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In Pursuit of Garlic

An Intimate Look at the Divinely Odorous Bulb

By Liz Primeau
12-minute read
Audio available
In Pursuit of Garlic: An Intimate Look at the Divinely Odorous Bulb by Liz Primeau

In Pursuit of Garlic (2012) peels back the thin, papery skin to reveal the inner truths of the miraculous allium whose exquisite flavor and restorative properties have made it a kitchen staple for millennia. A deep dive into the plant’s history, cultivation and culinary and medical uses, this rich exploration of the “divinely odorous bulb” is jam-packed with tasty morsels for cooks, gardeners and history buffs.

  • Garlic connoisseurs
  • Gardeners
  • Food history buffs

Liz Primeau, a proud garlic devotee and avid gardener, is the founding editor of Canadian Gardening magazine. The author of the bestselling Front Yard Gardens and My Natural History, she has also spoken widely about her expertise on horticulture across North America.

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In Pursuit of Garlic

An Intimate Look at the Divinely Odorous Bulb

By Liz Primeau
  • Read in 12 minutes
  • Audio & text available
  • Contains 7 key ideas
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In Pursuit of Garlic: An Intimate Look at the Divinely Odorous Bulb by Liz Primeau
Synopsis

In Pursuit of Garlic (2012) peels back the thin, papery skin to reveal the inner truths of the miraculous allium whose exquisite flavor and restorative properties have made it a kitchen staple for millennia. A deep dive into the plant’s history, cultivation and culinary and medical uses, this rich exploration of the “divinely odorous bulb” is jam-packed with tasty morsels for cooks, gardeners and history buffs.

Key idea 1 of 7

Garlic’s miracle properties have been known for millennia and continue to be researched today.

Garlic stakes a solid claim as being the pantry staple. Whether it’s in a fragrant stir-fry or part of the earthy delights of hummus, the tangy aromatic enlivens dishes in kitchens around the world. But its non-culinary history might just surprise you. For centuries, it’s been used to cure everything from boils to bee stings. In fact, garlic’s medicinal properties make it something of a universal healer.

Take the Jiuhuang bencao, a Chinese treatise on herbal remedies from the Ming Dynasty. It notes crushed garlic’s usefulness as a poultice for infections, as a diuretic as well as a remedy for parasites, ringworm and dysentery. In India, Hindus long used allium in Ayurvedic medicine as a digestive tonic for skincare and to heal abdominal diseases, rheumatism and hemorrhoids. Mixed with honey, it was the perfect antidote to wet coughs, fevers, swelling and worms.

The Roman author and naturalist Pliny the Elder also knew about garlic’s curative properties. He advised readers to pound it with vinegar and water to create a gargle for throat boils. Roasted and pounded with oil, it soothed insect bites; boiled with milk, it counteracted mucus; and mixed with fat, it could be used to treat tumors.

The ancients aren’t alone in their admiration for garlic. The bulbous plant’s antibacterial and antifungal qualities mean that it’s still used and studied today.

The key compound is allicin, an oxygenated sulfur responsible for garlic’s pungent taste and antibacterial properties. As a study at the State University of New York in Albany found, fresh garlic might not be as powerful as the antibiotic penicillin but it nonetheless successfully inhibited the development of the E. coli bacteria.

A different five-week trial at the university showed that participants who swigged a 2.5 percent garlic mouthwash every day had a significantly lower presence of the gum infection-causing bacterium Porphyromonas gingivalis. And if that weren’t impressive enough, garlic is also much more effective at treating yeast strains like candida than the fungal agent nystatin!

All the more reason to reach for the garlic next time you’re feeling peckish. Keep it raw and the effect will be even more impressive, leaving you feeling as strong as an ox in no time.

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