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Garlic (allium sativum)

A perennial bulb (but generally grown as a annual), and member of the lilaceae family related to the onion, but formed from a cluster of curved cloves around a central stem; used to enhance the flavour of dishes, and now also thought to have health-giving properties, as garlic contains allyl methyl trisulphide, which prevents blood clotting.

Not much used by the ancient Greeks (and still isn't).

The Roman aristocracy disliked the strong flavour, but fed it to their soldiers to give them strength and courage, but at the same time passing a law forbidding people to enter the temple of Cybele after eating garlic.

Even today, heavy use of garlic is confined to Sicily and the south of the country – most of Italy preferring basil, marjoram, sage, thyme and oregano.

The ancient Egyptians loved garlic, but it is thought to have been abhorred in India (as were onions). The strong-scented bulbs were forbidden in many places; anyone who wanted to eat them had to go out of town to do so.

The strong garlic odour can actually be suppressed by eating fresh parsley along with it. See ‘Garlic butter’; ‘Garlic, Elephant’; ‘Garlic, Health Benefits’; ‘Garlic, other uses’; ‘Garlic, to grow your own’

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