Buffy’s Vampire Slayer, or Amazingly Helpful Food Stuff

Today is All Hallows’ Eve, a day for the ghoulies and the ghosties, and one more chance to talk about a plant with a long spooky history with human kind: garlic. We know it today for both its health properties (discussed later), and its use to keep the Lost Boys lost (if you do not get the reference, Google it). 

Allium sativum is a member of the Amaryllidaceae family along with onions, leeks, chives, amaryllis, and daffodils, to name a few. It is native to Asia; the Yunnan province specifically. China is the largest producer of this long cultivated bulb. However, with such a long history with many ancient cultures from China to the Mediterranean, it is possible the native range of this bulb stretches across the globe. Not surprising, considering many members of the Allium genus adapt to a wide variety of soils and climates. It is an adaptive advantage of the bulb, actually its  leaves, that functions as a storehouse against harsh times. A. sativum comes in two types: soft- and hardneck. Softneck varieties are most commonly found in the grocery store due to their longer shelf life.

Garlic has been known to human civilizations beyond the Great Wall for many millennia, generating many stories.  Bloodsucking slavic aristocrats notwithstanding, garlic has been used as an almost universal ward against evil, however it is being defined. The ancient Greeks offered garlic to Hecate, goddess of the underworld. Do not bring up the topic of garlic to a native of the Indian subcontinent. It is considered a member of one of the untouchable food groups and was known as a slayer of monsters. When garlic was introduced to South America, the Inca thought it could ward off a bull. Braided garlic was worn by those living amongst the plague as a means of warding off disease. With potent smells perhaps one would not have needed to mask up then as everyone would remain very socially distant from you, and maybe that was the point.

There is no doubt of garlic’s pungent, odiferous productions, as witnessed by the universal use to expel the undesirable in your environment, but are there any pluses to garlic? Many cultures used garlic to inculcate strength and courage. Today, garlic is known to have some upsides. Garlic is thought to improve several aspects of the cardiovascular system by increasing blood flow, easing hypertension, lowering cholesterol and triglyceride levels, and showing anti-inflammatory and antioxidative results among others.

To me, garlic is just a great addition to pretty much any culinary dish I whip up, but my celebrity endorsement is not worth much, since I stink at the kitchen stove duty – and that has nothing to do with garlic.

Josh Steffen, Horticulture and Facilities Manager

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