Garlic. We often have it on hand, and we eat it all the time, but how much do we really know about this pungent vegetable? In honor of Garlic Day, we thought we’d put a post together on some of the facts, so next time you mince, mash or chop, you’ll know a bit more about what makes garlic so special.

What is garlic?

It’s a member of the onion family, known as Allium, and a relative of shallots, leeks and chive. Garlic is native to central Asia, though its use has spread across the world due to its taste properties as well as its healing capacity. China Is the biggest grower of garlic in the world, which you probably know if you’ve ever bought it.

A brief history of garlic

Garlic has been around for a long time. The ancient Egyptians knew about it, and considered it a medicinal food. It was fed to slaves to help them build the pyramids and stave off illness. The vegetable is inscribed on many Egyptian crypts. Other civilizations were fans of garlic as well. It was well-used among the ancient Chinese, Greeks, Tibetans and Romans, and even gets a mention in the bible.

Eating it

Not just the bulbs are edible. You can eat the leaves, flowers and heads, which are less potent than the bulbs. Though we eat it in quantities too small to provide much nutritional benefit, garlic does contain many essential vitamins and minerals, including vitamins B and C, manganese, calcium, iron and more.

Health properties

Garlic has long been considered a magical plant, recommended through time as a cure for stomach ailments, snakebites, colic and parasites—and much, much more. What about it’s medicinal merit today? An article from 2007 notes that garlic does have real health properties, namely it can increase blood flow and reduce blood pressure by boosting our supply of hydrogen sulfide. This is better explained here by the New York Times.

A study from 2014 found that garlic helped prevent and fight against the common cold, to the delight of everyone’s grandparents, who have been saying that for years. Basically, in the study, people who took garlic tablets got fewer colds over the winter than those who took placebo tablets.

So, in a nutshell, garlic really is an amazing vegetable. It helps our food taste rich and complex, it’s great roasted and spread on toast, and it actually does have many real health benefits. It’s my new favorite food.

Garlic is amazing! What do you love most about it? Let us know in the comments below.

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