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Speaking of garlic

The pungent bulb is more popular than ever with cooks, health care providers and trend-spotters

Garlic is its own, unique universe.

With 300 varieties, it should be.

Explore a little more and you’ll find garlic is like a world unto itself, its own Fantasy-bulb island – its own subculture, as pop theorist Dick Hebdige might have it, with its own fans, recipes and myths.

Garlic is one recipe additive that doesn’t require a lot of negotiation. Whereas you might add a touch of basil or a hint of fennel, garlic is all-or-nothing. There’s no flavour of the month here: you either like it, or you don’t.

It’s rare to watch someone get chatty about shredding cheese, mincing opinions, or squeezing lemons. While these make nice toppings, they’ve got no allure.

And while toppings are fine, nothing has the zesty, the sexy, the all-around appeal of garlic.

Rebel rocker David Bowie has been quoted online saying "garlic rocks!", while J.J., of the ’70s TV series Good Times, quips "love garlic bread. Take the pill regularly. Don't do anything with the clove itself."

The retail world has tailor made items for garlic, which run the marketing gamut. Books like Cornelia Adam’s Garlic, which retails for around $14, and the Totally Garlic Cookbook, at $8, are evidence of the growing popularity of the plant as coffee table banter. The technicolour photos detail not only creative ways to cook with garlic, but different ways to visually present, the pow wow healing plant.

Roasting potters for garlic, made of porous clay, sell for around $14, with funky trim on the lid to boot. Garlic storage containers range from straw baskets to half-foot-high jars.

The Mercedes of garlic crushers comes from Taiwan, and sells for close to $30. The latest Swiss model, all aluminum, steel and big black grips with a dash of red, allow one to put the entire clove, skin and all, into the crushing device. Or to draw out the experience, a tube-like tool can be used to roll garlic cloves and de-skin them in the same motion.

But simply chopping garlic will do, and experts say eating cloves raw is the best way to get the maximum health content out the bulb.

According to various medical research studies, garlic cures just about all. Garlic has been known to enhance immune systems, lower cholesterol levels, and combat heart disease. If only it could do your taxes.

At Mount Currie’s Herbal Emporium, Isabelle Ranger says the "hand and feet absorb a lot of medicine," and some people rub cloves of garlic under their toes and around their hands. "Aged garlic" is also considered to be a select specialty, with extra antibiotic properties.

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