Along the Garden Path: Benefits of garlic


Garlic is a wonderful seasoning to add aroma, taste, and added nutrition to your dishes. It is a species in the onion family and close relatives to onion, shallot, leek and chives.

Garlic is a medicinal and culinary herb that inspires extraordinary affection to people. In medieval times, it was eaten as a vegetable, rather than in discreet amount as a condiment.

There is a national club called “The Order of the Stinking Rose” in the United States.

The very component that gives garlic its strong odor is the one that destroys or inhibits various bacteria, fungi, and yeast. Called allicin, its antibacterial action is equivalent to that of one percent penicillin. Allicin forms in the garlic when the cloves are crushed and a parent substance, allicin, meets up with an enzyme, allinase. The result is that potent smell and some equally potent antibacterial powers. Unfortunately, allicin is quite unstable, and cooking the garlic may reduce its effectiveness.

Experiments have shown that garlic is effective against some influenza viruses, fungi and yeasts. The Chinese have long used garlic to treat high blood pressure and other cardiac or circulatory ailments. Studies in India give garlic and onions credit for reducing both the cholesterol levels in the blood and the clogging of the arteries.

Garlic’s taste is vibrant and onion-y. The bulb of the plant, which is broken into cloves, is important in most of the world’s cuisines and adds dimension to all foods except desserts. Add minced garlic to herb butters, cheese spreads, breads, beans, broccoli, cauliflower, crackers, salads, stuffing sauces, marinades, salad dressings, stews, soups, meats, fish, poultry, game, herb vinegars, and flavored oils and pickles. Preparing eggplant, tomato sauce, Caesar salad and pesto is unthinkable without garlic.

If you’re looking for new ways to enjoy garlic try roasting – cut the tops off a few bulbs to reveal the individual cloves. Drizzle the bulbs with a little olive oil, add a pinch of salt and pepper and wrap in foil. Bake at 350 degrees for about 45 minutes. The sweet, mild-tasting cloves can then be squeezed out of their skins and spread on toasted, buttered bread for a taste that’s out of this world.

Separate the individual cloves from the bulb, and find a plot of ground in your garden where the soil is at least decent, or add some compost to an area that’s less than decent and work it in well. Garlic doesn’t necessarily need great soil but you will get bigger and better results from a nice, well-drained loam that is rich in organic matter. Using your finger, or a stick, make a series of holes two to three inches deep and roughly six inches apart. Drop one clove, pointed side up, into each hole, cover it with soil and water. Garlic likes full sun. If you plant in early spring, you will see tender green shoots emerge from each planting hole within a couple of weeks your garlic is doing just fine. During the next few weeks, those shoots will continue to grow, reaching a height of two to four feet, depending on the variety. Your crop will be ready to harvest sometime in September.

After harvesting, garlic should be cured for two to three weeks by spreading it out on screen or braiding and hanging it in a warm, dry spot. Then it can be store at room temperature for several weeks.

By Charlene Thornhill

Along the Garden Path

Charlene Thornhill is a volunteer citizen columnist, who serves The Daily Advocate readers weekly with her community column Along the Garden Path. She can be reached at [email protected]. Viewpoints expressed in the article are the work of the author. The Daily Advocate does not endorse these viewpoints or the independent activities of the author.

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