Smell of the week: Garlic

One of my favorite appetite stimulators is the scent of cooking garlic in EVOO (which I blogged about previously). The putative ancestor of modern garlic plants originated in Asia. The commonly used ones today, Allium sativum and Allium ophioscorodon, are widespread in cultivation.

Much of the headspace of garlic volatiles consists of sulfurs. Allicin is a key chemical compound in crushed or cut garlic; however, allicin (the compound associated with health and antibiotic benefits) degrades rapidly to more stable sulfide compounds that are the cause of the distinctive garlic body and breath odor (especially allyl methyl sulfide). The interest in studying the volatiles of garlic are for the production of better synthetic garlic flavour or the opposite, for dietary supplements with no associated odor.

A nice article on growing garlic was recently featured in the New York Times. If I didn’t live in the subartic, I’d be tempted to start my own production line!


Published by Kara C. Hoover

I am a bioanthropologist living in Alaska studying human olfactory variation and prehistoric human health and diet.

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