Sira-sira store: Garlic breath

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Friday, June 13, 2014


ELEPHANT garlic, Oriental garlic and garlic greens. The air is perfumed with distinctive aroma of garlic.

There is a one-clove garlic, also known as pearl or solo garlic. I have not seen an actual one. What I have tried are garlic greens, which are like green onions. The garlic sprouts or young garlic can be used to substitute two great seasonings: green onions and garlic itself.

There is a debate on whether garlic is a spice, an herb or a fruit. I am not here to answer that (typical Ober Khok cop out), although I can give hints: Herb denotes something green, whether the leaves or stems of a plant, which the garlic has.

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Spice indicates any other item, including roots, bark, seeds and so on, and usually in the dried form, which can be done to garlic, as flakes.

Since garlic really doesn’t fit into these square boxes, it might be a vegetable. It is similar to onions and shallots, but in the end, garlic belongs in a category all its own.

It is such a mysterious, ah, condiment that it earned a name for both good and evil.

In the Philippines, people use garlic to ward off aswang and snakes, as well as hypertension and flatulence.

Cassell’s Dictionary of Superstitions mentions an Islamic myth that tells the story of how the devil left the Garden of Eden. As he walked away, his left footprint turned into garlic and the right footprint, onion.

Garlic is well known for its medicinal and aphrodisiac properties. It is a good stimulant.

Which brings us the latest stimulant for this corner. Market vendors and small-scale stall owners in barangays are complaining that garlic has become the equivalent of gold. Maybe it is an exaggeration, but local garlic is now P180 per kilo while imported garlic (from Taiwan) is P290 per kilo.

In the past, the price range was between P100 and P130. As illustration, Vergie, a local vendor, used to sell her Taiwanese garlic for P5 per head. Now it’s P10 per piece.

This smelly increase has gotten people stimulated to use artificial food enhancers or use less garlic.

The romance between man and garlic is threatened by this new development. It was in the news that container vans were discovered to be carrying sacks upon sacks of Taiwanese garlic instead of—Was it chocolates?

It wasn’t a sweet discovery to many Filipinos who have to juggle their budget, if they have enough money to budget.

In Philippine folklore garlic is used to drive away evil, and now the Department of Agriculture is looking into what is driving garlic to become so expensive.

While they are looking into it, I hope they will also be stimulated to give attention to the local garlic industry. The tiny cloves from local garlic have more flavor than the gigantic imported variety. It is worthwhile to ward off the evil “economics-play” now by helping local farmers with their products and rescue the love affair between cook and garlic.

Let’s promote local garlic. A belated happy Independence Day.

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on June 14, 2014.

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