The Stinking Rose
In most kitchens, if you’re not using garlic, you’re not really cooking. Garlic is one of the most popular seasoning herbs. It is used in almost every form of cooking and in almost all cuisines around the world. Originally from India or Central Asia, it is now grown worldwide with lesser success in the most northern climates. The word garlic comes from Old English garleac, meaning “spear leek.” Garlic is a member of the lily family and a close relative of the onion. Cultivation of garlic dates back over 6,000 years, and has long been a staple in the Mediterranean region. Egyptians worshipped garlic and placed clay models of garlic bulbs in the tomb of Tutankhamen. In some areas it was even used as currency. According to folklore garlic repelled vampires, protected against the Evil Eye, and warded off jealous nymphs that terrorized pregnant women and engaged maidens. It has also been considered an aphrodisiac down through the ages.
Garlic is known by many names such as the stinking rose, a phrase going back to Greek and Roman times. The stinking part is rather obvious but the rose part takes a little imagination. When you are looking at the garlic blossom before it opens to reveal the flower, it looks remarkably like a rose bloom just before it opens. It is much smaller, but then most roses were smaller a couple of thousand years ago. Slang of the 1920’s referred to garlic as Bronx vanilla, halitosis, and Italian perfume.
Garlic was not a favorite of foodies in the United States until the first quarter of the twentieth century. It could only be found in ethnic dishes in working-class neighborhoods. But, by 1940, America had embraced garlic, finally recognizing its value as not only a seasoning, but as an ingredient in recipes. Today, Americans alone consume more than 250 million pounds of garlic annually.
There are many different varieties of garlic including American garlic, Mexican garlic, Italian garlic, elephant garlic and green garlic.
There are also many processed variations available as well. There is fresh, roasted, garlic flakes (aka instant garlic), garlic powder, garlic granules, garlic salt, garlic extract and garlic juice. Garlic tablets are also available at health food stores. To lessen the effect of garlic breath, you might try eating some fresh parsley. This won’t take it away completely, but it will help.
Garlic is an herb and should be used to enhance not overpower the other flavors of the food being prepared.