Onion and Garlic
Onions (A. cepa), and garlic (A. sativam), have been used in traditional and folk medicine for over 4000 years. Disorders for which both garlic and onions have been used include asthma, arthritis, arteriosclerosis, chicken pox, the common cold, diabetes, malaria, tumors and heart problems. Modern science has shown that alliums and their constituents have several therapeutic effects, including antiplatelet aggregation activity, fibriolytic activity, anticarcinogenic effects, antimicrobial activity, and anti-inflamatory and anti-
Onion and garlic based products are currently marketed in a variety of forms. They include, for onions: dehydrated onion pieces, onion powder, onion flavourings, encapsulated flavours, oleoresins and essential oils, onion salt, pickled onions, canned, frozen and packaged onions; for garlic: dehydrated garlic powder, garlic salt, garlic juice, and garlic flavouring, encapsulated flavours, oleoresins and essential oils.
The processed products have considerable advantages to the food industry. The reduction in bulk means lower transport and distribution costs, the products are not subject to seasonal fluctuation in availability and prices, are more reproducible in organoleptic
quality, and are more readily dispersed in food products than is the case with the chopped, sliced or blended fresh or stored vegetables.
The primary function of existing onion and garlic products is to provide consumers with the characteristic pungent flavour imparted by volatile sulfur compounds. In the past, value of both garlic and onion in disease prevention and health promotion, has been of little consideration in the development of consumer products from alliums. In recent years, their therapeutic properties have been recognized in the processing of onion and garlic capsules, tablets and even in the development of odorless products. These products, however, are more like drugs than true functional foods. Significant progress has been made in designing lower salt-, lower calorie-, lower cholesterol-, and higher fibre- and calcium containing foods, using new food ingredients, such as artificial sweeteners and carbohydrate or protein-based fat substitutes and new processing methods. Thus, one possible approach in development of novel-value-added allium-based functional foods involves incorporation of garlic and/or onion into food products such as bakery products, imitation meats and sausages, and meat pies. The key to the more widespread and increased consumption of onion and garlic and consequently to the increased exploitation of their medicinal and physiological properties, is improvement or elimination of the flavour of these vegetables.