The autumn has already cosily settled in, and soon enough winter will be assiduously knocking on our doors. Despite all their beauties, these seasons bring along massive amounts of viruses. This is a good opportunity to include garlic, one of the best disease-preventive foods, together with ginger, in our everyday diets if it is not already there.
History of Garlic
A food, an herb, a seasoning, an aphrodisiac, a panacea. All answers are correct. Books, and probably almanacks, have been written on garlic and its innumerable health properties.
While nowadays it is sometimes frowned upon when a person has treated him or herself with the stinking rose at lunch and could chase away customers, garlic consumption has its origins in ancient times when it was mainly used for its medicinal and health properties.
It had even been found in Egyptian pyramids and Greek temples. It was a part of the daily Egyptian diet and fresh-looking cloves had been found in King Tutankhamen’s tomb. In order to strengthen the Jewish slaves in Egypt and increase their production, they were given garlic and other allium-containing vegetables.
The Father of Medicine, Hippocrates, started using it in his therapeutic armamentarium, and, as was the case in Egypt, garlic was fed to the ancient Greek soldiers to boost their courage when going to war. Curiously enough, French gravediggers in the 18th century drank wine with crushed garlic inside with the intention of protecting themselves from the plague rampant at that time.
Most of the health benefits of the stinking rose are derived from one of its sulphur compounds – allicin. When we chop, crush or chew it, the alliinase, an enzyme, converts alliin, which is sulfoxide, into allicin. It also emits its distinctive smell. Since garlic has countless benefits, I shall dwell only on some of the most important:
- One of its most renowned features are its antibacterial and (some) antiviral properties.
- Garlic and its supplements are quite effective in the fight against chronically elevated blood pressure (hypertension). Note: it has a much better effect on hypertensive patients than patients with normal blood pressure. It is also useful in dealing with dyslipidemia.
- Research has suggested that garlic has strong enhancing influence on the immune system as well as cancer-preventive
- The various compounds of garlic have been found to possess anti-inflammatory properties.
- Garlic is well-known for its anti-atherogenic effects and lipid-lowering;
- Applied to the skin, the stinking rose could treat fungal infections, warts and calluses.
- Garlic is high in nutrients, but low in calories.
- Olympic athletes in Ancient Greece consumed garlic as “performance enhancing” agents to lessen fatigue.
Purchasing fresh garlic ensures maximum nutritional benefits. I tend to consume it fresh whenever possible because powdered garlic or paste not only offer us fewer health benefits but also their flavours are not even close to tasty.
Avoid buying garlic that is damp, damaged, soft or mouldy. Also, the size of it does not determine its quality. It is best to store the bulb intact in a semi-covered container in a cool, dry, and dark place.
Warning: Raw garlic has a very strong taste. Many people like to chew on a clove or two without accompanying them with anything else which could have a bad side-effect on the digestive tract.
We all know that in order to consume the stinking rose, we first need to “dismember” the knob and then peel the cloves. Depending on how fresh it is, this process could vary from very difficult (when garlic is very fresh) to very easy (if it has stayed longer). If you are facing the first situation, dip the cloves into water and let them stay for a while (10-15 minutes is best). Then, the skin should come off easily.
Chop, cut or crush the cloves so that allin is turned into allicin – the compound which provides most of the stinking rose’s health benefits. The allicin production takes some time, so I suggest you wait at least 5 minutes before proceeding to cooking. Also, during this time, do not mix the crushed cloves with any acidic ingredients as they could also neutralise the enzyme production process.
A Quick Recipe
- 5-6 fresh garlic cloves;
- 300-400 grammes of boiled (canned) chickpeas;
- 3 spoonfuls of sesame tahini;
- Sumac, salt, lemon (lime) juice and olive oil to your liking.
Put all the ingredients in a blender and purée them to perfection to create an easy hummus dip. Bon appétit!
Is this panacea part of your everyday diet?