Allium Sativum - better known to us all as garlic - has been celebrated for centuries for both its food-enhancing and life-enhancing qualities. And, whilst many of us are content to consume garlic for its delicious flavour alone, it is worth knowing that this mighty bulb is also doing us good in the process.
How long has garlic been around?
Nearly two thousand years ago, Greek physician Galen praised the garlic bulb as a "cure-all". It's still being touted as a health-boosting superfood today, thanks to its star ingredient: allicin - found at its highest potency in fresh, raw cloves of garlic. As a powerful antioxidant, allicin mops up free radicals, protects against thrombosis, and is reputed to lower blood pressure and cholesterol, which contributes to better cardiovascular health.
What nutrients are in garlic?
Garlic also contains B vitamins, thiamine and pyridoxine, which have been found to alleviate fatigue (and may explain why the ancient Greeks gave garlic to Olympian athletes to increase their stamina). Thiamine is also associated with eye health, helping to prevent cataracts and possibly even reversing optical nerve damage. And as a natural source of vitamin C, garlic gives our immune systems a generous boost too.
Why is garlic good for us?
In addition, garlic possesses a wealth of anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties, earning it a reputation for fighting disease as an entirely natural but potent antibiotic - effective in some cases against antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Anecdotal evidence suggests it also has antiviral properties, perhaps thanks to the presence of the mineral selenium, which has been shown to inhibit the spread of viral infections.
What's the best way to eat garlic for health?
With these multi-faceted medicinal properties, it's easy to see why ancient civilisations considered garlic their one-stop first-aid kit. It's worth remembering though that to benefit fully from garlic's health-boosting qualities, it's best to eat garlic cloves when they are raw, or very lightly cooked, before the valuable enzymes and nutrients are denatured by the heat of cooking. Try finely slicing a few raw cloves of milder-tasting Green Garlic into a salad, or spread some crushed garlic straight onto olive oil-slicked bruschetta for a healthy take on garlic bread. Garlic pesto on pasta or salmon steaks is another great way to consume raw garlic. Not only will you enjoy the unique flavour of fresh garlic, but you'll be topping up your immune system with one of nature's most powerful medicines.
For more inspiring ideas on how to cook with garlic, explore The Garlic Farm 's book of immune-boosting garlic recipes, 'The Goodness Of Garlic', written by our own Natasha Edwards, daughter of garlic farmer Colin Boswell.