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    Topic review

    Garlic (Allium sativum L.)

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    Submitted by: Silvia Lisciani

    Definition

    Garlic (Allium sativum L.) is one of the most important food products in the world and an ancient and widespread medicinal herb. It is rich in minerals and vitamins, which are both essential nutrients for human health.

    1. Introduction

    Garlic (Allium sativum L.) belongs to the plant family Amaryllidaceae and it is one of the most important bulb crops [1]. Native to Central Asia, it is now cultivated worldwide. Garlic has been appreciated since ancient times for its aroma and flavor, which make it suitable for consumption in numerous recipes around the world [2][3]. The first mention of garlic can be traced back to an Egyptian papyrus, the Codex Ebers, dating from 1550 BC, containing hundreds of recipes used, for instance, as a therapeutic cure for headaches and insect bites, and as a painkiller [4]. In fact, in addition to the use of garlic as a food product, it is also known as a medicinal plant; garlic has been used for healing a wide variety of disorders, including leprosy, diarrhea, constipation, asthma, fever, and infection [5][6]. The benefits associated with its consumption are attributed to the presence of different functional compounds in it. The synergistic interactions between all the components, vitamins, saponins, and moderate levels of carotenoids contribute to provide the observed health benefits of garlic [2][7]. The advantages attributed to garlic consumption should also include the high fructooligo-/polysaccharide (FOS) content, responsible for its prebiotic activity, together with dietary fiber [8]. In recent years, many researchers have demonstrated various significant biological functions of garlic, including anticancer, cardiovascular protective, anti-inflammatory, and immune modulatory [9][10][11][12][13]. In particular, the wide variety of dietary and medicinal functions of garlic can be attributed to its oil-soluble organosulfur compounds, which are also the main factors responsible for its characteristic flavor and taste [2][12]. The organosulfur compounds of garlic bulbs are a major source of sulfur in the human diet [14][15][16]. Garlic also contains a decent percentage of sodium, potassium, and magnesium, as well as vitamins, such as C and B [17][18]. Most of the studies present in the literature addressed “commercial” garlic samples, but its particular type of reproduction (agamic) has favored the development and diffusion of numerous local ecotypes that were adapted to different climates and soils [19]. Despite the fact that garlic has been propagated asexually with cloves in many areas of the world by farmers, there is a great diversity in its morphological and agronomic characteristics, mostly due to the existence of various ecotypes that have been cultivated in the same areas for a long time, resulting in the accumulation of natural mutations [20][21][22].
    The genotype significantly affects the chemical composition of garlic bulbs, as well as their growing conditions [15][16][17][18][19][20][21][22]. The quality and fertility of the soil have a direct influence on the levels of nutrients in food crops, in particular on micronutrients. Many factors, such as rainfall, sunshine, temperature [23][24][25], species, and soil characteristics, including mineral composition and bioavailability, crop systems, and fertilization practices, play critical roles in plant mineral uptake, affecting the morphology, physiology, and nutritional quality [14][24][25][26][27]. Therefore, cultivation in selected areas can be used to optimize the content of compounds and, consequently, the quality of the final product [15].
    Accordingly, differences in geography and farming conditions may determine variations in mineral content for certain plant species. In addition, fertilizer application rates and soil properties may have a significant effect on the mineral composition of garlic bulbs [22]. In this regard, as reported by Naruka and Dhaka [28], nitrogen fertilization has a positive influence on the N, P, K, and S contents of the bulb, due to the improved nutritional environment both in the root zone and the plant system. An increased availability of nutrients in the root zone, coupled with increased metabolic activity at the cellular level, might increase the nutrient uptake and accumulation in the vegetative plant parts [27][29][30][31][32].
    Despite the importance of knowledge of close linkage between the nutritional profile of local products and territory and cultivation practices [33], food composition data on Italian-specific landraces are still scarce, and studies are incomplete, especially regarding information on the amounts of vitamins. The identification and highlighting of the chemical properties of the landraces compared with “commercial” varieties may represent an added value of the product to better address the consumer preference [8][34] and stimulate cultivation, thus contributing to the protection of this biodiversity by promoting its conservation [34]. The valorization of the typical products by identifying and evaluating nutritional quality and safety characteristics represents an important goal for the preservation of local ecosystems [33][34].

    2. Four Italian Garlic Landraces

    Four traditional ecotypes of Allium sativum L.: Bianco Piacentino, Rosso di Castelliri, Rosso di Sulmona, and Rosso di Proceno were selected and analyse for their content of minerals and vitamins (Table 1 and Table 2). All four varieties, well characterized as regards their morphological and organoleptic properties, are widespread in Italy and grown in many geo-graphic areas. The samples studied were produced in the Lazio region, in two differentgeographical areas (Viterbo and Alvito), using the same trail conditions.

    The content of essential minerals and oligo-elements in the four landraces of garlic were reported in Table 1. The data showed that potassium (K) was the highest mineral detected, ranging from 645 mg/100 g d.w. of Bianco Piacentino produced in Alvito, to 1057 mg/100 g d.w. of Rosso di Sulmona grown in the same area. These values were comparable to those reported by Bonasia [34], but lower than those reported by Hacıseferoğulları, et al. [35], on a Turkish garlic variety (21,378.84 mg/Kg). The statistical analysis (Table 1) revealed that the cultivar, the geographical area, and the interaction between these variables affected the K content, probably reflecting the high exchangeable K value in Viterbo soil.

    Table 1. Levels of minerals and oligo-elements (mg/100 g d.w.) in four garlic landraces from the Viterbo and Alvito areas.
      Area Bianco
    Piacentino
    Rosso
    di Sulmona
    Rosso
    di Castelliri
    Rosso
    di Proceno
    ANOVA
    Cultivar Area C × A
    Na Viterbo 5 ± 0.3 § 18 ± 0.1 § 4 ± 0.4   4 ± 0.4 § * *** ***
    Alvito 13 ± 0.4 6 ± 0.6 22 ± 5.2 23 ± 0.5
    Mean 9 ± 5.0 a   12 ± 6.4 ab   13 ± 13.7 ab   14 ± 10.7 b  
    K Viterbo 866 ± 18.7 § 723 ± 9.9   1016 ± 35.4 § 1049 ± 143.1   n.s. ** ***
    Alvito 645 ± 20.7 1057 ± 130.4 710 ± 19.6 694 ± 6.5
    Mean 755 ± 128.2   890 ± 207.3   863 ± 178.5   871 ± 221.1  
    Ca Viterbo 27 ± 0.7 § 46 ± 0.8   40 ± 0.0   40 ± 1.0 § *** * ***
    Alvito 23 ± 0.4 38 ± 1.8 50 ± 2.5 50 ± 0.2
    Mean 25 ± 2.1 a   42 ± 4.74 b   45 ± 6.0 c   45 ± 5.8 c  
    Mg Viterbo 47 ± 0.0 § 48 ± 0.6   54 ± 0.2   50 ± 6.4   * ** n.s.
    Alvito 37 ± 0.9 49 ± 3.4 45 ± 1.9 42 ± 0.1
    Mean 42 ± 5.5 a   49 ± 2.0 b   50 ± 5.2 bc   46 ± 5.5 abc  
    P Viterbo 296 ± 1.2   293 ± 4.7   347 ± 0.2   301 ± 24.5   * ** *
    Alvito 219 ± 32.4 303 ± 20.3 263 ± 6.7 261 ± 0.5
    Mean 257 ± 48.1 a   298 ± 13.5 a   305 ± 50.1 b   281 ± 27.3 a  
    Fe Viterbo 1.54 ± 0.136   3.48 ± 1.178   2.56 ± 0.039   3.21 ± 1.446   n.s. n.s. n.s.
    Alvito 1.54 ± 0.132 3.05 ± 1.366 2.77 ± 0.190 2.98 ± 0.103
    Mean 1.54 ± 0.109   3.26 ± 1.070   2.67 ± 0.165   3.10 ± 0.848  
    Cu Viterbo 0.60 ± 0.096   0.53 ± 0.006   0.61 ± 0.002   0.52 ± 0.000   n.s. n.s. n.s.
    Alvito 0.46 ± 0.027 0.66 ± 0.020 0.55 ± 0.015 0.46 ± 0.009
    Mean 0.53 ± 0.102   0.60 ± 0.075   0.58 ± 0.040   0.49 ± 0.034  
    Zn Viterbo 1.84 ± 0.016 § 1.54 ± 0.017   1.85 ± 0.009   1.49 ± 0.106   * * *
    Alvito 1.51 ± 0.041 1.68 ± 0.100 1.60 ± 0.084 1.43 ± 0.004
    Mean 1.67 ± 0.192 a   1.61 ± 0.101 ab   1.73 ± 0.155 a   1.46 ± 0.071 b  
    Mn Viterbo 0.53 ± 0.005 § 0.64 ± 0.003   0.60 ± 0.002   0.63 ± 0.088   ** n.s. n.s.
    Alvito 0.44 ± 0.001 0.58 ± 0.065 0.61 ± 0.043 0.65 ± 0.009
    Mean 0.49 ± 0.054 a   0.61 ± 0.050 b   0.61 ± 0.025 a   0.64 ± 0.053 b  
    Data are expressed as Mean ± S.D.; Student’s t-test between two areas of each cultivar: § is statistically significant (p < 0.05). Two-way ANOVA effect: * statistically significant differences at p below 0.05; ** statistically significant differences at p-value below 0.01; *** statistically significant differences at p-value below 0.001. Tukey’s honestly significant difference (HSD) test: by row, means of each cultivar followed by different superscript (a,b,c) are significantly different (p < 0.05).
    Table 2 shows the content of some water-soluble vitamins in the studied samples. The values pointed out that, among the B-group vitamins, vitamin B6 was the most represented, followed by niacin, thiamine and finally riboflavin. Vitamin C was contained in greater quantities than all other vitamins detected.

    Vitamin C content ranged from a minimum value of 9.7 mg/100 g found in Rosso di Proceno from Viterbo, to a maximum value of 15.6 mg/100 g in Rosso di Sulmona grown in Alvito and were not influenced by soil, cultivar or cultivar–soil interaction (Table 2). These results may be due to the fact that the vitamin C content depends on many factors, not least its sensitivity to pre- and post-harvest condition.

    Table 2. Levels of vitamins (mg/100 g f.w.) in four garlic landraces from the Viterbo and Alvito areas.
      Area Bianco
    Piacentino
    Rosso
    di Sulmona
      Rosso
    di Castelliri
      Rosso
    di Proceno
    ANOVA
    Cultivar Area C × A
    Thiamine Viterbo 0.27 ± 0.077 0.20 ± 0.005   0.26 ± 0.005   0.21 ± 0.036 n.s. n.s. n.s.
    Alvito 0.25 ± 0.073 0.19 ± 0.017   0.22 ± 0.020   0.24 ± 0.010
    Mean 0.26 ± 0.062 0.19 ± 0.011   0.24 ± 0.025   0.22 ± 0.025
    Riboflavin Viterbo 0.02 ± 0.001 0.01 ± 0.001 § 0.04 ± 0.002 § 0.02 ± 0.001 *** * ***
    Alvito 0.02 ± 0.002 0.02 ± 0.000 0.02 ± 0.002 0.02 ± 0.001
    Mean 0.02 ± 0.002 a 0.02 ± 0.004 a   0.03 ± 0.011 b   0.02 ± 0.001 a
    Niacin Viterbo 0.91 ± 0.000 0.80 ± 0.060   0.66 ±0.040   0.62 ± 0.020 *** n.s n.s
    Alvito 0.77 ± 0.030 0.91 ± 0.030   0.60 ±0.040   0.56 ± 0.030
    Mean 0.84 ± 0.084 a 0.86 ± 0.075 a   0.63 ± 0.047 b   0.59 ± 0.039 b
    Vitamin B6 Viterbo 1.60 ± 0.010 1.37 ± 0.090   2.04 ± 0.230 § 1.03 ± 0.052 *** n.s. n.s.
    Alvito 0.98 ± 0.097 1.37 ± 0.026   0.99 ± 0.056 0.88 ± 0.072
    Mean 1.29 ± 0.357 a 1.37 ± 0.054 a   1.52 ± 0.609 b   0.96 ± 0.099 c
    Vitamin C Viterbo 11.4 ± 2.23 12.6 ± 3.61   13.0 ± 3.97   9.7 ± 1.85 n.s. n.s. n.s.
    Alvito 12.4 ± 2.93 15.6 ± 8.48   14.6 ± 6.16   10.5 ± 6.03
    Mean 11.9 ± 2.21 14.1 ± 5.60   13.8 ± 4.32   10.1 ± 3.66
    Data are expressed as Mean ± S.D.; Student’s t-test between two areas of each cultivar: § is statistically significant (p < 0.05). Two-way ANOVA effect: * statistically significant differences at p below 0.05; *** statistically significant differences at p-value below 0.001. Tukey’s honestly significant difference (HSD) test: by row, means of each cultivar followed by different superscript (a,b,c) are significantly different (p < 0.05).

    3. Conclusions

    Our results indicated that the four Italian garlic landraces studied were a good source of minerals and vitamins, and their content was differently affected by the genotype and the growing area. The most represented mineral was K, followed by P, Mg and Ca. These concentrations were influenced by the cultivation area and therefore by the characteristics of the soil, since the agronomic trails were the same for Viterbo and Alvito areas.
    As concerns the vitamins, the results showed that vitamin C was the most represented, and its values were independent from the area and cultivar.
    The values of the B vitamins showed a greater cultivar effect for riboflavin, niacin and vitamin B6. Furthermore, many of the micronutrients were influenced by the interaction between cultivar and growing area, suggesting that the effect of the soil on their content is expressed in the presence of some characteristics related to the genotype.
    Therefore, the study of the chemical composition of traditional foodstuffs and their nutritional characteristics, in relation to biodiversity, is important for the definition of their total quality and to enhances and preserves the identity of local products. Furthermore, knowledge about the properties of these garlic varieties could also promote their cultivation and consumption as food. Nowadays, garlic is used mainly in the formulation of food supplements, for its beneficial effects on blood pressure and on the functionality of the cardiovascular system.

    The entry is from 10.3390/su13137405

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