The Speared Leek
One of my favorite quotes is by the Spanish-American philosopher George Santayana, who said, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” While this is an incredibly prescient observation in the socio-historical sphere, learning from the past is also important when it comes to food. An excellent example of this is found with the herb known in Old English as the spear (gar) leek (lēac) or garlic (garlēac) — in other words, the spear-shaped leek. For those naturalists out there, garlic is a species in the onion genus, Allium, hence its scientific name, Allium sativum.
Garlic has a long and illustrious history as an herb that has medicinal and nutritional benefits. Did you know that in 1922 when King Tutankhamen’s tomb in Egypt was excavated, they found garlic cloves? Some of that era’s earliest known references to garlic indicate that it was an important part of the diet of the working class of ancient Egypt, especially those who were involved in heavy labor like building the pyramids. Not only did Egypt consider garlic a strength aid to those involved with heavy labor, but medical text of that day also prescribed garlic as a treatment for circulatory problems, malaise, and parasite infestations.
Interestingly, the ancient Hebrew text of the Bible (Num. 11:15) records that the Israelites, after leaving Egypt reminisced about the many good things they had left in Egypt including what many Hebrew linguists translate as “cucumbers, leeks, onions, and garlic.”
In ancient Greece, garlic was considered an important supplement which increased strength and the capacity for hard work. Because of this, garlic was a staple of the Greek military diet, especially when their armies were sent to war. This association between garlic and an increased physical strength and stamina is also evidenced by the fact that garlic was often fed to Olympic athletes before they competed in the games. The Greek Dioscorides, chief physician for Nero’s army, indicated in his writings that garlic had beneficial effects related to artery health, gastrointestinal health, joint disease and seizures — among other things. To the east, garlic’s beneficial properties were also known in ancient China and India. From nearly 1500 BC to the early centuries AD, through the dark ages, and into the early years of the enlightenment period garlic has maintained its reputation as wonderful addition to the human diet.
Today, it seems modern medicine has had to relearn many of the beneficial uses of garlic. Whether it be forgetfulness of the past, corporate greed, or some other reason, our modern society is once again learning to appreciate the wonderful benefits of eating garlic, especially as it relates to the bodies cardio vascular system.
As Richard Rivlin notes in his article Historical Perspective on the use of Garlic (April 2001)
“It is now well recognized that garlic, appropriately used, will reduce blood pressure (Steiner et al. 1996), improve elevated serum cholesterol [reviewed by Rivlin (1998)], decrease platelet aggregation (Steiner and Lin 1999) and protect vascular endothelial cells from damage by LDL (Ide and Lau 1997);
Pretty impressive for a not so common herb don’t you think?
Nutritional Value of Garlic
If the testimony of 4,000 years of history is not enough for you, then here are some basics on the nutrition found in each clove of garlic:
2% of your manganese
2% of your Vitamin B6
1% of your Vitamin C
.06 grams of fiber and measurable amounts of calcium, iron, copper, vitamin B1, and phosphorus – all that nutrition and only 4.5 calories.
Garlic in Your Garden
For those of you wanting to plant your own garlic, now is the time. Typically in Cochise County, August is a good month to plant your garlic so that it can get established before winter sets in. Garlic will winter just fine and by May or June you should have good sized garlic bulbs to harvest.
Helpful Tip: If you cover your garlic with agricultural cloth and keep it regularly watered during the winter months you’ll typically have larger garlic bulbs at harvest time.
If you don’t want to grow your own garlic or just don’t have time, but you’d like the highest quality garlic that hasn’t been contaminated by pesticides or other toxic chemicals, stop by the Sierra Vista Farmers Market this Thursday – you’ll be sure to find a variety of garlic for all your needs.
For a complete list of the vendors participating in this week’s market, please see our newsletter at www.sierravista farmersmarkets.com.
For more information please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We hope to see you all at the market this week!
Submitted by William Struse