A comedian once recommended a diet consisting of only garlic for those seeking rapid weight loss. Turns out, he said, it ‘s not that the garlic would actually make you thinner, but everyone would be so far away from you that you’ll most certainly look a hell of lot thinner.
Allium sativum, the plant once inspired William Shakespeare to advise in A Midsummer Night’s Dream: “And, most dear actors, eat no onions nor garlic, for we are to utter sweet breath.”
Being French, it is perhaps not surprising that gastronome Marcel Boulestin held quite to opposite view: “It is no exaggeration to say that peace and happiness start, geographically, where garlic is being used in preparation of food”
The world loves garlic. Period. We produce well over 15 million tonnes each year of which almost three-fifths is produced in China.
Garlic got its name from the Old English word “garleac” which means “spear leek” and although its exact origins have not been established, it is believed to be indigenous to central Asia.
The Egyptians used garlic as far back as 3000 BC by which time it had already been a core component of Indian and Pakistani cuisine. From here it reached China and later on the Mediterranean.
Garlic is part of the onion (Allium) family and hence also a close relative of shallots, leeks, and chives.
The organosulfur compound, Allyl methyl sulfide, which is absorbed into the blood from where it travels to the lungs and mouth, causes the halitosis associated with the eating of garlic. It is also excreted through the pores on the skin, so yes, after consuming garlic you literary sweat the stuff. The green core is especially pungent.
The best way to avoid the after-effects of garlic? Simple really: do not eat it. For once it has reached the lungs, no remedy will help. And the pungency reaches a peak between 6 and 18 hours after consumption.
In ancient India the upper classes abstained for eating garlic for this very reason.
The sulfur compounds in the Allium family is essentially part of their natural defense system and are meant to be pungent. So, be careful when applying raw garlic to a problem skin (as some traditional experts advise), for it might burn the skin in a quite serious way. Try eating raw garlic and you’ll taste the heat and feel the burning sensation. That’s the allicin (yet another sulfur compound) talking.
But pungency has its advantages. Hung above your doorway, it is said to keep evil spirits at bay, and worn around your neck you won’t be bothered by vampires. Furthermore, if given to pregnant women and engaged maidens, jealous nymphs won’t bother them.
In fact, the pyramids were built with garlic breath. Slaves were given large rations of garlic to make them strong. Being an overzealous, ambitious bunch, they’d strike if their rations were late or insufficient.
The might of the Roman army lay not only in their superior organization and advanced weaponry, but also in the quantities of garlic given to soldiers before battle. Which, with a slight stretch of the imagination, might be regarded as the first account of chemical warfare.
Be careful on how you store your garlic. Left to dry out a little after harvest increases the pungency. Cold storage (i.e. in a refrigerator) makes it mellower.
Do not store or preserve chopped garlic in oil. It encourages the growth of the deadly botulism bacteria, which grows even faster with a lack of air (such as in a sealed bottle or jar). Either roast the garlic first, or soak it in lemon juice or vinegar before adding the oil. Keep it in the refrigerator.
But what about the chopped garlic in oil sold in supermarkets? Is it safe? Yes, it is because its either fake garlic (different vegetable such a turnips mixed with garlic extract and oil), or they have added citric acid to stop bacteria growth.
The recipe for this week requires extreme amounts of garlic – 40 cloves to be exact. It sounds over the top, but its not. Squeeze some of the garlic from their shells and spread it on bread. And as you make this, think about how you’re going to spend your time alone. You’ll have lots of it. Guaranteed.