Garlic is where modern science meets folklore. As far back as 3,000 years ago, the Chinese credited garlic with curing everything from the common cold to the plague. As far back as 5,000 years ago in India, people believed garlic was responsible for warding off unwanted spirits. Some people still believe this today, but if you’ve been reading the Foghorn you know that I’m not one to believe in the supernatural, so let’s break it down to a science.
Garlic is a mosquito repellant. The reason for this is that the odor garlic releases is inimical to mosquitoes, and therefore they have evolved to avoid garlic. There are a number of garlic sprays on the market to help deter those annoying flying rats.
So what makes garlic so beneficial to our health? When its cloves are crushed they release a sulfur compound called allicin. Allicin is what scientists say give garlic its therapeutic qualities. It is also responsible for its pungent taste and smell. That’s probably why there are no allicin sprays or tablets on the market.
Garlic is most noted for lowering blood pressure and cholesterol, preventing strokes, and preventing heart disease.
According to the Journal of Hypertension, garlic tablets have been shown to lower blood pressure by 1-5%. Through this study, the journal concluded that the pills could reduce the chance of stroke by 30-40% and heart disease by 20-25%.
The National Academy of Sciences says garlic boosts natural supplies of hydrogen sulfide, which acts as an antioxidant and transmits cellular signals that relax blood vessels and thus increase blood flow.
Unlike the strawberry, you don’t have to be as picky with your garlic. Scientists at University of Alabama at Birmingham extracted juice from regular supermarket garlic and added it to human red blood cells. The blood cells immediately began emitting hydrogen sulfide. Hydrogen sulfide also protects against breast, colon and prostate cancer.
You don’t have to swallow garlic cloves whole to take advantage of its health benefits. Garlic is a vegetable, but it can be used as an herb in that you can add it to anything. If you’re barbecuing, you can season your meat with garlic powder or diced cloves, or grind some on the grill before you cook. You can use garlic to roast and season nuts and pumpkin seeds.
We all know about garlic fries and garlic bread, but my personal favorite is the French garlic soup from the Gilroy Garlic Festival. To make the soup, all you have to do is put garlic cloves, sage leaves, and salted water in a saucepan. After letting the water boil for about 15 minutes, remove the garlic, mash the cloves, and put it back in the saucepan with saffron.
If you’re a bit more daring, you can add garlic to drinks and desserts. Ever tried garlic ice cream? Soak gelatin in cold water and boil some milk with sugar and salt. Next, dissolve the gelatin in the hot milk and add lemon juice and garlic. After you let it chill, mix in some whip cream until it is ice-cream-like thick. You can barely taste the garlic. As for drinks, garlic beer is always a good time. Unfortunately, I don’t know how to make beer. You’ll have to make it to Gilroy for that.