Known for its health benefits and flavour alike, garlic is perhaps our favourite of the allium family, which includes leeks, onions, and shallots. Whilst it is a relatively new addition to the back garden allotment (garlic doesn’t even feature in some of our older veg growing books!), it has been consumed by humans for several thousand years, both for medicinal and culinary use.
Originating from central Asia, it is probably not surprising that China is the biggest producer of garlic producing over 20 million tonnes per year! We’re not quite on that scale here at the Real Food Garden, but we have harvested over 600 bulbs of garlic from more than five different varieties. One of the first crops to be planted way back in last November, these bulbs have been drying out in our polytunnel since being pulled in July. They are now finding their way into our delicious veg boxes and onto our market stalls.
Used worldwide, garlic is a popular flavouring due to its delicious taste and strong smell. Commonly used in Asian dishes we also use it as a base to the majority of our meals, one of our favourites being beetroot or spinach leaves steam in garlic butter with a poached egg on top…mmm! You can also pickle garlic, preserving all its goodness for those wintry days. Just pack the garlic cloves (peeled) into a sterilised jar, add the spices of your choice and fill the jar up with vinegar. And it’s not just the bulb you can eat, garlic scapes (the flower bud) are much sought after by chefs and make a delicious dish all of their own.
But it’s not just its wonderful flavour that makes garlic so great. It has proven health benefits and has been used throughout history to treat all sorts of ailments. These health effects have been traced to the sulphur compounds which form when the clover is crushed, chopped or chewed. This compound is known as allicin and is also responsible for garlic’s unique smell. Packed full of nutrients including Manganese, Vitamin B6 and Vitamin C, garlic has long been used to treat common colds as it can boost the immune system and help fight infections. It is also high in antioxidants, which can help prevent Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, and is also known to reduce cholesterol and blood pressure. It can even help detoxify the body of heavy metals and was used by the ancients Greeks to improve athletic performance.
So go on, unwrap a clove of our glorious garlicky goodness and add it to your favourite dishes, knowing it’s not only bringing flavour to your meal but good health to your body and mind!