Monday, October 22, 2012

Garlic Wards Off Vampires. And Other Allium Health Benefits

Last weekend the garlic (allium sativum), onions, and shallots, were planted in our home farm-ette.
My garden nomenclature defines “farm-ette” as bigger than a typical home garden and with more variety than a typical home garden comprised of tomatoes, basil and a few other herbs.

Our farm-ette rewards us with asparagus, brussel sprouts, shisito peppers, potatoes, butternut squash, melon, radish, lettuce, and the aforementioned garlic, onions,, shallot, potatoes, tomatoes, and lots of herbs. 
And of special note is the Ground Cherry tomato, P. pruinosa – that grows in their own kind of a sexy scarf!  
The fruit grows inside a paper-like husk – not unlike the bigger tomatillo.  
I learned that these tart-sweet berries were used by the Pilgrims to make excellent pies, jams and preserves.  
I pop them, straight-away, fresh, into salads and into my waiting mouth!

This year’s garlic monikers are too sweet not to share.  
The names are flirty and cute.
One of the garlic varieties we planted is Music – how much do you love that?!
Another is Duganski.  Sounds like the guy at the corner end of the tavern bar! And then there is the exotic, cinema-sounding “Indochine” sounding Inchelium Red Garlic.
Together with the Dutch yellow shallots the close to a hundred allium herb bulbs, split into their cloves and put to sleep for the winter in the prepared soil of our farm-ette.   

There truly is nothing like homegrown garlic, I have to say. 
It is so sweet, juicy, light and spirited that I can eat it raw--with abandon. 
Recently, I noted a food memory from my high school boyfriend, Thom’s grandfather – a Sicilian.  At that time, I was horrified to see him take a garlic clove from the kitchen table’s fruit bowl.
In my house that bowl was stocked with standard-issue apples or oranges or pears, depending on the season.
But Thom’s grandfather, schooled in the Italian way, could pick up a clove of garlic and just bite into it  -- like an apple.
But now, I understand that flavor attraction.  I am in total simpatico.

I revere the homegrown garlic so much that I now offer it as a hostess gift to some of my lucky dinner guests.
I present the garlic nestled into pretty-colored tissue paper tucked into a happy gift bag. 
Some gift recipients appear somewhat startled to learn I gave them a garlic.  
But later, they can't help but thank me, telling me what a delicious treat it is. It's a gift that keeps giving!

I had been struggling a bit to describe the texture of a fresh, homegrown garlic when Chef Joe Isidori, a featured chef in my book: The Hamptons & Long Island Homegrown Cookbook, from Southfork Kitchen and his newest restaurant, Brooklyn's Arthur on Smith, told the guests at a recent book singing event at the New York City Rizzoli Bookstore event. 
He said his homegrown garlic is like a water chestnut. 
"That’s it,"  I squealed in agreement! 
Yes, the texture of homegrown garlic s akin to a water chestnut because it shares the characteristics of crunchy, juicy and light and flavorful. 
Homegrown garlic is nothing like the overbearing, petulant garlic that most are accustomed to. And that lingers on the breath and the clothes for far too long.

Not so for homegrown garlic. 
Homegrown garlic is a refreshing, healthy addiction.

Did you know that?

·            Garlic can ward off vampires!

·            Garlic is rich in antioxidants which help destroy free radicals

·            Garlic is used to prevent heart disease, including atherosclerosis, high cholestral, high blood pressure
        and boosts the immune system.

·           Garlic may also protect against cancer

·           Garlic may help prevent the common cold

·            Gravediggers in 18th Century France drank crushed garlic in wine, believing it would protect them
        from the plague.

·            World War I & II soldiers were given garlic to prevent gangrene.

·           China is the world’s largest producer of garlic, followed by India  

·            Egyptians fed it to the workers as they built the pyramids

·           Alliums are beautiful plants with puffy Afro-like heads on a slender tall reed

·           The word garlic comes from Old English: garleac which means Spear Leek

  But in the end – it’s all about the taste.  And homegrown garlic is unrivaled in its flavor. 
  And how it complements almost everything it cozies up to.
  So get out and plant your garlic. Even if it’s in your containers. 

  You will thank me next year.

Some of this year's allium harvest from our farm-ette

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