So you think garlic gives you nothing but bad breath? Well, OK, it does, but it's also one of the healthiest foods you can eat.
For centuries, garlic has been considered a "cure-all" and is said to be able to treat just about every ailment from the common cold to the Plague! Today we celebrate one of nature's best wonder herbs- garlic - one of the oldest known medicinal plants which has been used for centuries to fight disease. The therapeutic qualities of garlic have been known in India for more than 5000, while Chinese medicine has recognised garlic's powers for over 3,000 years.
Although penicillin's discovery in 1928 largely replaced garlic, mass infections and dysentery during World War One helped to make garlic the antibiotic of choice.
So what is it about garlic that makes it so good for our health? When garlic cloves are chewed, crushed or cut, they release a natural compound called Allicin - the chemical that gives garlic its strong taste and smell. Allicin is the magic ingredient responsible for garlic's therapeutic qualities.
Scientists overseas have looked at the role garlic plays in helping prevent the formation of blood clots and its healing power across a number of illnesses.
A review of clinical trials showed that taking garlic tablets cut volunteers' blood pressure by between one and five per cent.
These results concluded that taking garlic supplements could cut the incidence of stroke by anything from 30-40 per cent, while heart disease could be reduced by 20-25 percent. While garlic is gathering a reputation for helping to maintain a healthy heart, regular amounts of fresh garlic seems to also help the body fight off infections.
These antibacterial effects were first discovered in the early 19th century during an outbreak of infectious fever - English priests caught the fever but the French priests, who ate garlic every day, remained healthy.
Eating fresh garlic regularly can also reduce the chance of catching a cold as it tops up the body's supply with vital vitamins and minerals to strengthen the immune system.
One of the world's leading experts in medicinal plants, Ethnobotanist James Duke in the U.S., considers garlic among the best all-around plant medicines in the world.
In his book, The Green Pharmacy, Duke claims that garlic is effective for alleviating conditions ranging from high cholesterol and high blood pressure to yeast infections and clotting disorders. Garlic compounds have the potential to help treat more than 200 ailments, Duke says.
It's the best overall plant for stimulating the immune system, the best anti-clotting herb, one of the best anti-fungals, and potentially useful for preventing heart disease and cancer.
Garlic has many well-known health benefits - the most popular being its anti-infection uses. Skin conditions caused by bacteria, virus, fungi or yeast can be treated by rubbing raw chopped garlic on the affected area.
When it comes to cooking garlic there are some secrets that are also handy to know.
The longer you cook garlic, the less smell - but less medicinal properties - it will have.
So if you enjoy the flavour of garlic but don't want your breath to smell as much, cook it a bit longer.
But one of my chefs makes a garlicky Dhal soup by adding ghee-fried garlic just before serving, which imparts a buttery garlic flavour that turns a boring soup into something very special and more healthy.
Another kitchen secret is how to save time in peeling each clove of garlic, by placing them into cold water for two hours so that the skins will come off easier.
The other easy way to peel garlic cloves is to chop off the root end, then deep fry the whole knob of garlic for one minute.
The cloves then just pop out, ready to use. If you want to eat a lot of garlic for its health benefits without being overpowered by the smell, you can put a whole bulb in a soup or stew and get almost all of those benefits, yet have a mild tasting dish. You almost can't taste them but your body will still get the healthful benefits from the garlic.
If you eat fried or fatty foods, you owe it to yourself to have garlic in some form with that meal to help counteract the elevated cholesterol like roasted garlic with pork.
When used in cooking, crush or cut the garlic finely, then leave for 10 minutes to allow the Allicin to fully develop, before adding to recipes.
Like the garlicky Dhal soup I mentioned earlier, this way you allow the medically active compounds to come out of the garlic to maximise this herb's effectiveness.
The Hollywood mythology of vampires hating garlic probably came from the fact that garlic can help to fight the bad diseases and germs - the bad guys. With cheap, chemically-laced garlic coming from China, try growing your own or buy in locally-grown or Australian garlic to get the most benefits from this superfood.
Today I share a few of my recipes that showcase the medicinal garlic, with easy to cook at home dishes. The Thai Garlic Fish is easy to prepare, and will give your fish a new flavour while at the same time provide the health benefits of garlic.
And the Fried Garlic Okra will make the bindi taste even better with its caramelisation of the vegetable to give your family a healthier way to enjoy this Fijian vegetable as medicine for your body.
nLance Seeto is an International Food & Travel Writer, Author and Executive Chef based at Castaway Island, Fiji. Follow his culinary adventures on his Facebook page Fijian Food Safari