Garlic belongs to the onion family and is one of the oldest cultivated crops. It has been used as both a food and a medicine for thousands of years. It can be grown all over the world in any mild climate. The largest part of the world's garlic comes from China, followed by India and Eqypt.
High quality garlic bulbs are clean and white with a dried neck and outer skin and quite firm to the touch. Garlic should be avoided if there are signs of black mould or if it is soft or spongy.
It is a rich source of phytonutrients and antioxidants which seem to give it some amazing medical properties. It is said to treat or prevent a number of conditions including cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, obesity, atherosclerosis or hardening of the arteries, diabetes etc. It has also found to be helpful in cleansing the blood of excess glucose and even lowering blood cholesterol levels. It can be used as an antiseptic and there are claims that it can help to prevent infection and boost the immune system.
Allicin is the compound that gives garlic its pungent odour and it seems to have antibiotic and antifungal properties. It can help to alleviate a sore throat and can even help to fight the common cold. The allicin is released when cloves of garlic are chewed, chopped or crushed. Allicin is unstable when exposed to the air and quickly breaks down into other compounds so garlic cloves should be consumed soon after chopping or crushing.
The unfortunate side effect of garlic is bad breath. This can be largely avoided by taking garlic supplements. Enteric coated garlic capsules pass through the stomach and are absorbed in the small intestine. This gives a more complete absorption of allicin and avoids the problem of bad breath.