Garlic - Allium sativum

Use in medieval times

Throughout medieval times garlic was grown in monastery gardens and widely used in both cooking and medicine. It was a staple ingredient to add flavour to the daily pottage (vegetable stew) consumed by the monks and those outside the monastery. Many herbs and spices were only available to the wealthy but garlic could be eaten by the poor as it was easy to grow and readily available. Monks and peasants chewed garlic to keep infection and hunger away. Garlic was also believed to ward off plague. In the great plague of 1664 garlic became more valuable than gold. Henri IV of France (1553-1610) loved garlic so much that he was said to have had ‘a breath that could fell an ox at 20 paces’.

In 1609 Sir John Harrington wrote in The English Doctor:

Sith garlicke then hath power to save from death,
Beare with it though it makes unsavoury breath;
And scorn not garlicke, like to some that thinke,
It only makes men winke, and drinke and stinke.