Where Does Your Garlic Come From?

Garlic is one of those kitchen staples that we can’t seem to do without. Rice stir-fries, steamed veggies, pasta, seafood, steaks, potatoes … all these dishes go better with garlic, don’t you think?

We grow garlic in our garden because we love to eat it, but I have a revelation for you. We also enjoy growing it because what is offered in the grocery stores now comes from China. Surprised? Probably not as so many other things we buy come from there.

I found Made in China labels on packaged garlic bulbs in the produce section and also on powered garlic in the spice aisle of my local grocery store. Knowing that California grows lots of garlic, I was quite surprised about this so I called McCormick, the spice company, to ask them about it.

The young-sounding customer service person did a fine job reading the canned responses to my simple questions, but he was stumped when I asked him why did they sell food products from China?

When pressed on this issue it was offered that a gourmet version of garlic powder (the one with the black lid and glass container) contained California-grown garlic. The garlic powders and garlic salts with the red lids were…Made in China! So, if you don’t want to eat garlic produced halfway round the world, you’ll have to buy the more expensive gourmet spices from McCormick.

Alternatively, get to a local vegetable stand and pick up some locally produced garlic. Ask the people there where does this food come from? We all should strive to know more about the foods we eat and where they come from. If we all consumed more food that is produced locally, more of our dollars would stay in our communities and not disappear to lands so far away.

Buying foods locally helps to reduce the burden of transportation on the Earth by reducing pollution and the use of fossil fuels, not to mention the impact on global warming. Local produce is the freshest one can get and that’s got to be healthier for us. Support your local farmers and buy fresh, local produce. ‘Tis the season!

Curry Turmeric Spice Good For Health

Herbs and spices that we use to flavor our foods are used according to tastes that differ widely in local and regional areas. The availabilities of herbs and spices also has a lot to do with what kinds of flavor enhancers are added to foods. It’s the added spices and herbs that can really make a dish. But, did you know that a lot of the spices and herbs that we use in food and drink can benefit our health?

One such spice is curry, a favorite food for many in India and nearby regions of the world. It’s so popular that curry is the name used for the food dish and for the spice used to make such a dish. Turmeric is the actual spice that is used to make curry. It is a deep yellow powder that is obtained from drying and grinding or pounding turmeric roots.

Turmeric root plant, Curcuma longa. Image from Franz Eugen Köhler, 1897, public domain in US.
Turmeric root plant, Curcuma longa. Image from Franz Eugen Köhler, 1897, public domain in US.

The root of the turmeric plant contains a chemical called curcumin which is purported to have a number of health benefits. The anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory properties of curcumin may be responsible for the observations of improved health when curry is eaten regularly.

Pre-clinical studies have shown that curcumin has positive effects on the brain in rats that were engineered to have Alzheimer’s disease. After being fed a curcumin-laced diet the rats were healthier. Their maze times improved, which speaks to a better memory, and the degree of inflammation in the brain was reduced. Perhaps one day a drug can be developed from this knowledge that will aid Alzheimer’s sufferers.

Curcumin has been shown to have anti-cancer properties, at least in Petri dishes, but those early studies spawned further investigation. At a hospital in the UK a clinical trial will study a combination therapy involving curry capsules and a chemotherapy agent on bowel cancer. It is purported that a combination of the spice plus a chemotherapy performs much better than either one alone in fighting cancer. The ultimate goal of the research is helping to understand if there are benefits to using curcumin, and if so, how much is needed.

The theory is that curcumin somehow latches onto a cancerous or damaged cell and that may trigger cell death. Killing cancerous cells is paramount to success in riding the body of cancer as that would halt the spread of the disease if the affected cells could be destroyed. Esophageal and bowel cancer are being targeted by research teams studying the health effects of turmeric and curry.

Some other benefits of turmeric include that it aids digestion, fights infections, improves skin conditions, helps heal stroke damage, and may improve the memory of dementia patients. With all these benefits, why not have a weekly curry meal?

We invite you to share your stories on how the spice turmeric has been good for your health. How do you cook with turmeric and do you find that it aids digestion? How else do people use turmeric root or preparations with curcumin?