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Garlic (Allium sativum)
Garlic is the strongest-flavored member of the onion family. The enzyme allicin, which is the source of both odor as well as therapeutic effect/value, is released only when garlic cloves are crushed or cut. The garlic plant has a long folk history. From early times it was believed to ward off diseases and infections and to confer strength. For these reasons the ancient Egyptians and Romans fed it to laborers who built the pyramids and other monuments. Garlic has had wide recognition for its fungicidal, germicidal, antiseptic and tonic uses wherever it is grown. Recent research has not only confirmed such ancient folk knowledge but modern studies can now indicate how garlic aids in healing.
The flowers, leaves, root and seed of the garlic are all edible. Its seeds are sprouted and used in salads; the leaves are milder in flavor and can be eaten raw or cooked; the flowering stems are used as a flavoring. But it is the edible bulb which has been used the longest for its nutritious, healthful and medicinal properties. Quite often the upper and priestly classes found its odor repugnant while it was mainly the poor who ate it. But today no kitchen that boasts of fine cooking would be without a braid of fresh garlic.
The flowers of the garlic are hermaphroditic; having both male and female organs; and are pollinated by insects and bees. It thrives in full sunlight and prefers light, moist well-drained soil as the bulb would rot in a wet soil. While garlic is a good neighbor to most plants it inhibits the growth of legumes.
The juice from the bulb is an effective insect repellent and it can also ease the pain from insect stings. However as a topical application garlic is not as popular because of its powerful smell! The juice is also a strong adhesive, a fungicide, and is thought to repel rabbits, deer, moles and insects. And let’s not forget that along with garden pests, garlic was also thought to repel evil spirits and vampires!
artwork and text by milly acharya © 2004