The smell of garlic can be removed by running your hands under cold water while rubbing a stainless steel object.
Garlic is often grown among flowers or root vegetables as a companion plant to protect other plants from being attacked by pests. In some small garden plots, rows of garlic are planted along the perimeter to act as a deterrent barrier.
Garlic extracts have also been used as deterrents. In Europe these extracts are freeze dried and marketed as garlic pellets. The pellets are dissolved in water and then sprayed onto plants to protect them from being attached by greenfly or caterpillars. A disadvantage of these extracts is that the active sulphurous compounds have a pungent smell and this smell can mask the perfume of roses and other aromatic plants.
With a history of human use of over 7,000 years, garlic is native to central Asia, and has long been a staple in the Mediterranean region, as well as a frequent seasoning in Asia, Africa, and Europe. It was known to Ancient Egyptians, and has been used for both culinary and medicinal purposes.
It was used in Egypt by 3000 BC. It was also known by the advanced ancient civilizations of the Indus Valley, in what today is Pakistan and western India. From here it spread to China. The Spanish, Portuguese and French introduced it to the New World.
The ancient Indians valued the medicinal properties of garlic and thought it to be an aphrodisiac. But it was not considered to be suitable food for the upper classes who despised its strong odor. It was also forbidden by monks who believed it to be a stimulant which aroused passions. Widows, adolescents and those who had taken up a vow or were fasting could not eat garlic because of its stimulant quality.
It appears in the Sanskrit medical treatise, the Charaka Samhita dating from around the 2nd century BC to the 2nd century AD. Its medicinal properties were also described in the Navanitaka text written in the 4th century AD by Buddhists. This is a literature is written in a mixture of Sanskrit and Prakrit languages and forms part of the Bower Manuscripts found by Lt. H. Bower in Chinese Turkestan in the late 19th century. It was believed to cure several illnesses and promote a long life.
Garlic also has a history of use in Ayurvedic medicine. It was thought to possess five of the six rasas or tastes defined in the Ayurvedic system, only missing the sour taste. This gave it its Sanskrit name, lasuna (or rasuna). It was thought that hanging garlic bulbs on doors would check the spread of diseases such as smallpox.
Although highly regarded as a medicine, garlic was avoided in cookery. The Buddhists and Jains avoided eating it as did high-born Hindus and Brahmins. The Chinese pilgrim Xuan Zang visiting the sub-continent in the 7th century AD, stated that the food use of garlic was unknown, which would have been particularly true of the Buddhist circles in which he moved.
This attitude changed with the centuries and by the period of Muslim rule, garlic, and onion were, and continue to be, an indispensable trio of flavours in cuisines of South Asia.
Today, garlic is currently grown in temperate and tropical regions all over the world, and many different cultivated types have been developed to suit different climates.
Garlic is an upright plant that grows up to about 24-48 inches tall. The long, sword-shaped leaves grow from the bulb beneath the surface of the soil. The bulbs are rounded and composed of several smaller bulbs called cloves. Cloves and bulbs are covered by a white papery coat and are used in both cookery and medicine.
Arishtha, lashuna (Sanskrit)
Lasan (Hindu and Gujarat)
Botanical name: Allium sativum
Family: Alliaceae, the onion family