The Irish Times Magazine - - FOOD- FILE - JP McMA­HON

What is it with gar­lic? Why do we add it to ev­ery­thing? Or if you don’t, why does ev­ery­one else? Gar­lic plays an im­por­tant part in much Euro­pean cui­sine, from French to Ital­ian and Span­ish. But why is this?

Is it be­cause of the zing it adds to any dish we add it to? Does ev­ery­one love its pun­gent beauty? Once associated with the poor, due to its rich aroma, now gar­lic is loved by all ( or nearly all).

Gar­lic orig­i­nates from the Mid­dle East and Cen­tral Asi, most likely Iran. We’ve been us­ing it to cook for thou­sands of years.

One of the old­est writ­ten recipes, dat­ing from 1750BC, is for a meat pie con­tain­ing pounded gar­lic.

From Asia to Egypt, Rome and Greece, then on into the mid­dle ages, this spear shaped leek ( gar = spear, lic = leek) de­fined cooking for the com­mon per­son. So com­mon was gar­lic that Cer­vantes, the Span­ish Re­nais­sance writer, en­treated the rich not to eat it lest they re­veal them­selves to be a peas­ant. Of course, there isn’t just one species of gar­lic and the orig­i­nal wild one has mu­tated many times over. There is now some beau­ti­fully pro­tected species of gar­lic, such as Ital­ian gar­lic PDO ( aglio bianco pole­sano).

What is Ire­land’s re­la­tion­ship to gar­lic? We have a long tra­di­tion of us­ing wild gar­lic ( al­lium ursinum) from the woods in our food. This type of gar­lic is na­tive to Ire­land and prob­a­bly ar­rived more than 10,000 years ago from Europe and Asia ( is this the qual­i­fi­ca­tion for na­tive?).

Most gar­lic in Ire­land stems from out­side this coun­try. The last two bulbs I picked up in the su­per­mar­ket came from China ( it pro­duces 80 per cent of the world’s gar­lic) and Spain. The Span­ish one was or­ganic. Bet­ter the devil you know.

Drum­mond house pro­duces won­der­ful Ir­ish gar­lic. Of course, there are many more Ir­ish pro­duc­ers so do seek them out. In a global world of con­tin­ual di­vi­sions, we could take a leaf out of gar­lic’s book. It is a ma­jor com­po­nent in nearly all cui­sine of the world, from Asia to Latin Amer­ica.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Ireland

© PressReader. All rights reserved.