Last June, nutrition scientists at the University of Florida found eating garlic can boost the number of T-cells in the bloodstream. These play a vital role in strengthening our immune systems and fighting viruses. And pharmacologists at the University of California found that allicin — the active ingredient in garlic that contributes to bad breath — is an infection-killer.
Allicin also makes our blood vessels dilate, improving blood flow and helping to tackle cardiovascular problems such as high cholesterol.
An Australian study of 80 patients published last week in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition reported that diets high in garlic may reduce high blood pressure. In 2007, dentists in Brazil found that gargling with garlic water (made by steeping crushed garlic cloves in warm, but not boiling, water) can kill the germs that cause tooth decay and gum disease. But they hit a snag: the volunteers refused to continue the experiment, complaining that the garlic gargle made them feel sick. Looking at the garlic soup recipe certainly made me feel queasy. Still, it gave me an excuse to use up my ample supply of garlic.
Though last year’s awful weather caused crop failures on my allotment, I enjoyed a bumper harvest of garlic.
Among its many other virtues, garlic kills slugs and snails. Researchers from the University of Newcastle believe it contains oils that may cripple the nervous systems of these slimy creatures.
Best way to prepare garlic. There are two schools of thought as to the best way of preparing garlic to make the most of its medicinal qualities. Argentinian investigators found it releases its allicin-type compounds when you bake the cloves, while scientists at South Carolina Medical University believe peeling garlic and letting it sit uncovered for 15 minutes produces the highest levels of compounds to fight infection.
So you can simply peel half of the garlic cloves and roast the other half with the kitchen door tightly closed (to stop the pong permeating throughout the house). After an hour-and-a-quarter’s industrious soup-making, sprinkle lemon juice over a bowl of steaming, grey gloop and tuck in. The heady aroma certainly revs up the appetite and the first spoonful does not disappoint. Delicious as it is, however, one large bowl of home-made soup is a more than ample meal. As for the soup’s cold-preventing powers, only time will tell. Regular bowlfuls may very well keep me free of winter ailments, thanks to the virus-killing compounds they contain. Or it could just be that my nuclear-strength garlic breath will keep everyone who is infectious far out of sneezing range for months to come.
Garlic Soup Recipe
- 26 organic garlic cloves (unpeeled)
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) organic butter (grass fed)
- 1/2 teaspoon cayenne powder
- 1/2 cup fresh ginger
- 2 1/4 cups sliced onions
- 1 1/2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
- 26 organic garlic cloves, peeled
- 1/2 cup coconut milk
- 3 1/2 cups organic vegetable broth
- 4 lemon wedges
Preheat oven to 350F. Place 26 garlic cloves in small glass baking dish. Add 2 tablespoons olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt and toss to coat. Cover baking dish tightly with foil and bake until garlic is golden brown and tender, about 45 minutes. Cool. Squeeze garlic between fingertips to release cloves. Transfer cloves to small bowl.
Melt butter in heavy large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onions, thyme, ginger and cayenne powder and cook until onions are translucent, about 6 minutes. Add roasted garlic and 26 raw garlic cloves and cook 3 minutes. Add vegetable broth; cover and simmer until garlic is very tender, about 20 minutes. Working in batches, puree soup in blender until smooth. Return soup to saucepan; add coconut milk and bring to simmer. Season with sea salt and pepper for flavor.
Squeeze juice of 1 lemon wedge into each bowl and serve. Can be prepared 1 day ahead. Cover and refrigerate. Rewarm over medium heat, stirring occasionally.
If garlic were found to be a wonder drug, consumers could simply buy it in the supermarket for 30c a bulb or grow their own in the garden.