Garlic is the bulb of the garlic plant, which is a member of the lily family. The plant has long flat leaves and a’ bunch of small white star-shaped flowers at the top of each flower stem. The bulb is a collec-tion of ‘cloves’ held together by the outer skin.
It is a powerful flavouring much used in Mediterranean and Eastern food. The bulb of the plant, when crushed, releases an acrid oil which is an important constituent of savoury dishes, sauces and salad dressings of all kinds.
The quantity of garlic used varies from country to country and from recipe to recipe – from half a clove to whole bulbs of garlic. When whole garlic bulbs are boiled and then used in a dish, the flavour is not as strong as expected. Garlic cloves are usually peeled and then crushed in a garlic press, pounded in a mortar or crushed with the flat side of a knife blade. They are also used whole, chopped and slivered.
Garlic is reputedly beneficial to health, particularly in building up resistance to disease. It is mentioned in the Greek classics as being an integral part of the diet of training athletes, while the Romans attributed magical powers to it. In the sixteenth century, people frequently carried a few cloves of garlic in their pocket to guard against the plague.