May 29, 2009
This member of the Alliaceae family was pulled from the garden early, in order to identify it and its brethren (illustrating the perils of inadequately marking what's planted in one's victory garden). Once sliced and examined in good light, the individual cloves or bulbs, even in their early development, makes this easy to identify as garlic or Allium sativum. Garlic has two subspecies; the hard-necked Ophioscorodon (thought to be original stock) and the soft-necked Sativum, developed over the millennia by agriculture. The word "garlic" descends from the OE word garleac, from gar "spear" + leac "leek." Garlic probably originated in Asia, and while its cloves are used all over the world in cooking, in the Seattle area, the buds of the plant are increasingly found in Asian grocery stores, and are delicious sauteed. Its bloom is a single stock issuing from a number of sturdy leaves, initially covered in papery tissue, which drops off and reveals multiple small flowers.
And what explains garlic’s unique aroma? An enzyme called alinase. When garlic is sliced, crushed or chopped, alinase is produced when garlic cell membranes rupture and two other enzymes that reside in garlic, allinase and alliin, are combined.