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Garlic - The Wellbeing Herb
Member Name: Vialdana
Advantages: Easy to grow, great health benefits and tastes fab.
Disadvantages: Many people worry about the strong smell on their breath when they eat it.
Garlic such an interesting herb (yes it really is a herb despite belonging to the onion family), that I've even got a book that's just about garlic and how wonderful it is.
Garlic is such a useful thing to have around and it tastes fantastic too. It's incredibly good for you and has lots of medicinal purposes, has been around forever (known to have been in existence and in use by us since we were living in caves!).
~*~A Brief History of Garlic~*~
I'm not going to describe how it came to be or anything boring like that, but did you know that it was given to Slaves in Egypt to help boost their strength when they were building the famous pyramids? It was. The Romans and Greeks used it medicinally as a way to ward off all sorts of things from colds and ear infections to cancer, leprosy and heart attacks, and in some cases they also used it decoratively as charms against things too.
Strangely despite its popularity way back in history, it then hit a period where it was seen as something that the upper echelons wouldn't touch as it was smelly and only fit for the lower classes to eat - that was, unless they were ill or had an infection when it was considered ok to use it still.
~*~Growing it or buying it?~*~
If you pick the right sort of garlic it's not too hard to grow in the garden at home. You can find it for sale in most garden centres, but it's no different really from what you buy in the supermarket and you need to separate each bulb into individual cloves and then plant these. It has a long growing season so you can plant it anywhere between late autumn and early spring, and in the spring you'll have garlic growing. Keep the soil moist but don't let it get too soggy, and weed it, but other than this you don't really have to do too much to garlic. When it starts to die back, dig it up, and let it finish drying in the sun. Plait the leaves together for a traditional way of keeping this, and you'll have a ready supply of garlic for a few months at least.
Buying garlic is fine if you don't have a garden or green fingers, and because garlic keeps so well it doesn't lose lots of nutrients in the process of being stored prior to being sold so you don't need to worry about this.
~*~Cooking with Garlic~*~
My very favourite way to eat garlic is roasted in a little olive oil in the oven with lots of other veggies. It doesn't have a strong flavour like it does raw, and goes all soft and delicious to eat.
I use garlic in most of my cooking as I think it helps add flavour to a lot of things. Stuffed into the breast of a chicken to roast is good, as is chopped into many dishes from chilli to bolognaise to all sorts of chicken and beef dishes.
I even like my garlic raw in salads, but you do need to use other salad veggies with a strong flavour if you do this as delicate flavours will tend to be overpowered by the strength of garlic.
~*~Drying & Other storage methods~*~
I own a dehydrator, and so along with a variety of other fruits, veggies and herbs, I sometimes dry my garlic. I slice it thinly first and then dry it, and either leave it as flakes or powder it. It keeps virtually forever this way too and is always on hand for use in cooking.
Garlic can be pickled and smoked, and also stored in oil too. The oil stored garlic is still good to use, and the oil also develops a lovely garlicky flavour which is great for a subtle hint in some more delicate dishes.
Garlic has a lot of really useful health properties. It can be mixed with honey as a cough mixture, and eaten in any format it's great to help lower blood pressure and cholesterol. It works best when it's crushed or chopped so sadly eaten whole and roasted in my favourite way it doesn't do as much good.
Garlic contains Allicin which is a natural antioxidant, and can help slow the ageing process. It is mildly anti-bacterial (about 1% of the potency of penicillin), but can help ward off all sorts of things and the body doesn't develop a resistance to the properties of garlic as it does with some things.
One clove a day is ideal for overall general health, but if someone in the house has a cold, then increasing to 2-3 cloves a day will help prevent you from catching it. The less you cook it the more useful to your body garlic is, and you should always be careful of taking garlic supplements as they can interact with certain prescribed drugs.
~*~My Final Thoughts~*~
With garlic being so easy to grow, easy to buy in the shops, and easy to use I do wonder why so many people are put off using it. Many people worry about getting garlic breath, but if you want to share an evening with your partner and still enjoy garlic, just serve it up for both of you and then they'll never even notice ;)
Summary: This plant is incredibly useful, has many excellent health properties, tastes good & stores easily.