By on September 1, 2010 in Food, History

Ancient Legacy

During the times of King Tut, 10 pounds of it was enough to buy a healthy young slave. When Moses led the Hebrews out of Egypt, they spoke of missing its flavor and aroma greatly. Koreans ate copious amounts of it before trekking through mountain regions, believing the pungent smell emanating from their breath and pores would ward of tiger attacks.

The history of garlic, also known as the “stinking rose”, is a wild and adventurous one. Over the last 4,000 years of human history, the potent bulb has been both cherished and despised. It has been thought of as a miracle cure and repellant to ward off everything from pesky insects to blood-sucking vampires. It has also been shunned and banned for its overwhelming pungency.

In ancient Greece, military leaders fed garlic to their soldiers, believing that it gave them great courage and strength during battles. Olympic athletes used it as a performance-enhancing drug. During the Middle Ages, garlic was believed to kill the plague and as a result, long strands of bulbs could be seen hanging on the doors, windows and in the kitchens of many homes.

Many in Western cultures reviled garlic, but it reached the pinnacle of its unsavory perception in 17th century England when it was declared wrongful for proper ladies to consume. In more recent history, heated conflict has resulted in the bulb itself being turned into a projectile weapon.

Battle of the Bulb

The year was 1987 and in the Shandong Province in China, inflation had reached 9 percent annually. Vegetable prices had risen nearly 18 percent in the first half of the year alone.

Harsh economic times were causing many Chinese to suffer greatly. Communist officials, in their haste, managed to mismanage the marketing of numerous crops including garlic. A massive slump in prices and profits was the result. This was proof yet again that the distribution system in China needed to be streamlined. Poor peasant traders felt the sting and they were absolutely furious at the government. The result was what would come to be known as the “Congshan Garlic Incident”, named after the town in which it was primarily focused.

The peasants, wanting to retaliate and make a strong statement, gathered up as many garlic bulbs as they could find. By the time they were done, they had thousands of bulbs loaded into baskets. They then marched through the province and found areas where the officials gathered in groups. Showing them that they meant business, the peasants proceeded to hurl bulbs of garlic at them like baseballs. The unarmed officials, shocked that they were under the attack of garlic, had no choice but retreat. The “Congshan Garlic Incident” did far more than shine a spotlight on marketing and distribution; it made it clear that faulty politics and lack of social discipline were harming the society as a whole.

In recent years, China has sorted out many of the problems caused the above incident. And the world has come to know garlic in new and healthier ways.  

Ultimate Superfood

Numerous cultures throughout history have believed that garlic has abilities to prevent and cure a plethora of physical ailments. But it has only been in the last two decades or so that several landmark studies have proven how much of a superfood garlic really is.

Studies have shown that due to the effects of allicin, an active component in garlic, people who take regular daily supplements of garlic are likely to catch 50 percent fewer colds. Garlic taken during colds can help to reduce the duration and severity of the cold. The potent bulb is in fact known to kill 23 types of bacteria in all, including salmonella. One study even found that raw garlic juice is as effective penicillin.

Garlic is chock full of vitamins including A, B and C, all of which help to fight carcinogens in the body. When it has been cooked, it produces a compound known as diallyldisulphide-oxide, which has been proven in studies to lower cholesterol. Other compounds found within garlic have been shown to regulate blood sugar, detoxify the liver and stimulate circulation in the blood.

Though there has not been as much research done in regards to garlic’s sexually enhancing properties, it is believed by many to be a powerful aphrodisiac.

Aromatic Aphrodisiac

Looking for a non-pharmaceutical alternative to Viagra? Garlic my just be your answer. Many cultures consider it to be a powerful aphrodisiac and some even say that it can increase a man’s sperm count.

In Palestinian tradition, a man who wears a clove of garlic in his pants is guaranteed to have a lively wedding night. In Tibet, monks are prohibited from entering the monastery if they have eaten garlic, fearing that their passions will be inflamed and they will be unable to meditate. A recent study by Berlin University suggests that due to garlic’s powerful ability to stimulate blood circulation, it has the ability to enhance the sexual performance in some men. Perhaps the biggest believers in the aphrodisiacal powers of garlic are those that reside on the island of Corfu in Greece. There, widowers who are set to remarry eat a plethora of garlic-based dishes on their wedding day with the belief that it will provide a marriage full of passion. Numerous priests on the island often tell women that if they eat large daily servings of raw garlic, they will be able to produce children.

Ultimately, the best way for garlic to work as an aphrodisiac is for both lovers to partake in eating it. That way the pungent smell will be a two-way street.  

Steeped in Superstition

The powers of garlic have been steeped in superstition for years. Today, quantifiable research has proven that garlic does in fact have some amazing properties that offer us natural ways to prevent certain health problems and cure certain ailments. It is also among a small, but powerful group of natural stimulants that can enhance mood and pleasure in mostly subtle ways. In fact, a few Tusker office employees swear by its powers and consume vast amounts of straight garlic. When Eddie Frank is back in the office, this practice ceases abruptly.

For those who are not offended by the bulb’s pungent smell, garlic is a lifelong companion with potency enough to satisfy taste, as well as other desires.


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