GARLIC (Heb. שׁוּם, shum), plant mentioned once in the Bible among the vegetables which the Israelites ate in Egypt and for which they longed when wandering in the wilderness (Num 11:5). Garlic (Allium sativum) is a condiment which was extremely popular among the peoples of the East from very early times. Herodotus states that an inscription on the pyramid of the pharaoh Cheops refers to the large sum spent on garlic as food for the men who worked on the pyramids. The ancients attributed to garlic aphrodisiac qualities (Pliny, Historia Naturalis, 20:23), and an enactment ascribed to Ezra decrees that it is to be eaten on Friday evenings since "it promotes love and arouses desire" (TJ, Meg. 4:1, 75a). Because it was their custom to eat garlic, the Jews referred to themselves as "garlic eaters" (Ned. 3:10). The fastidious loathed the smell, and it is related of Judah ha-Nasi that he asked those who had eaten garlic to leave the bet midrash (Sanh. 11a). In this he may have been influenced by the Roman aristocracy's objections to garlic eating, the emperor Marcus Aurelius having criticized Jews for exuding its smell (Ammianus Marcellinus, Res gestae, 22:5). Garlic was regarded as a remedy for intestinal worms (BK 82a), a view also held by Dioscorides (De Materia Medica, 2:181). It belongs to the genus Allium, to which belong also the onion and the leek (ḥaẓir, to be distinguished from its usual sense of grass: fodder ), which are mentioned together with garlic in the Bible (Num. 11:5). Many species of the genus Allium grow wild in Israel, and are picked and eaten by the local population. -BIBLIOGRAPHY: Loew, Flora, 2 (1924), 139–49; J. Feliks, Olam ha-Ẓome'aḥ ha-Mikra'i (19682), 172f. ADD BIBLIOGRAPHY: Feliks, Ha-Ẓome'aḥ, 156. (Jehuda Feliks)

Encyclopedia Judaica. 1971.

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