Humans have been using garlic for over seven thousand years. The Chinese, Egyptians, Romans, Greeks, and Vikings all used garlic. It is as fundamental to the human experience as romance, religion, or commerce. Take a trip to your local farmer’s market and find tons of fresh garlic all through the summer. Garlic stores well if kept in a warm and dry environment, and the garlic you buy at the market today can be used well into the winter, allowing you to avoid bland garlic from the store for months.
If you wish to grow your own garlic you can nearly get started. A good experiment is to take a bulb of garlic and plant it in autumn, about five weeks before there is a chance of freezing. Be sure to plant it deep enough so that it will not freeze, or else it will rot with its thaw. Garlic planted in the autumn should be ready to harvest by the late spring and early summer.
Garlic is the base for so much cooking. It is like onion, olive oil, or salt and pepper. It can go into just about anything as a base and add lots of flavour. It also mixes easily with a few simple ingredients to make delicious sauces. Basil, garlic, and Parmesan make pesto. Yogurt, garlic, and salt create tzatziki. Garlic, egg yolks, and olive oil form aioli.
Although most scientific studies on the health benefits of garlic have come back as inconclusive, there are many theories, myths and stories revolving around the health benefits of garlic. Take a listen to the people in Les Blanks 1980 documentary Garlic is as Good as Ten Mothers. They claim it helps with dysentery, heart problems, mosquito bites, sunburns, and longevity. Garlic was used in World War I and II as a way to prevent gangrene.
Garlic is a world-renowned food. It has many links to traditions and myths all around the world. Perhaps the most common to us is its ability to repel vampires. But the Hindu’s and Buddhists note how garlic fuels sexual desire. For Nowruz, the Persian calendar New Year, it is part of the Seven-Seen table, which is a traditional New Year’s display that also includes wheat, pudding, olive, apple, sumac fruit, and vinegar. Muslims are told to avoid eating garlic before going to the mosque as to not distract the other worshippers due to its pungent smell.
Garlic can be found in virtually every culinary culture in the world. To eat garlic is to be one with all of humanity as garlic’s roots indeed run that deep. On your next farmer’s market trip be sure to pick up some garlic. The fresh garlic from farmers offers a much fuller flavour than store-bought garlic and it can be kept for months if stored correctly. Use it in nearly any dish to add more flavour. And be sure to catch the Metro Vancouver garlic festival, which happens every year in late August (this years festival was just last Sunday, August 21).
Websites consulted for this article:
Link to Garlic is as Good as Ten Mothers: https://vimeo.com/111386326