Saturday, July 10, 2010

Garlic and its medicinal properties

Garlic is a species in the onion family. Its close relatives include the onion, shallot, leek and chive. Several wild species belonging to this family can be found growing in the Maltese countryside include two endemic species.

The Maltese dwarf garlic (tewm irqiq ta’ Malta) is a small delicate plant that grows in shallow depressions with a thin layer of soil in garigue habitat. It has white flowers which appear in the hot months of June and July when few people venture out in the countryside.

 Until some years ago this plant was mistaken for another species which is found also in Sardinia and Corsica but further studies by Italian and Maltese botanists including Edwin Lanfranco have shown that it is a separate species found only in the Maltese islands.

Another member of the onion family, the Maltese leek (kurrat ta’ Malta), is probably endemic to the Maltese islands but further botanical studies are needed before one can be sure of the exact identity of this plant and other closely related species.

The origins of cultivated garlic are unknown but it is now grown in large quantities in many parts of the world. The largest producer is China which produces 77% of the world garlic. The second and third largest garlic produces India and South Korea trail far behind. 

Garlic is cultivated in the Maltese islands in small amounts. It is harvested mostly in early spring, before it is fully mature, to be used as stuffing for artichokes. 

Garlic is very easy to grow by planting individual cloves in the soil in late autumn at about the same time as the bulbs of other flowering plants. Each clove gives rise to a single plant which in early spring produces a bulb with several cloves. A few large pots can supply enough garlic to last for several weeks or months.

Garlic has been used as food and medicine for thousands of years. Its pungent flavour is a requisite for many dishes in various parts of the world including Malta where it is one of the main ingredients of the Maltese fish soup known as aljotta, and the snail condiment known as aljoli. The names of these two dishes are in fact derived from the Italian name for garlic aglio.

This article was published in The Times 05.05.10

1 comment:

  1. superb post

    this is real cause why tourist come to Malta to enjoy the nature & its flowers

    Hope to see more posts related to Malta properties