name of author: Raúl
A perennial bulb that grows in warm climates worldwide, prefering rich soil and full sun. An onionlike plant (Allium sativum) of southern Europe, having a bulb that breaks up into separable cloves with a strong distinctive odor and flavor, there are over 300 varieties of garlic grown worldwide. History shows that garlic dates back to more than 6000 years BC and is native to Central Asia. The word garlic comes from old English 'garleac', meaning 'spear leek' and is part of the lily family. This pungent bulbous herb has long been a staple in the Mediterranean region and used generously as a seasoning in Asia, Africa, and Europe. Egyptians worshipped garlic and placed clay models of garlic bulbs in the tomb of Tutankhamen. Folklore holds that garlic repels vampires, protects against the Evil Eye, and warded off jealous nymphs said to terrorize pregnant women and engaged maidens. Garlic was so highly regarded that it was even used as currency. Last but not least, garlic is also known for its aphrodisiacal properties, which have been extolled through the ages in literature, cooking recipes, and medical journals.
Garlic has been used all over the world for thousands of years for a wide range of conditions. It has been prized since the first records of civilization for its uses in treating wounds, infections, tumors, and intestinal parasites. Garlic lowers cholesterol, lowers blood pressure, thins the blood (which reduces your risk of heart attack and stroke) and fights bacteria like an antibiotic. Garlic is a potent antioxidant that has been found to inhibit tumor cell formation. It may be effective in fighting stomach, skin and colon cancer.
Garlic bulbs contain the amino acid allicin and diallyl sulphides, two main medical ingredients that produce the garlic health benefits. Garlic contains only 4 calories per clove.When crushed, allicin is released. This chemical element is the component that gives Garlic its strong odor and is responsible for the powerful pharmacological properties of the plant. One medium clove of Garlic can equal the antibacterial action equivalent to 1% penicillin. Garlic also contains about 0.5% of a volatile oil that is composed of sulfur-containing compounds. Garlic's sulfur compounds, in addition to Selenium and Vitamins A and C containing compounds, make it a potent antioxidant, protecting cell membranes and DNA from damage and disease.
Although Garlic directly attacks bacteria and viruses, it also stimulates the body's natural defenses against foreign invaders. Garlic increases the activity of white blood cells and T-helper cells (natural killer cells), the cells that are central to the activity of the entire immune system. Garlic is reported to be more effective than penicillin against typhus disease, and works well against strep, staph bacteria, and the organisms responsible for cholera, dysentery and enteritis. It is generally regarded as a preventative measure for colds, flu and other infectious diseases. Furthermore, scientific studies have shown that garlic stimulates the production of the liver's own detoxifying enzymes which neutralize carcinogens and other environmental toxins. It has also been used to rid the body of intestinal parasites, stop fainting spells, cure warts, cure a cold, improves the growing of hair and treat digestive infections.
Garlic has been used as a blood thinner and anticoagulant to resolve blood clots and improve circulation. It has been shown to lower cholesterol while increasing the level of beneficial HDLs (high-density lipoproteins), the so-called good cholesterol. Garlic has no side effects like those associated with cholesterol lowering drugs. In addition, garlic compounds gently lower blood pressure by slowing the production of the body's own blood pressure raising hormones. At least seventeen clinical trials have shown that mild hypertension can be effectively managed with garlic.
Garlic has great value as a long-term dietary supplement, helping to maintain healthy circulation and effective in dissolving and cleansing cholesterol from the blood stream; it stimulates the digestive tract; it kills worms, parasites and harmful bacteria; it normalizes blood sugar and pressure, reduces fever, gas & cramps; it used by athletes for increasing physical strength & energy.Garlic has also been used in treating upper respiratory infections (especially bronchitis), late-onset diabetes, urinary infections, acne, asthma, sinusitis, arthritis, and ulcers. Use Garlic to de-worm pets. Take a clove of garlic and mix it daily in the pets food for about two weeks.
When selecting garlic, it should be big, plump and firm, tight silky skins with its paper-like covering intact, not spongy, soft, or shriveled. Be careful not to overcook or brown garlic when sauteing in oil. If overcooked, it will become bitter and unpleasant tasting. Minced garlic usually cooks in less than 1 minute. Do not have the cooking oil too hot. When sautéing onions and garlic in a recipe, add the onions first. When the onions are just about done, add the garlic. One clove of garlic is ten times stronger pushed through a garlic press than one clove minced fine with a sharp knife.
Unbroken garlic bulbs will keep for up to 3 to 4 months. Individual cloves will keep from 5 to 10 days. Store in a cool, dark, and dry location (dampness is the bane of garllic, so store away from stove and sink). If the cloves sprout, the garlic is still usable and the sprouts can be used for salads. To preserve garlic cloves after they have been peeled, place them in a jar, cover with olive oil, seal jar, and store in refrigerator. They will stay fresh 3 to 4 months this way.
Garlic is also known as the "stinking rose." Garlic cloves themselves have a neutral smell, but when the cells are ruptured by cutting or pressing, they release an enzyme called allinaise, chemically changing the inherent alliin into allicin, a sulfur-containing molecule. That results in the familiar heady, pungent garlic smell that is a mainstay in kitchens around the world. These sulphur molecules are absorbed into the bloodstream and lungs, escaping through exhaled air and perspiration, ultimately producing garlic breath. And, in some people who consume massive quantities, a noticeable garlicky body odor can result. Munching on parsley helps to rid yourself of garlic breath. To erase the smell from your hands after peeling and/or chopping garlic, simply wash your hands and then rub your clean hands on a chrome faucet.
There is an all-garlic restaurant in Stockholm where they offer a garlic cheesecake. There is an all-garlic restaurant The Stinking Rose in San Francisco, where they offer a garlic ice cream. There is an all-garlic restaurant in Helsinki, Finland, who even serves garlic beer. The Finnish name Kynsilaukka is an old, popular name for garlic, meaning claw leek or clove leek.
Elephant garlic is actually closely related to the leek, and thought by some to be the wild ancestor of the leek. The bulbs are very large, and can weigh more than 1 pound. They are also much milder than regular garlic, and can be slice raw in salads. Whole cloves can be sautéed in butter and served as an appetizer.
In Eastern Europe, vampires (according to tradition, a vampire is a person who does not die, an "un-dead," whose corpse rises from the grave at night and seeks to suck the blood of the living. The vampire must return to the grave at dawn. Excommunicated people, unbaptized children, criminals, babies born with teeth, witches, magicians, and the seventh son of a seventh son can all become vampires) are believed to be afraid of garlic. Farm animals can be rubbed with garlic to protect them, while garlic often hangs from doors and windows to keep vampires out. Anyone who does not like garlic can be suspected of being a vampire.