You cannot live in Southern Europe and especially Spain, without experiencing the flavour of Garlic. This pungent herb is a species in the onion genus, Allium. Its close relatives include the onion, shallot, leek and chive. With a history of human use of over 7,000 years, Garlic is native to central Asia and has long been part of the staple diet in the Mediterranean region as well as Asia and Africa. Bulb Garlic is available in many forms, including fresh, frozen, dried and it can also be produced in tubes or jars.
Garlic is easy to grow and can be grown year-round in mild climates. In cold climates, Garlic Cloves are planted in the autumn, about six weeks before the soil freezes and it is harvested in late spring. The cloves must be planted at sufficient depth to prevent freeze/thaw to protect the Garlic from mold. Garlic Plants can be grown closely together, leaving enough space for the bulbs to mature and are easily grown in containers. It likes loose, dry, well drained soils in sunny locations.
China produces a huge amount of Garlic, amounting to 77% of the world’s output. The Garlic Bulb is the most commonly used part of the plant and these are divided into Garlic Cloves. The skin of the cloves are removed prior to being cooked whole, sliced or crushed and added to various dishes. The flavour of the Garlic varies with different cooking methods and is often added to onion, tomato or ginger prior to being added to the main dish. The Garlic Leaves or Garlic Flowers can also be eaten, sometimes fried in a very light batter.
Garlic may be added to different kinds of bread to create a variety of classic dishes, such as Garlic Bread, Garlic Toast, Bruschetta and Crostini. Oils can also be flavoured with Garlic Cloves and used to season many dishes of vegetables, meats, breads and pasta. In some cuisines, the young Garlic Bulbs are pickled for three to six weeks in a mixture of sugar, salt, and spices. Lightly Smoked Garlic is becoming increasingly popular in British and European cuisine and is used for stuffing poultry and game and in soups and stews. Alioli is a particular favourite in Spain. This is a mixture of Garlic, egg yolks and olive oil, similar to mayonnaise and is served to accompany either starters or tapas, or the main course.
Garlic has been used as both food and medicine in many cultures for thousands of years for many conditions, including parasites, respiratory problems, poor digestion, and low energy. Garlic was also used as an antiseptic to prevent gangrene during World War I and II and it reportedly helps regulate blood sugar levels. There are numerous studies being carried out using Garlic to treat AID’s patients and Garlic Capsules are often taken to help with blood circulation and reducing cholesterol in the body.
One obvious downside of eating Garlic is bad breath and the smell emitted through skin pores when large or regular amounts of Garlic are consumed. Drinking milk is said to help neutralise bad breath and eating parsley or basil is also supposed to help alleviate the problem.
It is thought that Garlic wards off vampires, demons and werewolves, which may come from the fact that many animals such as birds, insects and worms dislike Garlic.