• Jere Folgert

Garlic Facts! What do You Know About Garlic?

1. The Name "Chicago" may have Originated from Garlic.

City of Chicago, IL

The name "Chicago" may have originated from a Native American word for a wild garlic that grows near Lake Michigan – chicagaoua. The main evidence for the garlic theory is found in the journal of Henri Joutel, a companion of de la Salle’s, who wrote this entry in 1687:

We arrived at a place which is named Checagou, which, according to what we learned, has taken its name from the quantity of garlic which grows in this district, in the woods … a species of garlic in quantity which is not entirely like that of France, having its leaf broader and shorter, and is also not so strong, though its taste closely approaches it but is not like the little onions or the onion of France. (Carl J Weber, 1998).

This wild garlic plant, also known as ramps, is the Allium tricoccum. Ramps grow across the United States and, when crushed, reveals an odor similar to garlic, onions or leeks. Though, those that have tasted the ramps, state it taste more like onions. Ramps were a popular food in spring, and it is believed that Native Americans in the area now known as Chicago, used ramps to make cold medicines, suaves and a cream to ease itchy insect stings.

Wild Ramps

Some historians state that there were many native american words that sounded like "Chicago". It is also likely that “Shikaakwa” was the word or name given to a stream near present-day Chicago. It was the wooded banks along this braided stream and watershed where the wild garlic or “smelly onions” grew.

The most accepted origin of Chicago is the Miami-Illinois word “shikaakwa,” which translates to “smelly onion” or “striped skunk”. Most historians believe that the “onion” version is correct because the Miami-Illinois were known for naming natural landmarks after plants that grew near their homelands. Plant-based naming is also prevalent in other Algonquin languages. The Miami-Illinois people have also left their mark on several rivers in the area, including Indiana’s Salamonie River (from oonsaalamooni siipiiwi, or bloodroot river) and Sugar Creek (from ahsenaamisi siipiiwi, or maple tree sugar river).

It was in 1830 that the small town’s name was officially recorded as “Chicago.”

Over the past decade, pressure on wild leek populations from over-harvesting has dramatically increased throughout the plant’s range. The species Allium tricoccum and Allium tricoccum var. burdickii are native to North America and thrived in the eastern United States and Canada before the first colonists even arrived. Wild leeks are slow to reproduce, and populations take years to recover from any degree of harvesting. Today it’s illegal to harvest ramps in the Chicago area.


Blanchett, S. 2002. Park Service declines to revisit ban on harvesting ramps. [Internet]. 2002 May 3 [cited 2012 April 7]. The Newport Plain Talk. Available from

Weber, Carl J. Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society (1998-)

Vol. 97, No. 2 (Summer, 2004), pp. 169-185. Published by: University of Illinois Press on behalf of the Illinois State Historical Society

“Plant Profile: Allium tricoccum Aiton ramp”. United States Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service. United States Department of Agriculture, 8 May 2012. Web. 8 May 2012. Prairie Moon Nursery, Inc. “Allium tricoccum (wild leek)”. Prairie Moon Nursery, 2012. Web. 24 April 2012.

2. Garlic is best raw.

Scientists now know that the majority of garlic's health benefits originate from microscopic sulfur compounds formed when a garlic clove is broken, chopped, crushed or chewed. Perhaps the most well-known compounds is allicin. Allicin is an unstable compound that is only briefly present in fresh garlic after it’s been cut or crushed. When fresh garlic is chopped or crushed, the enzyme alliinase converts alliin into allicin, which is responsible for the aroma of fresh garlic. The allicin generated is unstable and quickly changes into a series of other sulfur-containing compounds such as diallyl disulfide. Chemical formula: C6H10OS2. Other compounds that may play a role in garlic’s health benefits include diallyl disulfide and s-allyl cysteine. These sulfur compounds enter the body from the digestive tract and travel all over the body, where it applies its organic effects.

Raw Garlic Cloves

Here are some other health benefits of garlic, amplified when raw as cooking dulls some of its nutrient-density:

A. nutrient powerhouse: Organic Garlic is full of vitamins and minerals, including vitamin B6, manganese, selenium, vitamin c, iron, potassium, and copper.

B. It’s anti-inflammatory: Garlic contains allyl sulfides, an anti-inflammatory, cancer-fighting compound that studies have shown to slow the growth rate of cancer cells.

C. It’s good for your liver: Studies have shown that it can protect the liver from some toxins, and help lower blood sugar levels.

D. Chewing and swallowing a raw garlic clove exposes the bacteria to the tough healing properties of garlic, which helps prevent the bacterial action in the gut.

E. The Active Compounds in Raw Garlic Can Reduce Blood Pressure

F. Raw Garlic may Improve Cholesterol Levels, Which May Lower the Risk of Heart Disease; Garlic can lower total and LDL cholesterol. Studies are ongoing.

G. Eating Raw Garlic May Help Detoxify Heavy Metals in the Body. At high doses, the sulfur compounds in garlic have been shown to protect against organ damage from heavy metal toxicity.

Raw Garlic Cloves

H. While Raw Garlic has a reputation for lowering blood pressure, cardiovascular disease and possibly reducing the likelihood of some cancers, many of those benefits are diminished once garlic gets cooked. To help preserve the healing properties, let Raw Garlic rest for about ten minutes after it’s been crushed or minced.

I. A four-week study in employees of a car battery plant (excessive exposure to lead) found that garlic reduced lead levels in the blood by 19%. It also reduced many clinical signs of toxicity, including headaches and blood pressure.

J. As indicated by a number of studies, not only does garlic have nutritional components that are vital for the human body, it can also be used against different diseases. It is particularly important in nutrition and in medicine given that it contains compounds such as, sulfur's compounds (alliin, allicin, diallyl sulfide, ajoene etc.) water, cellulose, amino acids, lipids, etheric oil, complex of fructosans (carbohydrates), steroid saponosides, organic acids, minerals (Mg, Zn, Se, germanium), vitamins (C, A, from B complex), enzymes etc. The action of garlic is manifold. Because of allicin and other sulfur compounds, garlic has antibiotic, antibacterial and antimycotic action, which has been testified by in vitro studies. The allicin is excreted partly by the respiratory organs; therefore garlic is used to treat respiratory tract diseases. The French phytotherapist Lecraec, used garlic tincture in treatment of a patient with pulmonary gangrene. The patient recovered in 17 days. Recent studies have revealed that garlic protects from common cold. For that purpose, patients have been examined during a period of 12 weeks, in the cold season from November to February. The results have demonstrated that those who took garlic were less prone to catching a cold or endured the cold easier than those who were given placebo.

Allicin and other garlic compounds have hypocholesterolemic, hypolipidemic and antihypertensive activity. The anti-cholesterolemic and antilipidemic action of garlic has experimentally been proved in rabbits and rats, and the antihypertensive action of garlic in rats. Garlic protects from LDL cholesterol. It decreases the concentration of triglycerides and cholesterol in blood.Thus far, much clinical research has been conducted on defined preparations of garlic, which indicate hypocholesterolemic and hypotensive action. But, there are also observations in which garlic preparations did not show a considerable decrease of cholesterol in patients with hypercholesterolemia. Probably these opposite views are related to the use of different doses, standardization of garlic preparations, and different period of treatment. Meta-analysis of randomly chosen literary data has demonstrated that garlic is related to decrease of blood pressure in patients with increased systolic pressure but not in patients without increased systolic pressure (Source: Extracts from the history and medical properties of garlic Biljana Bauer Petrovska and Svetlana Cekovska1).

3. Garlic is in the Allium Family.

Allium is a genus of monocotyledonous flowering plants that includes hundreds of species, including the cultivated onion, garlic, scallion, shallot, leek, and chives. The generic name Allium is the Latin word for garlic,and the type species for the genus is Allium sativum which means "cultivated garlic".

The Allium Family

The Allium Genus in this Family was formerly in the Lily Family (Liliaceae). The following Families have been subsumed into this, the Onion & Garlic (Alliaceae) Family: African-Lily Family (Agapanthaceae Family)Jersey-Lily Family (Amaryllidaceae Family)This has tripled the number of Genera under the Onion Family umbrella. Some of these alliums are distinctly ornamental; a few others, notably garlic, leek, Welsh onion, and chive, are common vegetables. All of the edible forms have related flavors and odors that are due principally to a volatile, irritating substance. Garlic (A. sativum) has a long history that parallels that of the onion and leek. The word "garlic" comes from the Anglo-Saxon garleac (gar, meaning "spear" or "lance," and leac meaning "leek"). Homer wrote of it in the ninth century B.C.

4. Botulism (Garlic in Oil ) is a Killer.

Botulism is a potentially fatal food poisoning that has symptoms including blurred or double vision, mumbled speech and difficulty in breathing and progressive paralysis. Without prompt and correct treatment, one-third of those diagnosed with botulism may die. Garlic in oil is very popular, but homemade garlic in oil can cause botulism if not handled correctly. Unrefrigerated garlic-in-oil mixes can foster the growth of clostridium botulinum bacteria, which produces poisons that do not affect the taste or smell of the oil. Spores of this bacteria are commonly found in soil and can be on produce such as garlic. It is virtually impossible to eliminate all traces of miniscule soil particles on garlic heads. These botulinum spores found in soil are harmless when there is oxygen present. Botulism is a killer. Storing garlic in oil is unsafe for the home gardener and cook. Garlic in olive oil is an wonderful culinary union, though never to use oil as a storage medium for garlic (or any other low-acid food such as beets, peas, corn or asparagus).

5. Garlic Contains Vitamins, Minerals and Antioxidants.

A nutrient powerhouse: Garlic is full of vitamins and minerals: 1. potassium, iron, calcium, magnesium, manganese, zinc, selenium, beta-carotene, zeaxanthin, vitamin C and trace amounts of calcium, copper, potassium, phosphorus, iron and vitamin B1 . 2. It's anti-inflammatory: Garlic contains allyl sulfides, an anti-inflammatory, cancer-fighting compound that studies have shown to slow the growth rate of cancer cells.

Garlic typically contain a high concentration of sulfur amino acids that are responsible for their health-promoting features.  One of the classes of these non-volatile sulfur secondary metabolites, S-alk(en)yl-L-cysteine sulfoxides, which are also known as diallylthiosulfinates, are responsible for the characteristic aroma of these crops. The compound alliin is the most common in garlic, while isoalliin is prevalent in onion.   When a cell is damaged in the garlic tissue, either by pests or crushing, the vacuolar enzyme alliinase is released which induces the conversion of alliin into allicin. This enzyme belongs to a family of lyases, and more specifically, a class of carbon-sulfurlyases.  Within a very short period of time, this enzyme transforms alliin into allicin via the exceptionally reactive intermediate, sulfenic acid.   Allicin, which is absent in intact bulbs, is the main component of freshly prepared garlic homogenate. Many health benefits associated with garlic can be attributed to thiosulfinates, especially allicin.

6. Garlic can be used to make Glue.

The gummy fluid that’s in garlic cloves can be used as a glue. This Garlic Glue has been used on delicate projects that involve fragile items like thin papers, porcelain, glass or thin plastics. Begin by crushing garlic cloves to extract the sticky fluid. Collect the juice in a container. Rub the garlic juice on the objects you wish to glue together. Garlic juice works surprisingly well as a bonding agent for smaller jobs. A company in South Korea called JR Company, introduced a Commercial Garlic Glue labeled as "Eco+Friendly" Glue. This natural adhesive invention offers less pollution globally, as no harmful chemicals are used in its production. If your fingers smell like garlic after making this garlic glue, here is one thing that you do to get rid of your garlic hands. Stainless Steel. Stainless steel will be your most effective bet when it comes to getting rid of the odor. Simply rub your hands on a stainless steel object under running water for 2-3 minutes.

7. Garlic Has Antimicrobial Properties.

Plants as a source of medicinal compound have continued to play a vital role in the maintenance of human health since ancient times. One such botanical is garlic. Antimicrobial resistance has been a global concern. Currently, interest has been focused on exploring antimicrobial properties of plants and herbs. One such botanical is Allium sativum (garlic). Varying concentrations of fresh garlic juice (FGJ) were tested for their antimicrobial activity against common pathogenic organisms isolated at SSG Hospital, Vadodara, using diffusion methods.

Raw Garlic can be used to battle acne and cold sores. The antibacterial properties of Garlic will speed along the healing process. Acid-fast bacteria such as Mycobacterium tuberculosis, are sensitive to garlic and Garlic juices are also effective against Helicobacter pylori, the cause of gastric ulcers. Allicin, one of the active principles of freshly crushed garlic homogenates, has a variety of antimicrobial activities. Allicin in its pure form was found to exhibit antibacterial activity against a wide range of Gram-negative and Gram-positive bacteria, including multidrug-resistant entero-toxicogenic strains of Escherichia coli. Allicin also was found to fight antifungal activity, particularly against Candida albicans. The main antimicrobial effect of allicin is due to its chemical reaction with thiol groups of various enzymes, e.g. alcohol dehydrogenase, thioredoxin reductase, and RNA polymerase, which can affect essential metabolism of cysteine proteinase activity involved in the virulence of E. histolytica. After cutting a garlic clove in half, it can be applied directly to the skin. Hold it against the skin for long as you can as it might sting a bit.

New research by Derek Pratt’s and histeam at the University of Ottawa, Canada, bring chemical rigour to studying allicin’s biological action with their latest research, by observing the effects of these natural compounds and some synthetic analogues in more relevant biological conditions - the biphasic systems of liposomes and cells. ‘Our data show that allicin and petivericin are not antioxidants in cells at all,’ states Pratt. ‘These compounds just kill the cells by arresting cell growth.’ In the model systems, glutathione levels dropped when allicin and petivericin were added, initiating a cell death cascade of biochemical reactions. ‘It appears that they are antioxidants but really, they’re toxic.’ Pratt hypotheses that the hydrophilic sulfenic acids derived from these compounds partition to the cytosol. Here, they are physically sequestered away from free radical species at the lipid membrane so cannot actually trap radicals.

8. Crushed Garlic Only Lasts a Little While (Garlic's Half-life).

At room temperature, the biological and chemical half-lives of crushed garlic is about 6 to 11 days. Crushed fresh garlic cloves generate antibacterial activity and chemically detectable allicin, a major antibacterial principle, and both declined on a daily basis in aqueous and ethanolic solutions. Studies have verified the instability of garlic's allicin in various aqueous and ethanolic solutions as well as in vegetable oil through chemical and biological analyses. Allicin was more stable in 20% alcohol than in water, but surprisingly unstable in vegetable oil. Citric acid, phosphoric acid and vinegar can act as a stabilizer, and slow the half-life of detectable allicin.

Reference: › pubmed

9. China Produces Most of the Garlic.

Unfortunately, China isn’t as stringent with its safety regulations. Reports run rampant of garlic bleached in chlorine, fumigated in pesticides, grown in untreated sewage water, and even contaminated with lead. In 2019, the United States imported over 138 million pounds of Chinese garlic, and each year the trend appears to grow. Unfortunately, garlic imported from China may be covered in bleach and pesticides. Know your farmer. Buy Garlic from someone you trust. China grows a staggering amount of garlic, believed to be 80% of the global supply. As of 2029, China was the largest producer of garlic in the world. Most of China's garlic is produced in Shandong, an eastern coastal province, located to the southeast of Beijing; in particular, Jinxiang is known as "the world's garlic capital". Most Americans assume their garlic comes from California (Gilroy, California actually calls itself “the garlic capital of the world”). Unfortunately, in the US, it’s become cheaper and easier to import garlic from China, and market the garlic as if it were grown in the United States. Gilroy garlic giant Christopher Ranch is upset over a documentary series on Netflix about food industry scandals that accuses the company of using unfair business practices, and marketing garlic peeled by Chinese prison labor.

10. There is More to Garlic than the Clove!

Virtually every part of the garlic plant can be eaten. Even though most of us think of the garlic clove when we think “garlic,” there are many other parts you can eat. Hardneck garlic plants produce a garlic scape midway through the growing season. These fresh, green shoots are delicious when they are tender. They can be cut into tiny pieces and used in soups, scrambled eggs, and they make a delicious addition to roasts, pestos, and butters. The leaves and flowers (bulbils) on the head (spathe) can be eaten. They are milder in flavor than the bulbs, and are most often consumed while immature and still tender. Korean and Chinese dishes call for "Garlic Greens" which are the sprouts that emerge from a garlic clove. Garlic greens can be a great flavour to omelette, noodles, salad, and stir-fry. Immature garlic is sometimes pulled early, and taste more like a scallion, and are considered "green garlic" . If your garlic is staring to sprout, don't throw it away. Instead, plant Sprouted Garlic Bulbs and Eat the Greens. Garlic, once sprouted, is much too bitter to eat, but that doesn’t mean you should toss it. Bury it in a bit of potting soil and give it some sun, and you could be eating tasty garlic greens in just a week.

11. We Eat Two Pounds of Garlic Each Year.

The average person consumes about two pounds of garlic each year. If you are consuming hardneck garlic, that means you are eating about 80 or more cloves per person per year, as there are 6-8 cloves per bulb and 4-6 bulbs per pound. Some of this garlic is consumed as food and some is consumed as medicine. The minimum effective dose for raw garlic is one clove eaten two to three times per day. Humans eat aged garlic supplement with a normal dose is 600 to 1,200 mg per day.

12. Garlic's Allicin is Good for you Heart.

When fresh garlic is chopped or crushed, the enzyme alliinase converts alliin into allicin, which is responsible for the aroma of fresh garlic. When fresh garlic is chopped or crushed, the enzyme alliinase converts alliin into allicin, which is responsible for the aroma of fresh garlic. The allicin generated is unstable and quickly changes into a series of other sulfur-containing compounds such as diallyl disulfide. Allicin helps nitric oxide release in the blood vessels, relaxing them and thus bringing about a drop in blood pressure. Garlic and its preparations have been widely recognized as agents for prevention and treatment of cardiovascular and other metabolic diseases, atherosclerosis, hyperlipidemia, thrombosis, hypertension and diabetes. Effectiveness of garlic in cardiovascular diseases is encouraging in experimental studies, which prompted several clinical trials. Keeping blood vessels relaxed and lowering blood pressure is good for the heart and the rest of the vascular system. The allicin generated is unstable and quickly changes into a series of other sulfur-containing compounds such as diallyl disulfide.

13. Hardneck Garlic is Best

Generally there are two garlic subspecies; Allium sativum L. var. opioscorodon (hardneck) and Allium sativum L. var. sativum (softneck). Hardneck cultivars tend to have a more complex flavor profile than softneck garlic, being richer, spicier, and generally more 'garlicky'. Hardneck garlic bulbs tend to have larger average clove size, which, due to their plumpness, and these larger cloves are easier to peel. Researchers from the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) have taken advantage of a new analytical technique, which can be used in conjunction with either flame ionization detection or mass spectrometry, to evaluate the free amino acids present in garlic. They discovered that the amino acid composition differed substantially between different garlic varieties and are greater in hardneck garlic. Studies published in the National Institute of Health show that Hardneck garlic has greater methiin, alliin, and total free amino acids contents compared to softneck garlic. Visit the GroEat Garlic Farm. Hardneck garlic contains many important amino acids including:

  • Tryptophan

  • Threonine

  • Isoleucine

  • Leucine

  • Lysine

  • Methionine

  • Cystine

  • Phenylalanine

  • Tyrosine

  • Valine

  • Histidine

Jere Folgert is the owner of GroEat Garlic Farm in Bozeman, Montana. GroEat Farm is a small, sustainable family farm located in the beautiful Hyalite Foothills, in the shadows of the Gallatin Mountain Range.  The hardneck varieties that they grow on their farm flourish, due to the combination of the cold winters, temperate summers, moist spring, and the dynamic alluvial soils, washed down from the Gallatin Range.

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