Care of Karen Soper
The Stinking Rose, a famous restaurant on Columbus Avenue in San Fransisco, California is filled with dishes all made with garlic. In fact – they claim to “season their garlic with food”! If you have ever been there you’ll know how compelling the dishes are and how the culinary enjoyment of a restaurant filled with garlic dishes is truly a novel experience.
However famous San Fransisco’s Stinking Rose restaurant, the use of garlic is not so new to the world. Garlic has been used for thousands of years for both its medicinal and culinary properties, and in almost 2010 it is still touted as a powerful home remedy for colds and a must-have for quick pasta entrees. It is a bulbous plant of the family genus allium, in which there are approximately 500 members, including other well known plants like leeks, shallots and onions. Allium sativum basically means “cultivated garlic”.
Garlic can be used in many ways – raw or cooked; whole, crushed or sliced. Raw garlic is stronger than cooked, and minced garlic stronger than sliced. Roasted whole garlic has a totally different taste to crushed raw garlic. The “active” component of garlic, that pungent smell and taste is called allicin. This is generated only when the clove is broken. When it is raw and crushed, or very finely chopped the medicinal properties and benefits of garlic are strongest.
Garlic grows under the ground in large, slightly off-white bulbs (or “heads”) which are covered by a papery skin. Inside each bulb is anything from ten to twenty individual cloves which themselves have a pinkish skin. It’s important to know the difference between bulbs and cloves when cooking!
Health Benefits – Today garlic is heavily researched and found to act as a diuretic, a stimulant and a sweat promoter. It stimulates the metabolism, stabilizes blood sugar levels and eliminates toxins from the body. Raw, crushed garlic has anti-fungal and antibiotic properties. It also contains a wide range of trace minerals like copper, iron, zinc, magnesium and selenium. Garlic has also been linked to beneficial activities for the cardiovascular system, and cholesterol management.
As we know, antioxidants can help to protect the body against damaging “free radicals”, and science has shown that garlic (especially aged garlic) can have powerful antioxidant effects too. There can be draw backs to eating raw garlic though. It is very strong, so eating too much could cause irritation of or even damage to the digestive tract. Some people are actually allergic to garlic. If you were allergic to garlic you would notice symptoms like possible skin rashes, high temperature and headaches. It’s wise to avoid garlic before surgery because there is a potential that a lot of garlic could potentially disrupt anti-coagulants in your body.
Get Some Garlic – Garlic really is a supermarket gift that should be seen as part of a healthy diet and lifestyle, however not an alternative to one – just a spicy addition!