Garlic is a mystical like bulb crop that has a cult like following among growers and chefs around the world.
To grow consistent and good sized bulbs, it can be a challenging crop to get right every season and the weather can have a real influence on the outcome. However it is great fun to grow and in most seasons you will be rewarded with fine fresh garlic, free of some of the chemical treatments that is present on some imported products.
Allium sativum is the botanical name – there is also Allium giganteum – bigger cloves and commonly known as elephant, or Russian garlic. It has a mauve flower head, and grows much taller. Garlic is a memeber of the lily family along with onions and asparagus.
History & Mythology
In Greece, Germany, Scandinavia and India, the smell was used to protect against evil. It repelled hungry vampires and was also hung as a bouquet to ward off the devil. It was also used widely in charms and spells.
Louis Pasteur first proved it’s anti-bacterial qualities in 1858. This was hailed as a great discovery, as penicillin had yet to be discovered.
Garlic is mentioned in the bible, and in Chinese Sanskrit writings from 3000 BC.
Pliny the Elder (23-79AD), prescribed putting garlic in the ears to ease infections. He also said if drunk in wine, then vomited, it would cure haemorrhoids. He added it to food to induce sleep, or to stop epilepsy, asthma and coughing. Added to wine with a ground coriander, he said it was an aphrodisiac. Soaked it in vinegar for the relief of toothache and believed that if put it in the vagina, it eased soreness. He also used it on dog and snake bites.
In world war 1, sphagnum moss was soaked in diluted garlic juice and applied to the wounds of injured soldiers, to stop infection.
It has been claimed that one raw clove a day guards against high blood pressure, heart disease and fungal and bacterial infections.
The active ingredient in garlic is allicin – a sulphur compound which is released when garlic is crushed. It is much more concentrated in raw garlic than cooked. Some odourless garlic extracts may not contain allicin in adequate amounts. Allicin is the ingredient that encourages the elimination of cholesterol from the blood, and lowers blood pressure.
Tests have shown garlic to inhibit the formation of cancer cells including those of breast, colon, stomach, lungs and prostate.
Rich in protein, vitamins A, B1, and C. Contains sulphur, zinc, copper, iron, chloride, calcium, magnesium potassium and phosphorous.
Crushed and mixed with honey and lemon, garlic is said to ease coughs and colds.
Some women believe a fresh clove placed in the vagina, threaded with cotton to ease removal, will cure thrush.
The French, who love eating their garlic, have much less heart disease than the British, where ‘garlic breath’ has long been considered socially unacceptable.
Good for pest control in the garden, particularly aphids. Soak it with some hot chillies in water for two weeks, then strain it, and apply it as a spray.
Can be planted as a companion plant with roses, cabbages, eggplants, tomatoes and fruit trees.