Warding off the evil eye and other uses for garlic

Nathan Baker • Jun 9, 2019 at 12:00 AM

"Eat onions in March and garlic in May

Then the rest of the year, your doctor can play."

— Old folk rhyme

This week, I’ve gone gaga for garlic.

Noticing that the leaves were drying on my Chinese pink variety after I plucked their scapes a few weeks ago, I thought I’d ruined the harvest.

It seemed a little too early to dig, but having nothing to lose, I carefully pulled one of the stalks out of the ground and crossed my fingers, hoping to not have a shriveled abomination at the end.

To my surprise, I found a decent-sized, pink-streaked bulb with a mess of stringy roots snaking out of the bottom. I quickly, but gently, unearthed the rest of the Chinese pink.

Most were in pretty good condition, save one whose cloves had separated underground — I’m planning to use that one first, because it won’t keep for very long without its protective skin.

I thought about leaving the other variety, listed only generically as “Garlic” on the seed clove label, in the ground, but a few days later, my impatience got the best of me. I dug them out, too, and got a yield of smaller, but still ready to be harvested, bulbs.

About a dozen bulbs are now curing out of the sun in my grow room. When they’re cured in a couple of weeks, I’m going to try braiding them together for storage.

My partner, when I waved the handful of bulbs and stalks at her like a proud hunter who had just taken down a prize buck, asked, “What are we ever going to do with all that garlic?”

Though her criticism was as sharp and biting as the garlic on which she cast her skeptical eye, I think she’ll soon be singing a different tune.

I, like many cooks, use double the number of cloves recommended on recipes, so I’m not sure what I’ve got will last through until next year. At least two of the bulbs will be sacrificed for planting in the fall.

And, in addition to eating, there are tons of uses for the stuff.

For thousands of years, cultivated garlic has been used for medicine and spiritual protections. Greek athletes ate garlic to increase their strength and stamina. Ancient Egyptians administered garlic to slaves in their daily rations for similar fortifying reasons.

Some cultures believed garlic could be used to ward off the evil eye, a spirit or energy that could cause misfortune. Scholars believe these and similar practices eventually led to garlic’s role as a repellant in modern vampire lore.

Even some modern medical studies have suggested garlic can help reduce blood pressure and cholesterol, boost the immune system and fight off infections.

When the doubting partner and I are running around with super-strength, free of evil spirits and cholesterol, I think she’ll be eating crow. It goes great with a little roasted garlic. 

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