As far back as we know, and further for all we can tell, mankind has utilized vegetables, herbs, and spices in its endeavor to enhance food. Of all the ingredients in all the different cuisines, there is one vegetable that stands alone as King of the Super-Foods and Ruler of the Palate… garlic.
Famous for its use in Italian, French, and Indian recipes, garlic may very well be the most complex and intriguing flavor enhancer available. With a plethora of organosulfur and non-sulfur compounds contributing to its diverse chemical composition, it has a lot going for it when it comes to aroma and flavor, and even more when it comes to health benefits.
Gamma-glutamyl Cysteine, Allixin, cysteine sulfoxides, and saponins are a few of the many key compounds that make garlic such a potent health advocate, and the list of benefits is quite long. It is an antibacterial and antiviral agent, can cure skin infections, thin the blood as to prevent clots, lower blood pressure, protect the heart from hardening arteries, lower cholesterol, reduce and alleviate allergies, prevent and lessen respiratory problems, prevent diabetes, reduce warts and corns, prevent cancer, raise metabolism, can act as an aphrodisiac, cure toothaches, and may contribute to weight loss. Some of these attributes, and others not mentioned, are debated by scientists as there are varying results; however, garlic has proven to be effective in a great many aspects of lessening health risks.
One must be aware that in order to take advantage of such amazing health benefits, garlic must be prepared a certain way. Adding it to a meal raw is absolutely the best way to do this, but if it must be cooked, it must be chopped, minced, or diced and left to sit for at least 10 minutes. If cooked too thoroughly, for too long, or not left to sit before cooking, the active compounds become compromised and the benefits and flavor are severely reduced. One must remember not to add the garlic until the meal is almost done cooking.
Consumption of garlic is key to both a great meal and an amazing life. Ancient and modern cultures alike share an appreciation for its versatility in the kitchen. Thanks to modern science, we can also appreciate it for doing what so much of our food neglects to: enhancing our quality of life. Not many foods available today can boast such a voluptuous list of uses and benefits, so it’s important that we use it wherever and whenever possible.