Kitchen Shrink: Meet your personal defense weapon - garlic

To ward off viruses, bacteria, inflammation, fungus infections, cholesterol gremlins, digestive ails, scratchy throats, colds and creatures of the night such as mosquitoes, ticks and the occasional vampire, eat a smashed or sliced clove of raw garlic with your buttered toast about once a week on one of your stay-at-home days.

A good reminder of this practice is the upcoming National Garlic Day on April 19 - appropriately coinciding with Earth Day, which is April 22.

Although garlic has been dubbed as the “new” superfood by health-food gurus, this first cousin to the onion, leek, chive and shallot and member of the lily family has been around since biblical times. Pharaoh discovered that this magical herb kept the slaves, who were toiling in close contact with one another, fortified and virus-free while building the Egyptian pyramids.

The ancient Greek athletes did garlic-loading in preparation for the Olympic Games, the soldiers ate cloves before their battles, while midwives hung garlands of garlic in the birthing rooms to keep the evil spirits at bay.

For thousands of years, garlic has not only been used as a repellent for various cooties and an offering to the gods, but also for assorted medicinal purposes. Hippocrates, the father of modern medicine, prescribed the miraculous bulb as a cure-all for everything from healing infections and wounds, like an herbal Neosporin to cancer, leprosy and digestive disorders.

Recently, garlic has even been given the moniker of “vegetarian Viagra” as a male-enhancing aphrodisiac, followed by a fresh sprig of parsley or three or four coffee beans chewed raw as a breath deodorizer.

Raw garlic is loaded with allicin, a potent sulfur compound that has been credited with having the power of killing 23 types of bacteria, including salmonella and staphylococcus (and endowing garlic with its infamous odor).

Garlic also contains vitamins A, B6 and C; selenium; magnesium; potassium; calcium; zinc; and flavonoids. making this “stinky rose” a powerhouse antioxidant and immune booster as well as a heart healer by lowering bad cholesterol, regulating blood pressure, improving circulation and preventing stroke.

Studies have also shown that garlic’s allicin promotes weight control, kills parasites, boosts the body’s defenses against allergies and is a good friend to diabetics by lowering insulin and triglyceride levels.

Drink a garlic cocktail with a crushed clove in a glass of vegetable juice or some lukewarm H2O (but not on an empty stomach) for a quick detoxifier, or treat a skin ailment by rubbing a raw clove directly on a cold sore, wart, blemish, athlete’s foot or other skin disorders.

Some garlic advice and a couple of words of warning:

Elephant or Russian garlic is a hybrid of the leek plant and is not the real thing. So don’t be enticed by the humongous garliclike cloves that are super-easy to peel and yield huge bulbs.

Stick to the real thing.

Don’t O.D. on the stuff. Two to 4 grams a day is ideal. Too much of a good thing can cause heartburn, stomach woes and allergic reactions, even toxic effects. Once again, moderation is standing advice.

Don’t cure raw garlic in olive oil at room temperature, as this can create botulism.

Raw has more healing properties than cooked garlic, as the allicin degrades with heat and loses some of its anti-viral and microbial properties.

Since garlic can thin the blood similar to aspirin, those who are taking blood-thinning medications already should be cautious with their garlic intake.

Finally, garlic is toxic to cats and dogs, so don’t add it to Bailey’s bowl.

My culinary contribution is one of our favorite family recipes for garlic citrus duck. It is so scrumptious, it’ll take your breath away.

Crispy Garlic Citrus Roasted Duck

  • 1 fresh or frozen duck (5 pounds)
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon of dried thyme
  • 1/4 teaspoon of paprika
  • 1 orange
  • 1 lemon
  • 1 sweet onion
  • 4 gloves of garlic, 3 sliced, 1 whole
  • 1/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil

Rub the whole garlic cloves on the skin of the duck. Sprinkle the duck inside and out with the salt, pepper, paprika and thyme. (You can marinate overnight or up to three nights.)
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Add the whole peeled onion, half an orange and half a lemon to the cavity. Make slits in the breasts and insert small slices or wedges of lemon, orange and the garlic slices beneath the skin. Brush a generous amount of the olive oil on the skin.

Place the duck breast side up on a roasting rack. Roast for 15 minutes. Reduce heat to 350 degrees F. Roast for 30 minutes longer, piercing the bird every 10 to 15 minutes with a sharp fork. Turn the duck on the other side and roast for another 15 minutes. Return the duck breast side up. Roast for 15 minutes longer.

Prick the thigh. When the juices run pale yellow, the duck is done.