Garlic, scientifically known as Allium sativum, is a species of bulbous flowering plant in the genus Allium. Its close relatives include the onion, shallot, leek, chive, Welsh onion, and Chinese onion. It is native to South Asia, Central Asia and northeastern Iran and has long been used as a seasoning worldwide, with a history of several thousand years of human consumption and use.
A Brief History of Garlic.
Garlic is one of the oldest known food flavoring and seasoning plants that managed to infuse itself into the culinary tradition of many civilizations across the world. It started its journey in central Asia, domesticated during Neolithic times, spread to the Middle East and northern Africa in 3000 BC, which quickly enabled it to reach Europe.
The journey of garlic through our history touched every major civilization of the ancient world. It’s true origins lie in West and Central Asia where the wild plant called Allium longicuspis evolved for millennia, eventually shaping itself into the form of modern Allium sativum or garlic. This plant was identified by the ancient Indians who managed to domesticate it around 6 thousand years ago.
It was known to ancient Egyptians and has been used as both a food flavoring and a traditional medicine. It was used regularly by both nobles, common people and slaves as food seasoning, medicinal ingredient, religious ingredient (they believed it can prolong life), antiseptic for curing wounds and preventing gangrene, and even as a direct source of strength.
In Asia, garlic was viewed more as a medical ingredient than a food seasoning plant. One of the cultures who viewed it that way were Buddhists, who between 1st and 10th century AD avoided consumption of it. Today, it represents one of the most popular flavorings in South Asia, together with ginger and onion.
Botanical Description of Garlic.
Garlic, or Allium sativum, is a species of bulbous flowering plant in the genus Allium. It belongs to the family Amaryllidaceae.
Species and Family of Garlic.
Garlic is closely related to other members of the Allium genus, which include the onion, shallot, leek, chive, Welsh onion, and Chinese onion. It is native to South Asia, Central Asia, and northeastern Iran.
Physical Characteristics of Garlic.
Garlic is a perennial flowering plant that grows from a bulb. It has a tall, erect flowering stem that grows up to 1 m (3 ft). The leaf blade is flat, linear, solid, and approximately 1.25–2.5 cm (0.5–1.0 in) wide, with an acute apex. The plant may produce pink to purple flowers from July to September in the Northern Hemisphere.
The bulb of the garlic plant has a strong odor and is typically made up of 10 to 20 cloves. The cloves close to the center are symmetrical, and those surrounding the center can be asymmetrical. Each clove is enclosed in an inner sheathing leaf surrounded by layers of outer sheathing leaves.
If it is planted at the proper time and depth, it can be grown as far north as Alaska. It produces hermaphroditic flowers and is pollinated by bees, butterflies, moths, and other insects.
What Nutrional Values Does Garlic Have?
- Calories: A 3-gram clove provides almost no calories. You’ll only add four calories to your total intake if you consume the whole clove.
- Carbohydrates: The calories in it come from carbohydrates, and because the serving size and calories are so low, the carbs in it are also very low. There is just one gram of carbs in a clove of garlic.
- Protein: it provides no significant protein.
- Fat: There is no fat in garlic.
- Fiber: Garlic contains 0.1g of fiber.
It contains several vitamins and minerals, although a single clove doesn’t provide much due to the small serving size. Each clove contains a small amount of:
- Vitamin C: 0.9mg.
- Zinc: 0.04mcg.
- Potassium: 25mg.
- It also contains good sources of manganese (8% Daily Value), vitamin B6 (6% DV), fibre (1% DV), vitamin C (5% DV), calcium (2% DV), selenium (2% DV), phosphorus (1% DV), iron (1% DV), magnesium (1% DV) and zinc (1% DV).
What Are the Health Benefits of Garlic?
- Cardiovascular Health Benefits: it can help lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels. It expands our blood vessels, making it easier to regulate blood pressure.
- Immune System Benefits: it can help protect against illness, including the common cold. Aged garlic extract (AGE) can boost your immune system.
- Potential Cancer Prevention Properties: Regular consumption of garlic, fruits, and vegetables can lower colon cancer risk.
- Anti-Inflammatory Properties: Garlic oil works as an anti-inflammatory. It can be rubbed on sore and inflamed joints or muscles.
- Skin Health: it’s antibacterial properties and antioxidants can clear up your skin by killing acne-causing bacteria.
- Antimicrobial Properties: Fresh garlic can kill the bacteria that lead to food poisoning, including Salmonella and E.coli.
Culinary Uses of Garlic.
- Sautéed: Garlic can be part of dishes that are sautéed. It can be stir-fried with onion and salt and added to salads and other meals.
- Baked, Roasted, and Braised: Garlic can be part of dishes that are baked, roasted, and braised.
- Soups, Sauces, Marinades, Spice Rubs, and Stir-frys: It is added to soups, sauces, marinades, spice rubs, and stir-frys. Garlic added to marinades gives a good flavor when chicken or fish is grilled.
- Ground Meat Preparations: Garlic is also minced and used as a flavoring in sausages, meatballs, and other ground meat preparations.
- Chicken Dishes: Garlic is used to cook chicken. It gives a delicious taste when added to chicken stock with onion.
- Tomato Stews: We fry garlic and onion with tomatoes to make tomato stews.
How to Grow Garlic at Home.
Here are the ideal Conditions for Growing Garlic.
- Climate: Garlic grows best in a climate with a cold winter. It needs a cold period to produce bigger bulbs.
- Soil: Garlic prefers well-draining, neutral soil with a pH between 6.5–7.0. If your soil doesn’t have good drainage or is full of clay, you can improve it by adding organic matter like compost or well-rotted manure.
- Sunlight: Choose a spot that gets at least 6 hours of sunlight a day.
- Source Garlic to Plant: You can try planting garlic you bought from the grocery store, but you’ll have a much higher chance of having a successful crop if you buy garlic cloves, or seeds, from a plant nursery that stocks varieties that grow well in your area.
- Planting Time: Plant garlic in the fall before the first frost so you can harvest it in the following summer. If you live in a warmer climate, you can plant your garlic in late winter or early spring.
- Prepare the Planting Site: Work the soil to a depth of 4 inches using a garden rake or hoe. Enrich the soil with compost to add nutrients that will help the garlic grow strong and healthy.
- Plant the Garlic Cloves: Divide the bulb into individual cloves, keeping the papery skin intact. Plant the cloves 4 inches apart and about 2 inches deep. Make sure that the flat root side is pointing down and the tapered side is pointing up. Cover the planted garlic cloves with soil and pat gently.
- Mulch the Area: Cover the area with 6 inches of straw to protect the garlic during the winter. In the spring, remove the mulch.
- Watering: Water garlic once a week during the growing season in the spring and summer.
- Harvesting: Dig up and harvest your garlic in the summer when the bottoms of the stems turn yellow. Let the bulbs dry out for 3–4 weeks before using the cloves.
Side Effects of Garlic.
- Increased Risk of Bleeding: Garlic has antithrombotic properties, meaning that it may prevent blood clots from forming. This could increase the risk of bleeding, especially if you’re taking blood thinners or undergoing surgery.
- Bad Breath and Body Odor: Garlic contains a variety of sulfur compounds, which may cause bad breath, especially when eaten in large amounts. This is especially true for raw garlic, as cooking decreases the content of these beneficial sulfur compounds.
- Digestive Issues: Like onions, leeks, and asparagus, garlic is high in fructans, a type of carb that may cause bloating, gas, and stomach pain in some people. When those with a fructan intolerance eat a high fructan food, it isn’t fully absorbed in the small intestine. Instead, it travels to the colon intact and is fermented in your gut, a process that may contribute to digestive issues.
- Allergic Reactions: Some people may have allergic reactions to garlic.
- Pregnancy and Breastfeeding: Little is known about whether it’s safe to use garlic supplements or apply garlic to the skin during pregnancy or while breastfeeding.
How Do I Get Rid of Bad Breath After Eating Garlic?
There are several ways to get rid of bad breath after eating garlic:
- Drink Water: Drinking water after meals can wash garlic remnants from the tongue or between the teeth.
- Brush and Floss: Brushing the teeth and flossing after meals can significantly reduce the number of bacteria in the mouth.
- Use a Tongue Scraper: Using a tongue scraper or brush every day can remove dead skin cells, microbes, and tiny particles of food.
- Rinse with Mouthwash: A strong-smelling mouthwash, such as one containing peppermint, can cover up the smell of garlic or onions on the breath.
- Eat Fresh Fruits and Vegetables: Eating fresh produce with or after meals may cover up the smells of garlic and onion.
- Eat Herb Leaves: Chewing parsley or mint leaves after eating is an age-old remedy for garlic or onion breath.
- Try Apple Cider Vinegar: Some people report that drinking a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar in water before or after meals gets rid of garlic or onion breath.
- Suck on a Lemon Wedge: Try sucking on a lemon wedge after eating garlic.
- Drink Tea: Tea, especially green and peppermint, contain polyphenols that reduce the volatile sulfur compounds that the garlic produces.
- Chew Cardamom Seeds or Coffee Beans: After eating, chew cardamom seeds or coffee beans.
- Drink Milk: Drink a glass of milk and hold the liquid in your mouth for a short while.
The Key Takeaway.
Garlic, a humble ingredient found in kitchens around the world, has a rich history and a multitude of uses. From its origins in Central Asia to its current status as a global culinary staple, garlic’s journey through time is as rich and varied as its flavor. Its health benefits are numerous, from boosting the immune system to potentially preventing certain types of cancer. However, like any food, it should be consumed in moderation due to potential side effects.
In the kitchen, garlic is a universal ingredient that can be used in a variety of dishes. Whether it’s sautéed, baked, or used in sauces and marinades, garlic adds a real depth of flavor that is hard to match. Growing your own garlic at home can also be a rewarding experience for you.
FAQs on Garlic.
Can I eat garlic before I work out?
Yes, eating garlic before a workout can be beneficial. Garlic is known to release nitric oxide, a compound that relaxes blood vessels and lowers blood pressure. This can increase blood flow during exercise, potentially improving your performance and endurance.
But everyone’s body reacts differently, so it’s important to pay attention to how your body responds and adjust your pre-workout routine accordingly.
Why do I feel a burn in my chest after eating garlic?
Garlic can trigger heartburn in many people. This is because certain compounds found in raw garlic may irritate the digestive tract, which could cause a burning sensation in the chest or stomach. Garlic is also known to increase the risk of bleeding by preventing the formation of blood clots. If you’re experiencing this discomfort regularly after eating garlic, it might be best to consult with a doctor.
Should I take garlic supplements or eat raw garlic instead?
Both raw garlic and garlic supplements are beneficial. Raw garlic has more bioavailable allicin, while supplements provide a concentrated dose without the strong taste or smell. The effectiveness can vary based on the quality of the supplement.
How do I store my garlic?
Whole heads of garlic should be stored in a cool, dry place. An unpeeled head of garlic can last up to six months, while a single unpeeled clove will last about three weeks. Peeled cloves or chopped garlic should be stored in the fridge and used within a week.
How do I use garlic to cook?
Garlic is a common ingredient in many cuisines due to its strong flavor. It’s often used in stews, sauces, pizzas, and pasta dishes. To prevent burning your garlic when cooking in a frying pan, always add it toward the end of your process.
Can garlic be used in place of onion?
Yes, garlic can be used as a substitute for onion in many recipes. The taste will be very close and the texture of minced garlic is similar to that of finely chopped onion.