Garlic has a rich history of being used for its healing qualities. There is evidence to suggest it was given to the pyramid workers in ancient Egypt to keep them strong and protect them from illness.
It was regarded as a panacea by Chinese, Greek and Roman physicians, who prescribed it for everything from infections, cancer and leprosy to tapeworm and heart problems.
In the late 1850s, French chemist Louis Pasteur noted its antibacterial effects, and garlic juice was used during World War I to treat wounds.
With the later discovery of the chemical alliin in the vegetable, it is now known that this is responsible for garlic’s beneficial qualities.
GROW TIP When grown with tomatoes, eggplants, cabbages and roses, garlic acts as an insect-repelling plant.
Homegrown for health
To get rid of bugs, all imported garlic is fumigated with the toxic chemical methyl bromide, and some have been treated with growth-inhibiting chemicals. Garlic is easy to grow and good for you, so it makes sense to grow your own.
DIY pest spray
Garlic has insecticidal qualities when used in an all-purpose spray. You can buy a pre-mixed formula for the garden or make your own. It is best sprayed directly onto pests.
COMBINE 4 large crushed garlic cloves and 1 tablespoon vegetable oil, then leave to soak for 2 days.
STRAIN and add 1 teaspoon pure liquid soap and 1 litre water to the oil.
POUR into a spray bottle and use within two weeks. Store in the fridge.
Did you know?
A study in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute found that men who consumed more then 10g a day of vegies from the Allium genus, which includes garlic, spring onions, chives, onions and leeks, were about 50% less likely to get prostate cancer.
In the kitchen
To get the strongest taste, add garlic to dishes when they are nearly cooked.
- Roast whole garlic bulbs and serve with other baked vegetables.
- Stuff a chicken with 40 garlic cloves and roast to make garlic chicken.
- Make a garlic and parsley sauce for fish, called a persillade. Finely chop four cloves of garlic and one bunch of parsley, and blend with a little olive oil.
- To make garlic bread, rub raw garlic cloves on both sides of hot, toasted Italian bread or a sliced French bread stick. Drizzle with olive oil and serve.
- You can easily turn the garlic bread into bruschetta by topping it with tomatoes, mozzarella and basil.
- Or use it as a base for toppings such as olive tapenade with goat’s cheese, or tomatoes and anchovies.
HEALTH TIP When raw garlic is chewed or crushed, the chemical alliin is converted into allicin, which has antibiotic properties.
Cures for garlic breath
There are no prizes for guessing why garlic is called the stinking rose, but this doesn’t put off garlic lovers. Cures for smelly breath include chewing parsley or fennel seeds. Better still, the odour is reportedly reduced when garlic is eaten with a glass of red.
How to grow
You can buy garlic to sow from the nursery or use store-bought organic bulbs that have sprouted in the pantry.
Plant cloves in autumn in a sunny position in a garden bed or pot. They will produce leaves in winter, which supply nutrients to the maturing bulbs and stimulate growth during spring.
The bulbs will be ready to harvest in about 6-8 months after sowing.