Vampires Beware: The History and Benefits of Garlic
Photo source: Garlic Geeks
Garlic is one of my favorite spices and plants. When I was little, I would ask my parents if they could save me some raw garlic before they’d use it for whatever they were cooking. I just loved the unique spiciness of it, though it was not intense enough to where it was inedible. It was absolutely perfect. Aside from being an amazing general spice, it has had a rich international culinary history as well as many positive health effects for the human body.
Garlic has been cultivated for at least 5000 years (Southern Exposure Seed Exchange). The first recorded use of it was in Western and Central Asia. The plant started out as the species Allium Longiscupis, but with domestication, it evolved to become Allium Sativum, also referred to as garlic. India was the first to domesticate and cultivate the plant, using it for cooking and its medicinal properties (they believed it was an aphrodisiac) (Vegetable Facts). Eventually trading groups from India traded garlic to Babylon and Assyria in the Middle East, and the two kingdoms spread it across neighboring civilizations. Egypt especially took to garlic. It was used by all classes of people for seasoning and medicinal properties. The Egyptians believed that garlic prolonged life, was a source of strength, and had antiseptic properties.
Part of what made garlic so appealing is its hardiness (Southern Exposure Seed Exchange). Garlic was easy to travel with and planted in other places. Garlic could also reproduce sexually and asexually, so merchants and farmers could either breed garlic or reproduce more garlic from its clones. Garlic is also resistant to pests and disease, and it can grow in most climates and soil types. As time went on, different varieties of garlic were being grown across the world. For instance, the ophioscorodon variety is the garlic that many would know as hardneck garlics, a more common variety for Western cuisine. This variety was known to produce larger but fewer cloves and grow well in Northern soil.
Even today, garlic is lauded as an extremely healthy seasoning. For instance, garlic has been known to have an amazing effect on your cardiovascular health (Natural Food Series). The compounds in garlic can help lower your blood pressure and your LDL cholesterol. Garlic has also been known to have plenty of other beneficial properties such as being an immense system booster and a great way to guard against neurodegenerative disorders. However, some scientists are pushing back against those claims. The garlic used in these studies were in supplement form (Consumer Report). According to Dr. Matthew Budoff, while he does feel comfortable testifying to the great cardiovascular benefits of garlic, he is less comfortable backing the benefits to the immune system or curing colds. More research would be needed. However, it is not disputed that garlic, especially when used as a cooking ingredient is a powerfully healthy food for your heart.
The garlic plant has had a rich culinary history, spanning millennia and across kingdoms. Lauded as a seasoning with medicinal properties, garlic has grown with civilizations such as China, India, Greece, Egypt, and Medieval Europe, and we still use it today. While we no longer see garlic as such as miracle drug, there is still evidence that garlic will help your cardiovascular health. Next time you make a meal, see if you can somehow incorporate some garlic into it. It will not only make your meal taste good, but it will make your body feel great too.