Eating garlic for health has a long history and with that long history there is vast knowledge about the benefits of different plants that make up the world around us. Garlic has always been part of the human culinary and medicinal experience so let’s dive into why garlic is revered for all of its benefits.
A Brief History Of Garlic
Garlic has a rich and fascinating history that dates back thousands of years and with that history comes immense knowledge about the benefits it provides us.
Ancient cultures have used garlic for both culinary and medicinal purposes for thousands of years. It was used by the ancient Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans, who believed that it had powers to increase strength, ward off evil spirits, and treat a wide range of health conditions. With those ancient cultures expansion garlic spread throughout the world through trade and commerce. It was brought to Asia by merchants, and later brought to the Americas by Spanish and Portuguese explorers. In folk remedies throughout history, garlic has been used as a folk remedy for many different health conditions. In traditional Chinese medicine, it was used to treat respiratory and digestive problems, among other things.
In more recent times during World War I and World War II, fresh garlic was often in short supply, but dried garlic was readily available and was used as a substitute. Today in modern medicine, garlic is still widely used for its potential health benefits, and many studies have been conducted to explore its effects on various conditions, including heart disease, high blood pressure, and cholesterol.
With all of this rich history and knowledge garlic has played a significant role in the human experience and has been valued for its culinary and medicinal properties for centuries.
Various Health Benefits Of Garlic
Garlic is a commonly used herb that has been recognized for its potential health benefits for centuries. Some of the benefits of consuming garlic include:
- Cardiovascular Health: Garlic has been shown to help lower high blood pressure and reduce the risk of heart disease.
- Immune System Booster: Garlic contains allicin, a compound that has antibacterial and antiviral properties that can help boost the immune system and fight off infections.
- Anti-Inflammatory: Garlic has anti-inflammatory properties that can help reduce inflammation and associated pain in conditions such as osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.
- Cancer Prevention: Some studies suggest that consuming garlic regularly may help reduce the risk of certain types of cancer, including stomach, colon, esophagus, and breast cancer.
- Brain Health: Garlic has been linked to improved brain function and reduced risk of neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.
It’s important to note that we are still to this day understanding the effects of garlic on health and these benefits may vary from person to person.
Growing Your Own Garlic
Growing anything yourself is highly rewarding and has many benefits beyond just the fruits of your labor. Garlic is relatively easy to grow and can be a great addition to a home garden so here are the steps to grow your own garlic:
- Choose A Type: There are two main types of garlic, hardneck and softneck. Hardneck garlic is more cold-tolerant and has a more robust flavor, while softneck garlic is better suited for warmer climates and has a milder flavor. Choose the type that is best suited for your climate.
- Source Your Cloves: This is one of the most important aspects of growing your own garlic to ensure you get a healthy and tasty result. The best sources can be found at your local farmers market or a supplier of heirloom seeds so start there when you look for your own cloves to begin with. Supermarket cloves can work but the results might not be what you expected due to the way they are grown and where they are imported from.
- Choose A Sunny Spot: Garlic needs at least six hours of direct sunlight each day, so choose a sunny spot in your garden to plant it.
- Prepare The Soil: Garlic grows best in well-drained soil that is rich in organic matter. Mix in compost or aged manure before planting to help improve the soil quality.
- Plant The Cloves: Plant individual cloves 4-6 inches apart and 2-3 inches deep, with the pointed end facing up. Cover with soil and water well.
- Water Regularly: Garlic needs consistent moisture, especially during the growing season. Water your garlic once a week, or more often during hot or dry weather.
- Mulch: Mulching around the garlic plants can help conserve moisture and suppress weeds.
- Harvest: Garlic is ready to harvest when the tops of the plants begin to yellow and fall over. Dig up the bulbs and let them dry in a warm, sunny spot for a few days before storing.
By following these steps, you can successfully grow your own garlic and enjoy its delicious flavor in your cooking.
10 Popular Types Of Garlic
There are many different types of garlic, each with its own unique flavor and growing characteristics. Here are 10 of the most popular types for you to consider trying:
- Rocambole is a hardneck garlic variety with a strong, rich flavor. It has a delicate, papery skin that is easy to peel and has a tendency to grow multiple cloves around a central stem.
- Porcelain is a hardneck variety with a very mild, sweet flavor. It is a good choice for roasting and has large, white bulbs that are easy to peel.
- Purple Stripe is a hardneck variety that has a full, rich flavor. It gets its name from the distinctive purple stripes on its bulb wrappers.
- Silverskin is a softneck variety with a mild, slightly sweet flavor. It is a good choice for braiding and has a long shelf life.
- Artichoke is a softneck variety with a mild, nutty flavor. It is a good choice for roasting and has large bulbs with many layers of cloves.
- Elephant is not actually a true garlic, but a type of leek. It has a mild, slightly sweet flavor and is often used in dishes where a mild garlic flavor is desired.
- Asiatic is a hardneck variety that has a mild, slightly sweet flavor. It is one of the earliest varieties to mature and is often used as a spring garlic.
- Creole is a softneck variety that is popular in the southern United States. It has a warm, spicy flavor and is often used in Cajun and Creole cooking.
- Turban is a hardneck variety that has a slightly sweet, nutty flavor. It is one of the earliest varieties to mature and is often used as a spring garlic.
- Glazed Purple Stripe is a hardneck variety with a rich, complex flavor. It gets its name from the glossy, purple-striped bulb wrappers.
It’s important to note that the popularity of different types of garlic can vary depending on regional and cultural preferences. Try visiting your local farmers market to see what local growers are already having success in growing in your area to best determine which types of garlic you might want to try.
What If You Do Not Like The Taste Of Garlic
If you do not like the taste of garlic, you can still reap its potential health benefits by taking garlic supplements. Supplements come in various forms, including capsules, tablets, and oils, and can be a convenient way to add garlic to your diet without the taste.
It’s important to note that not all garlic supplements are created equal, and the quality can vary between brands. To ensure you are getting a high-quality supplement, look for products that are standardized to contain a specific amount of allicin, the compound responsible for many of garlic’s health benefits.
Additionally, it’s always a good idea to talk to your healthcare provider before starting any new supplement, especially if you are taking any prescription medications or have any health conditions.
Overall, if you don’t like the taste of garlic, taking a supplement is a convenient and effective way to get the potential health benefits of garlic without the taste.
Are There Downsides To Eating Garlic?
While garlic has many potential health benefits, there are also some downsides to eating garlic that you should be aware of:
- Breath and Body Odor: Consuming garlic can cause bad breath and body odor, as the compounds in garlic are excreted through the skin and breath.
- Interactions with Medications: Garlic can interact with certain medications, such as blood thinners, and may increase the risk of bleeding. If you are taking any prescription medications, it’s important to talk to your healthcare provider before adding garlic to your diet.
- Allergic Reactions: Some people may be allergic to garlic and may experience symptoms such as itching, hives, and difficulty breathing.
- Upset Stomach: Eating too much garlic can cause digestive issues, such as bloating, gas, and stomach discomfort.
- Heartburn: Garlic can irritate the digestive system and trigger heartburn, especially in those who are prone to acid reflux.
Overall, garlic is safe and beneficial for most people but it’s important to be aware of potential interactions with other heath improvements you are undertaking. It might be a good idea, if garlic is not part of your daily diet, to start slow and see how your body reacts and your health improves before diving in full speed.