Thanks to Bram Stoker’s Dracula, everyone is aware of the power of garlic to ward off vampires, evil spirits and the like. It is rich in folklore, dating back—by some reports—over 7,000 years. Garlic has been found in the tombs of Ancient Egyptian Kings and was given to their slaves as part of their diet to ward off illness and increase strength and endurance. Greek soldiers and athletes used garlic for these same properties and Roman soldiers consumed garlic before battle for courage. The Egyptians swore on garlic, invoking the Ancient deities, much as we use the Bible in courtrooms today.
Garlic was placed on piles of stones at cross-roads by the ancient Greeks as a protection from demons as it caused them to become confused and lose their way. This also served as a meal for Hecate, the goddess of the wilderness. Europeans believed garlic had the power to ward off the evil eye and Central Europeans considered it a deterrent against devils, vampires, werewolves and the like. Dreaming of garlic in the house is considered lucky and to dream of eating garlic means you will discover hidden secrets.
Garlic originated in Central Asia. It derives its name from the Old English garleac—spear leek. The Greeks had another name for it—scorodon—the “stinking rose.” Indeed, its pungent odor—the bulb gained the sobriquet halitosis during the 1920’s—appears to be a critical part in its role as a natural insecticide. And pungent bulbs (garlic included) have been used for centuries to aid in the prevention and fighting of the common cold. The Cherokee used it as an expectorant for coughs and for croup. Modern science supports its role as a preventative, although experts caution that it has not been proven to fight pre-existing colds.
Garlic is a heart healthy food. Components of it aid in lowing blood pressure, as well as helping to prevent blood clots. Because of these factors alone, be sure to check with your doctor if you are on any medications before using garlic in quantity. Components of garlic also aid to reduce oxidative damage to blood vessel linings, a key factor in increasing risk for cardiovascular disease, including heart attack and atherosclerosis, commonly, hardening of the arteries. Garlic is very high in vitamin B6 and high in vitamin C. It is also a rich source of Manganese, which helps your body maintain strong bones, nerves and blood sugar levels. It also helps to promote optimal function of the thyroid and protects your cells from free-radical damage.
Garlic is an important ingredient in most spaghetti sauces, goulash and many tomato-based foods. It is highly prized in Italian and Oriental cuisines and blends its unique flavor well with chicken, shrimp and lemon. To make the most of its nutritional value, chop garlic and let rest for a bit before using; toss into the recipe towards the end of the cooking process.
And about vampires? It turns out garlic really does keep the bloodsuckers away—blood sucking mosquitoes, that is.
¾ cup butter
¼ cup chopped onion
3 to 4 garlic cloves, chopped
1 pound uncooked med. shrimp, deveined
¼ cup dry white wine
2 T. fresh lemon juice
Salt and ground pepper
Melt butter in medium skillet over low heat. Add onion and garlic; sauté until golden. Add shrimp and stir just until pink. Remove shrimp and place in ovenproof dish. Cover lightly and keep warm. Add wine and lemon juice to skillet and simmer about 2 to 3 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper and pour over shrimp. Serve with rice or noodles.
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