This week I took my usual trip to he market to enjoy the ambiance and see what foods are in season. There are two major categories of garlic in France—that planted in spring and that planted in the autumn. Both are harvested in July. One of the more distinctive varieties is the mild ail rose de Lautrec, with a rigid central stem that makes it impossible to braid and the heavy bouquets are seen hanging from the stall’s canopy.
Although my introduction to the use of garlic in cooking was when I lived in Wales.
We associate garlic with the French and I remember when I was in Cardiff every week the ‘Shoni winwns man'(Onion Johnnies) stood against their bicycles selling red garlic and onions at the market. They had brought their bicycles and onions from Roscoff, Brittany and conversed quite happily with the Welsh speaking customers as both the Breton and Welsh language have many similarities. These men disappeared fro the streets in about 2002 after 175yrs of trading.
Garlic is used in French cooking but also used chopped raw and added to lettuce as part of a meal or on bread with butter. It is often mixed with parsley which tends to neutralise the breath. This makes French green beans taste even better.
Interestingly, the other countries that use large amounts of garlic in their cooking are Italy and China.
When I read an article in the news this week that garlic had potentially healing and preventative properties in lung cancer this did not come as a surprise.
A previous study at the University of South Australia concluded that garlic could decrease the risks of bowel tumors by as much as a third, while other studies have found that garlic can help to repress common colds and assist with inflammation with its anti-bacterial properties. This natural antibiotic is effective against toxic bacteria, viruses, and fungus.
Garlic has been shown to be beneficial for the heart in that it lowers blood pressure and thins the blood by reducing the platelet cells stickiness. It lowers serum triglycerides and LDL-cholesterol ( the bad type) levels and increases serum HDL-cholesterol (the good type) and fibrinolysis (the process through which the body breaks up blood clots.)
Previous studies have also suggested garlic can protect the lungs against various conditions as it acts as an expectorant but also Garlic is known to stimulate T-lymphocyte and macrophage action, promote interleukin-1 levels, and support natural killer cells. Strong activity of these key cells promotes healthy immune system function, and strengthens the body’s defenses.
In the latest investigation, scientists at Jiangsu Provincial Centre for Disease Control and Prevention compared 1,424 lung cancer patients with 4,500 healthy adults.
Each one was questioned on their dietary and lifestyle habits, including how often they consumed garlic and whether they smoked.
The results, published online in the journal Cancer Prevention Research, showed those who ate raw garlic at least twice a week were significantly less likely to get lung cancer, even if they smoked or were exposed to high-temperature cooking oil fumes, which is thought to be another trigger for the disease.
It’s not clear whether cooked garlic would have the same effect.
Previous research suggests the key ingredient seems to be a chemical called allicin, released when the clove is crushed or chopped.
It is thought to dampen down inflammation in the body and act as an anti-oxidant, reducing damage from so-called free radicals to the body’s cells.
In the case of colon cancer substances such as allicin, have been shown not only to protect colon cells from the toxic effects of cancer-causing chemicals but also to stop the growth of cancer cells once they develop.
Adults regularly consuming raw garlic as part of their diet were 44 per cent less likely to suffer from lung cancer.
Even when they allowed for whether people smoked – the biggest single cause of lung cancer – the scientist found garlic still seemed to reduce the dangers by around 30 per cent.
Around 40,000 people in England and Wales are diagnosed with lung cancer every year, and it is the deadliest form of the disease.
Smoking is thought to cause at least 80 per cent of cases and fewer than one in ten sufferers are still alive five years after their diagnosis.
China is by far the biggest producer of garlic globally accounting for 77% of the worlds production.
Evidence that people who eat garlic are more likely to escape cancer comes from a comparison of garlic eating in two Chinese counties in Shandong province.
Gangshan County residents eat about 20 g. of garlic a day (about seven cloves) and have a gastric cancer death rate of 3.45 per 100,000 population.
In nearby Quixia County, the residents care little for garlic and eat it rarely; they die of gastric cancer at the rate of 40 per 100,000.
The non-garlic eaters have an almost twelve times greater risk of deadly gastric cancer.
Should we eat raw or cooked garlic?
Although numerous studies have highlighted certain health benefits from eating raw garlic, they have yet to determine whether or not cooked garlic might possess the same capabilities.
Garlic has to be raw to kill bacteria, boost immune function and probably help prevent cancer. But cooked garlic can lower blood cholesterol and help keep blood thin and perform as a decongestant, cough medicine, mucus regulator and bronchitis preventive. The best advice: eat it both ways.