The History of Garlic

First appearance

While researching the history of garlic, some scholars believe to have determined the birthplace of this spice – a plain between the Altai Mountains and the Tien Shan.

Garlic was likely first discovered thousands of years ago. It was first used in China and Egypt among other countries.

Other scholars believe a different theory in history of garlic. According to them, garlic first appeared in the foothill regions of Central Asia or Afghanistan, South-Western or even South Asia. The local population in these regions still enjoys wild garlic today.

The Latin name for garlic – Allium Sativum L. According to some accounts, the history of garlic traces from the Celtic word “all,” which means “burning, acrid.” It refers to a time when the Angles and the Saxons raided the Celtic tribes of the Britons. In Russian, the word “garlic” is associated with the structure of plants, because the garlic head is easily split into segments, cloves.


Mentions and uses

Garlic is mentioned in the Bible and the Quran and has a ritual significance. In antediluvian times, people believed that it, like onions, had mystical properties that could protect from harm, destroy the evil spells and neutralize poison. So, gladiators and Roman soldiers turned to garlic as a source of strength and courage.

In ancient China, garlic is used to scare away evil spirits during funeral ceremonies. In the Balkan countries, garlic was rubbed on doorknobs and window frames to ward off vampires. In Germany, garlic was put into graves, in order to protect the dead from visiting the bar. Each year in January, a clove of garlic hung on the doors of the churches, to protect believers from disease.

Since ancient times, mankind has been divided in two: on one side are those who love garlic, and on the other are those who cannot stand it. This appreciation or distaste for garlic depended not only on personal taste or health, but also from society. Ardent opponents of garlic were, for example, the Egyptian priests, who had never used it in food, considering it unclean. But at the same time, the priests believed that garlic was good and cheap food for slaves and soldiers during campaigns.

The Romans also banished garlic from the kitchen, and called it a “stinking rose.” However, like the Egyptians, the Greeks and Romans cultivated garlic as food for the poor. The historical figure who is most famous for his distaste of garlic is King of Castile Alfonso XI, who in 1330 founded the order for people who hate garlic and its smell.

Yet, the Italians believed that garlic enhances sexual feelings. Perhaps that’s why in The Decameron, Giovanni Boccaccio, described as a passionate young man, sent garlic to a lady to win her heart. He succeeded.

In Russia, it is said that garlic ails seven plagues. In England, it is said that a clove of garlic is the best doctor.

In fact, in ancient times, garlic was considered a panacea. It was the public safety vehicle from the venom of snake’s remorse, communicable diseases, and even the plague. An ancient Chinese book on herbal medicine, “Ben Cao”, classifies garlic as one of the most valuable medicines. The same wisdom appears in the Indian manuscript of “Charaka Samhita,” the Tibetan “Chzhud-shek” and other guides to ancient oriental medicine.


Throughout history of garlic, it has remained important. While preparing for the circumnavigation, Magellan took on board the 450 bundles of onions and garlic. Garlic was on the menu for the Crusaders and saved French and English navies from scurvy. In the middle of the XVII century, under Tsar Alexei Mikhailovich, Moscow had several apothecary gardens (in the Kremlin, for Myasnitskaya gate and in the Foreign Quarter), where garlic and herbs were grown. And foreign doctors, then living in Moscow, wrote that the Moscow doctors relied heavily upon onion and garlic.

In history of garlic – the power of garlic has toppled formidable enemies, including viruses. In 1720, garlic and vinegar rescued people from the Marseilles plague. In addition to its health benefits, garlic also has more comical properties; ancient warriors believed that eating garlic before a battle would enable the soldier to throw the enemy off his feet with their strong garlic breath, and they could easily dispose of their enemies with their spears afterward.

In medieval Europe, peasants stuffed garlic into beef and herring. In those days, garlic disinfection rescued many from gastric diseases.

History of garlic – this is a triumphant spread from south to north; now you can find the garlic in the diet of a Swede, an Eskimo. But, of course, garlic is more suitable for oriental dishes, and for the food of southern latitudes.


Even the English word “Garlic” – goes back to the days when the Anglo-Saxon tribes crushed the Celtic tribes of the Britons. This word formed from the combination of the words “bow – Leek” and “spear” – so to speak, “a bow with a spear.” Wild garlic was grown for centuries in the English ecclesiastical courts, and a garlic necklace worn around the neck, according to legend, could exorcise demons and vampires. Most likely, the cultivation of garlic in England began early in XVI century.

In the Italian, French and Spanish, echoes of Latin can be heard in garlic’s name. Ancient Romans, like the ancient Egyptians, used garlic as a seasoning for venison and fish, sauces, salads, and side dishes. Conquering Europe, the Romans conquered it for the garlic – local people can learn faster from Legionnaires’ habit of it.

In Russia, garlic appeared sometime in the IX century. It came from the Byzantine Empire and spread quickly. Discovery of this new plant drew attention not on the green “spear”, which stretch from the bulb, and the fact that the bulb breaks, splits into separate claw-locks. Thus, the “garlic” – is “brushed the bow.” As soon as the garlic was led by Vladimir the Red Sun, is not a sin to assume that Ilya of Murom, and Mikula Selyaninovich scooped its strength.

And as for the Homeric heroes, Achilles, Agamemnon, and Odysseus they leaned on garlic. More recently, Greek athletes take the “doping” or chew garlic before training.