I’ve been ‘doing’ garlic for a few days now, and I’ll get back to it in a moment, but before I do I’d like to tell a cautionary tale about Chamomile and the trouble it can cause. I was sitting at my desk reading Eric Block’s book on garlic – the one I mentioned yesterday – and I was drinking a cup of chamomile tea, and because my mind tends to hop about a bit I started to read the label on the tea packet and saw that it simply said “Chamomile Flowers”. Given that I was already in full-on sceptical mode because I was trying to get my head around some truly challenging material (a.k.a my own scientific shortcomings) the thought floated into my mind that there was no latin name and therefore no way of knowing what I was drinking. I know this is a departure from my love for English plant names, but in this instance Chamomile could be Matricaria recutita – German chamomile, or Chamaemelum nobile – Roman chamomile; related and similar but with slightly different properties. Nearly all the authorities treat the two plants as being virtually identical but one (Andrew Chevalier) says the Roman Chamomile is more bitter, and the tea is more often made from German chamomile. That squares with our experience in the summer when we made tea from our own (Roman) plants and the resulting brew was unpalatably bitter.
So there is a difference between the two plants, but whether it could be discovered from a used teabag was another matter altogether. But fortunately I discovered that the flowers differ in that the centre of the Roman chamomile flower is solid whereas the German chamomile has a hollow centre to the flower. Time for scalpel and magnifier and – hey presto – as the photo shows, the tea bags contain German chamomile.
Back then to garlic – and some attempt to figure out whether it works or not. Block’s monograph cites a pile of papers and it would be fair to say that the scientific verdict came back as a definite maybe but can’t be sure. I guess some of the wilder reaches of the advertising hype will not stand proper scrutiny, but some more research I came across suggests that at least one problem may be the lack of standardisation of garlic products used for research. The link leads to the whole paper and it’s worth a read even if you’re not (like me) used to the language.
Tonight we’re off to a Bath Natural History Society meeting on the Purple Emperor butterfly given by Matthew Oates who will probably talk about the rewilding of the Knebb estate. Should be good.