‘Having brought about the fall of man.
Satan stepped from the garden of E den;
where his right foot first rested. the anion plant sprang up, and where his Ieftfont met the ground, there grew garlic. '
Every now and then 1 come across an English cookery book or a gardening guide with a grow-your-own herb section. and under the heading Garlic (Allium Sativum) lies the culinary warning ‘use with care — a little goes a long way’ or ‘not usually enjoyed in large quantities'. Either these books have not been revised since the 1930s or this pussyfoot attitude to pungent ﬂavours is still doing the rounds.
roooaonmx Satan’s stimulant
Holding her breath, Hannah Robinson discovers the delights of garlic and the folklore that has grown in its pungent wake.
It was back in Shakespeare‘s time. following the bubonic plague. that this namby-pambiness developed. in his excellent book Gar/iv. the Life Blood of God Health. Stephen Fulder explains how garlic became a mark of class: ‘An'stocratic people began to express their refinement through a new. starched cleanliness. Pungent smells became the province of the poor — for the rich it was all lavender and roses. As the process continued. bland tastes and odours became associated with self-discipline. primness and restraint. Garlic was associated with the forbidden passions indulged in by Mediterranean peoples and the repellent grubbiness of the working class.‘
As long ago as the 1920s. Ford Madox
' Ford was telling his famous story
‘Garlic and a lady’. about the model sacked from work for smelling of garlic. who found solace over the bank holiday weekend in her favourite dish. It was Poulet Beamais. chicken stuffed with 21bs of garlic, which she ate. ‘gloomily. but with what rapture internally — she had for that space of time lived on hardly anything but the usually eschewed herb'. Returning to pick up her last pay cheque on the Tuesday following the previous Friday‘s dismissal. she was proclaimed by her employers devoid of the smell of garlic and was happily reinstated in her modelling career. The point being that you should always eat garlic in large
quantities. Elizabeth David repeated this tale in ‘French Country Cooking'. published in l951. You'd have thought by now we would be rid of imitating, timorous warnings.
It is ironic that garlic became associated with dininess and therefore ill health. The old-wives‘ tale that it was a deterrent to the plague has been backed by scientiﬁc evidence. Garlic is one of the tnost medically potent natural substances available. lts health- giving properties are endless — Stephen Fulder calls it ‘a veritable witches' brew of substances‘. The reason Mediterranean countries can live off saturated banquets of red meat. red wine. cream and olive oil and yet Scotland has the highest heart-attack rate is almost entirely down to their love. and our dearth, of garlic. With incredible effectiveness, garlic seems to wash away the cholesterol build-up on blood vessel walls. which leads to blocked arteries. high blood pressure and coronary failure. It is also a cure for fungal infections such as athlete’s foot. cystitis and thrush and has been used in the past to treat leprosy, cholera and typhoid.
The compound responsible for these medicinal effects is the highly reactive allicin, found in large quantities in a
Garlic was associated with the forbidden passions indulged In by Mediterranean peoples and the repellent grubblness oi the working class.
clove of garlic and released on crushing. forming sulphides which give garlic its intense smell. Garlic lingers so lovingly on your breath because these sulphides are absorbed into the blood and released through the lungs on exhalation — toothpaste just doesn‘t reach that far. The answer is not to fight it. Think of all the advantages. Not only will you lower your blood pressure and cut out infections. your blood will taste hideous to vampires and insects.
Garlic is a useful insect repellent in the garden — the smell of most herbs is an aphrodisiac to aphids, but if you plant the occasional garlic bulb among them it will guard against green fly. If you're lucky, you might just catch the last ofthe wild garlic growing abundantly on river banks in great green clumps with broad leaves and white ﬂowers. looking a bit like lily of the valley. You can’t mistake it — that garlicky smell will hit you from yards away. The leaves and stalks are wonderful chopped into salads or used instead of spring onions.
Currently making an appearance in some British delicatessens and grocers is imported fresh or wet garlic: thick. soft white bulbs about the size of tangerines. Also called elephant garlic. this is the'bulb before it has been dried out in the sun. The skin and stalk. not yet thin and papery. are like the outer white leaves of a leek and the cloves are crunchy and juicy like water chestnuts. The ﬂavour seems stronger than ordinary garlic. but crisper. cleaner — more invigorating. Scotherbs grew :1
The list .‘ IS Jim ["05 .9