Pliny the Elder, Natural History (English) (XML Header) [genre: prose] [word count] [Plin. Nat.].
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19.34 CHAP. 34—GARLIC.

Garlic [Note] is generally supposed, in the country more particularly, to be a good specific [Note] for numerous maladies. The ex-

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ternal coat consists of membranes of remarkable fineness, which are universally discarded when the vegetable is used; the inner part being formed by the union of several cloves, each of which has also a separate coat of its own. The flavour of it is pungent, and the more numerous the cloves the more pungent it is. Like the onion, it imparts an offensive smell to the breath; but this is not the case when it is cooked. The various species of garlic are distinguished by the periods at which they ripen: the early kind becomes fit for use in sixty days. Another distinction, too, is formed by the relative size of the heads. Ulpicum [Note], also, generally known to the Greeks as "Cyprian garlic," belongs to this class; by some persons it is called "antiscorodon," and in Africa more particularly it holds a high rank among the dishes of the rural population; it is of a larger size than ordinary garlic. When beaten up with oil and vinegar, it is quite surprising what a quantity of creaming foam is produced.

There are some persons who recommend that neither ulpicum nor garlic should be sown on level ground, but say that they should be planted in little mounds trenched up, at a distance of three feet apart. Between each clove, they say, there should be a distance of four fingers left, and as soon as ever three leaves are visible, the heads should be hoed; the oftener they are hoed, the larger the size they will attain. When they begin to ripen, the stalks are bent downwards, and covered over with earth, a precaution which effectually prevents them from running to leaf. In cold soils, it is considered better to plant them in spring than in autumn.

For the purpose of depriving all these plants of their strong smell, it is recommended to set them when the moon is below the horizon, and to take them up when she is in conjunction. Independently of these precautions, we find Menander, one of the Greek writers, recommending those who have been eating garlic to eat immediately afterwards a root of beet

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roasted on hot coals; if this is done, he says, the strong smell of the garlic will be effectually neutralized. Some persons are of opinion, that the proper period for planting garlic and ulpicum is between the festival of the Compitalia [Note] and that of the Saturnalia [Note]. Garlic, too, can be grown from seed, but it is very slow, in such case, in coming to maturity; for in the first year, the head attains the size only of that of a leek, in the second, it separates into cloves, and only in the third it arrives at maturity; there are some, however, who think that garlic grown this way is the best. Garlic should never be allowed to run to seed, but the stalk should be twisted, to promote its growth, and to make the head attain a larger size.

If garlic or onions are wanted to keep some time, the heads should be dipped in salt water, made luke-warm; by doing this, they will be all the better for keeping, though quite worthless for reproduction. Some persons content themselves with hanging them over burning coals, and are of opinion that this is quite sufficient to prevent them from sprouting: for it is a well-known fact, that both garlic and onions sprout when out of the ground, and that after throwing out their thin shoots they shrivel away to nothing. Some persons are of opinion, too, that the best way of keeping garlic is by storing it in chaff. There is a kind [Note] of garlic that grows spontaneously in the fields, and is known by the name of "alum." To preserve the seeds that are sown there from the remorseless ravages of the birds, this plant is scattered over the ground, being first boiled, to prevent it from shooting. As soon as ever they have eaten of it, the birds become so stupefied as to be taken with the hand even [Note], and if they remain but a few moments only on the spot, they fall fast asleep. There is a wild garlic, too, generally known as "bear's" garlic [Note]; it has exactly the smell of millet, with a very small head and large leaves.

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Pliny the Elder, Natural History (English) (XML Header) [genre: prose] [word count] [Plin. Nat.].
<<Plin. Nat. 19.33 Plin. Nat. 19.34 (Latin) >>Plin. Nat. 19.35

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