and is used in generous proportions in almost all Asian cuisine.
Although its use has declined in north European countries, garlic still finds its way into an eclectic variety of South Europe dishes. It appears in quite a number of Mediterranean sauces and soups. In Austria, garlic is consumed raw as part of a salad. Raw garlic combined with vinegar is also savoured as a pickle. Garlic was popularized in the United States by the workers who immigrated from Europe; Gilroy, California now prides itself as being the “garlic capital of the world”.
Health Benefits of Garlic Bulbs
It is not surprising that the ancients ascribed many properties to the very strong smelling garlic. It was alluded to drive away evil spirits, protect against werewolves and vampires, protect from evil and to bring good luck. In 1,500 BC, the Egyptians used garlic to treat 22 different conditions. The ancient Greeks credited it for repelling scorpions and treating dog bites.
During the course of history, garlic has been touted as a cure for everything from the common cold to the plague. Garlic has powerful anti-biotic properties due to the presence of several sulfur compounds. It also contains a myriad variety of amino acids, vitamins and minerals. Garlic is believed to assist in reducing high levels of cholesterol, and may also have cancer-fighting properties. And as anyone who owns a TV set knows, garlic is so powerful that it can ward off even vampires!
Louis Pasteur credited garlic as an effective germicide, and during WW1 it was used for treating wounds. It has been found that a compound called allicin contained in garlic is effective against 23 types of bacteria. Garlic has long been used to treat high blood pressure and as a prevention of strokes. Garlic is rich in vitamins B6 and C, manganese, and other minerals.