Garlic is a member of the lily family and a close relative of the onion. The plants have flat, grayish-green leaves, which grow to be a foot or two tall. During their bloom period, the plants send up slender stalks which produce edible flowers in a round, snowy-white head. Sometimes tiny, edible bulbs show up among the flowers. So, we should know about the history of garlic.
The part of the garlic plant revered in song and story and treasured over the centuries is the bulb. A single bulb composed of 8 to 12 sections called cloves, which are held together by a parchment-like covering.
Origin and History of Garlic
As early as 3000 B.C. Chinese scholars were writing the praises of garlic and it is mentioned in the earliest Sanskrit writings. The sacrificial lambs of China were seasoned with garlic to make them more acceptable to the gods.
Native to Siberia, it was worshipped by ancient Egyptians as a god, and its name was invoked at oath takings. Garlic was of such value to the Egyptians that fifteen pounds of it would purchase a healthy male slave. From the translations of the works of the Greek Historian, Herodotus. We know that the workers constructing the Great Pyramid at Giza lived mainly on garlic and onions. It is reported that pyramid builders. Although surrounded by savage taskmasters, went on strike when deprived of their ration of garlic.
The Israelites, wandering in the Sinai desert with nothing but manna to keep them from starvation, complained bitterly at the absence of garlic in their diets. They thought longingly of spicy foods they had left behind, “the fish which they did eat. The leeks and the onions and the garlic.”
The early Sumerian diet included garlic as a mainstay and garlic are also mentioned in the Shih Ching (The Book of Songs). A collection of traditional ballads said to have been written by Confucius.
In the eighth century, B.C., garlic was found growing in the garden of the King of Babylon.
Homer praised garlic:
The Vikings and Phoenicians packed it into their sea chests for long voyages. And in Boccaccio’s Decameron a love-stricken young man sent garlic to his lady in order to win her love,- and he did!
Crusaders, returning to Europe from battle, are credited with moving garlic to the continent. Marco Polo mentioned the many uses of garlic in records of his journeys.
So popular did this “lily” become in Europe that banquet guests were required to compose verses saluting it.
After being revered and loved by the common people for centuries, at the beginning of this century garlic suffered a decline and became regarded as slightly improper by the bourgeois households of both America and England. By the end of World War II, it was found only in gourmet shops.
Still valued as medicine, garlic has made a splendid comeback as a food flavoring in recent years. Informal postwar entertaining began to include salad bowls gingerly rubbed with a glove of garlic and even more daring, garlic bread was served. Much of this is believed to have been brought about by Americans traveling in European countries. Today whole heads are baked and served with crusty bread as an appetizer.
FROM HARVEST TO HOME
There are many strains of garlic grown all over the world, about 300 in all. They range in color from white to dark wine shades. They grow with many cloves or few, with long gloves and stubby ones. Some even produce bulbs above the ground.
Of the many strains, the best for commercial growing is the Late, Early, Chileno, Chilean and Egyptian. Late Garlic is the most valued commercially for its long keeping qualities, firm bulbs, and strong flavor. Early Garlic produces bulbs which are very large, rather flat in shape, covered with an off-white sheathing. This variety matures about a month earlier than the Late and is used primarily for dehydration.
History reports that the missionaries introduced garlic to California. Today California supplies approximately 90 percent of garlic grown in the United States of America. California garlic quality is rated among the best in the world.
Most garlic consumed in the United States is grown in five California counties: Monterey, San Benito, Santa Clara, Fresno, and Kern. Over 500 million pounds of garlic are produced each year in plantings on more than 27,000 acres, making California the number one garlic producing state.
The majority of the garlic grown in California is dehydrated and used in manufacturing catsup, mustard, sausage and pickles. It also goes into salts and powders. And a small amount is used for garlic powder pills and garlic oil perles available in health food stores. Some 120 million pounds from California are sold fresh, with about 40 million pounds of fresh imported from other countries, making total U.S. consumption of fresh garlic about 80 million pounds.
Garlic does not produce true seeds but must be propagated by individual cloves. They must be planted at uniform depth for uniform germination. The garlic must be irrigated thoroughly after planting and be kept moist until the plants emerge. Irrigation is by furrow and sprinkler to a depth of approximately 2 feet. When the plants have achieved full growth and the tops begin to show signs of yellowing, irrigation stops and the field is allowed to dry out for harvest.
Ready to harvest
Garlic is ready to harvest when 90 percent of the tops are brown and dry. When several different strains of garlic are planted, harvesting can start in June and continue through the first part of September. In harvesting, the bulbs are undercut to loosen the ground and permit the garlic to be pulled out. Dirt is removed from the roots and the garlic is placed in rows with the foliage of one plant covering the bulbs of the next, to prevent sunscald. The secondary covering of straw or dirt may be provided if the plant leaves are not sufficient. Garlic bulbs are placed heading into the prevailing wind to hasten to dry.
Curing time depends on weather and size of the plant. The bulb is considered well cured when the sheathing is dry and paper-like in texture, when the sin protecting the cloves is dry and inflexible and when the root crown is hard and the cloves can be separated from the bulb with a minimum of effort and bruising.
After about three weeks of curing, the garlic is trimmed by hand, graded and sorted. Culls are removed and bulbs are packaged. An acre yields about 15,000 pounds. Most of the garlic is placed in cardboard cartons for shipment to market. In the supermarket, shoppers will find garlic sold in bulk or in packages or small mesh bags containing two or three bulbs.
When purchasing garlic, consumers should look for firm, plump bulbs, with clean, dry, unbroken skins. In the home, it stores well, in a dry, cool place in an open container. Refrigeration is not recommended.
Dieters may use garlic with a lavish hand since each clove contains only one to two calories.
MYTHS AND MEDICINE
Garlic contains the amino acid, allicin which scientists say has antibiotic and bactericidal effects. It has been long accepted as a purgative. And Promote cardiovascular activity and a beneficial, soothing action on the respiratory system believe it. It is said that gladiators were instructed to eat garlic to make them capable of greater feats of strength in the stadium. Medieval medicine men believed that the fiercer the aroma of a plant, the more effective it must be. Hence Every ailment from the common cold to unrequited love recommended garlic.
It is alleged to have cured high blood pressure, rheumatism, loss of appetite, lung trouble, toothache, freckles, snakebite, whooping cough, and baldness. The application was not only by eating. But the pain of a tooth or an earache made in poultices to ease the garlic. It was laid on a baby’s navel or applied to the soles of a patient’s feet. The last application seems ludicrous. But it was believed that the volatile oils in garlic were so readily absorbed. The lungs rubbed on the soles of the feet a garlic-laden breath would instantly exhale If a small piece.
Folk medicine says that a cold will surely cure if one rubs the soles of the feet with cut cloves of garlic. And many, both as a blood cleanser – to use the first ten days of spring recommend a tonic of honey and garlic. And the first ten days of autumn, to assure good health all year – and as a cold and sore throat remedy.
For a toothache, there are two schools of thought. One, that a sliver of garlic, placed- in the cavity in the tooth will relieve the ache. The other says that the sufferer should place a slice of garlic in the ear. For an earache, a cut clove of garlic rubbed over and around the ear.
Philosophers credited garlic with many virtues: Aristophanes suggested that athletes and those going into battle eat it for courage. Virgil noted that garlic sustained the strength of harvest reapers. Pliny wrote that garlic cured consumption and sixty-one other ailments. Celsius recommended garlic as a cure for fever.
Hippocrates thought it good medicine for many health problems but felt it was bad for the eyes. Mohammed, the Prophet, averred that garlic could ease the pain of stings and bites when applied to the wound. (There were those who went further and said that garlic would keep scorpions and serpents away from an intended victim if the person wore or carried a clove of garlic.)
Millin, writing in 1792, praised garlic as a preventative against the plague. And Bernardin de Saint-Pierre recorded that garlic cured nervous maladies. Alfred Franklin, in the 16th century, told Parisians that by eating garlic with fresh butter in the month of May. They rewarded with good health all year. And other doctors of that period advised patients to carry cloves of garlic in their pockets to ward off epidemics and protect themselves against bad air.
In the early 1900’s when the United States suffered ravages of flu and scarlet fever. Many people of middle eastern and Balkan ancestry-burned garlic in their homes, allowing fumes to permeate the house in what many historians chronicle as successful attempts to ward off the disease.
Garlic was used the time of world war
During World War I the British used garlic to control infection in wounds and as recently as 1963. The Russians sent out a call for garlic to help control a rampaging epidemic of flu. Modern laboratories continue to interest in some of the apparently beneficial qualities of garlic. Russian doctors are studying its effect on cancer and in Japan, research continues on garlic’s effects on lumbago and arthritis. In India, studies show garlic has a preventative effect on the development of arteriosclerosis and in many hospitals, teams are investigating properties in garlic. Which may have some effect in controlling high blood pressure and hypertension. Studies continue in countries all over the world, proving – or disproving – the folk medicine tales of cure and prevention achieved by this remarkable “lily”.
MAGIC & MYSTERY
In the world of the occult, garlic has long revered as a protection against known and unknown evils. Wreaths of garlic hung outside the door said to ward off witches. And when the householder ventures outside, a clove of garlic suspended around the neck protects the wearer in his travels.
In Balkan countries, garlic rubbed on doorknobs and window frames believed to discourage vampires. Jockeys rub the horse’s bit with garlic or tie a clove of garlic to the bridle. And feel sure no other horse can then pass them in a race. In the same tradition, bullfighters wear a clove of garlic suspended on a cord around their necks to protect themselves from the horns of the bull.
It considered a sign of great good fortune to dream of garlic but not to dream of giving it away. Which is symbolic of giving away one’s good luck.
There is an ancient Telugu proverb which says: Garlic is as good as ten mothers. A 17th-century writer summed it up with his statement, “Our doctor is a clove of garlic.”
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