Historians have found references to garlic in Chinese texts dating back as far as 2,000
years before Christ. That means civilization has been familiar with garlic and its uses as a
food and a healing agent for at least 4,000 years. In ancient Greece, Hippocrates, the
father of modern medicine used garlic for treating infections, wounds and intestinal
disorders. Not to mention a mean lamb stew.
Roman legionnaires attributed their strength, courage and stamina to garlic and took it
with them as they conquered the world. This pungent bulbous herb has long been a
staple in the Mediterranean region and used generously as a seasoning in Asia, Africa,
and Europe. Egyptians worshipped garlic and placed clay models of garlic bulbs in the
tomb of King Tut.
Garlic is known universally as the “stinking rose.” Garlic cloves themselves have a neutral
smell, but when the cells are ruptured by cutting or pressing, they release an enzyme
called allinaise, chemically changing the inherent alliin into allicin, a sulfur-containing
molecule. That results in the familiar heady, pungent garlic smell that is a mainstay in
kitchens around the world. These sulphur molecules are absorbed into the bloodstream
and lungs, escaping through exhaled air and perspiration, ultimately producing the
dreaded "Garlic Breath".
Garlic was so highly regarded that it was even used as currency. Last but not least, garlic
is also known for its aphrodisiacal properties, which have been extolled through the ages
in literature, cooking recipes, and medical journals.
Garlic has not always enjoyed the popularity and widespread acceptance found today. It
was socially frowned upon in the United States until the first quarter of the twentieth
century. Up until that time, garlic was found almost exclusively in ethnic dishes in working-
class neighborhoods. Slang of the 1920's referred to garlic as Bronx vanilla or Italian
Garlic has long been considered an herbal wonder drug, used to protect against plague
by monks of the Middle Ages to treating the cold and common flu today. Hippocrates used
garlic vapors to treat cervical cancer, and garlic poultices were placed on wounds during
World War II as an inexpensive, and apparently quite effective replacement for antibiotics,
which were scarce during wartime.
According to Christian mythology, after Satan vanished from the Garden of Eden, garlic
grew from his left footprint and onion grew from his right.
Korea indicates that the traditional six-clove black garlic was given to women to bless
them with supernatural powers and immortality!
Taoists believe that garlic enhances the vital life energy or chi energy.
Mythology also indicates garlic was often used as an evil repellent, especially of the
vampire variety. Yes, legend has it that garlic can ward off vampires like Count Dracula
along with some not so friendly in-laws!