Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Garlic


I dug up a cluster of garlic this weekend. It is a variety of wild garlic which has been growing in the backyard for almost 30 years. Given the several decades it has been in the ground, I was somewhat unimpressed with the size and progeny that the single garlic plant produced. The taste is sweet and isn’t as strong as other varieties. One bulb is sufficient for several pieces of garlic bread.

Garlic and onions are in the allium family. I have heard that some people give garlic to dogs to keep the fleas off, but the thiosulfates in alliums can cause hemolytic anemia which causes red blood cells to burst. According to an abstract I read about onions, five water buffalo in Brazil died of renal failure from eating large quantities of onions that had been left in their pasture. Most animals avoid eating alliums probably because they can sense the toxicity. This is the reason why a garlic plant could be buried for almost 30 years without some critter digging it up and carrying it away. The chickens won’t even eat garlic and they eat absolutely everything. I watched one of them pick up a metal washer and eat it. I accidentally left a few young whole garlic plants in the yard but they didn’t touch them. If a chicken does eat an onion, the onion taste winds up in the egg. I guess it similar to when people eat a large amount of garlic and the smell comes out through the pores. 

It is a little disturbing that humans regularly consume a plant which kills many other animals, but garlic supposedly has numerous health benefits. The most touted benefit is that it helps prevent heart disease and lowers cholesterol. It was used by Native Americans as a cough suppressant. Alliums do have high vitamin C content which would have been very useful to people in the winter when other fresh fruits and vegetables were not available.

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