Allium ampeloprasum, Allium porrum, Great-Headed Garlic,
Elephant garlic, Levant Garlic, Wild Leek, Kurrat,
Hebrew: שום גבוה, Arabic: ثوم بري

Scientific name:  Allium ampeloprasum L.
Synonym name:  Allium porrum L.
Common name:  Great-Headed Garlic, Elephant garlic, Levant Garlic, Wild Leek
Hebrew name:  שום גבוה
Arabic name:  ثوم بري
Family:  Amaryllidaceae, נרקיסיים
Subfamily:  Allioideae (formerly treated as a separate family, Alliaceae)
Tribe:  Allieae (comprises a single genus, Allium)
Genus:  Allium, שום

Israel, Flowers, Wildflowers, Pictures

Life form:  Geophyte
Stems:  Pseudo-stem, a false stem made of the rolled bases of leaves
Leaves:  Alternate, rosette, entire; 5-40mm wide, linear, flat
Inflorescence:  Umbel 5-9cm in diameter, globose, usually dense
Flowers:  purple, pedicels 10-60mm
Fruits / pods:  Capsule 4mm
Flowering Period:   April, May
Habitat:   Shrub-steppes, Desert
Distribution:  Mediterranean Woodlands and Shrublands, Semi-steppe shrublands, Shrub-steppes, Deserts and extreme deserts, Montane vegetation of Mt. Hermon
Chorotype:   Med - Irano-Turanian
Summer shedding:  Ephemeral
Protected Flower, צמח מוגן:  yes

Derivation of the botanical name:
Allium, onion, chive and garlic. From the classical Latin name for garlic.
ampeloprasum, ampelos, αμπελοϛ, "a vine", Clematis maritima; o connective vowel in botanical Latin; prason, πρασον, "leek"; um, Latinizing nounal suffix. A wild leek found in Greek vineyards.
The Hebrew word: שום, shum, Akkadian: sumu; Aramaic: Thomas; שום, אכדית: sumu; ארמית: תומא
  • The standard author abbreviation L. is used to indicate Carl Linnaeus (1707 – 1778), a Swedish botanist, physician, and zoologist, the father of modern taxonomy.
Allium ampeloprasum comprises several vegetables of which the most important ones are: leek, headed garlic, elephant garlic, pearl onion, kurrat.
It is probably more closely related to the leek than to ordinary garlic. The bulbs are very large and can weigh over a pound. A single clove of elephant garlic can be as large as a whole bulb of ordinary garlic. Allium ampeloprasum sensu lato is a wide complex of wild ecotypes and cultivated plants. More or less bulbous leek was well known and cultivated by ancient Egyptians, Greeks and Romans.
Allium is one of the most ancient of man's herbs.

The oldest recorded literature from the Sumerians is dated at 2600-2100 BCE.
It was part of the staple diet of the Egyptian pyramid builders. Several cloves of garlic were found in the tomb of Tutankhamun (c.1370-52 BCE).
Garlic was also mentioned in the Bible, during the time of the exodus (Numbers 11:5-6 (c. 550-400 BCE)), and in the Talmud.
Its historical or traditional use (may or may not be supported by scientific studies) has been mentioned by Hippocrates, Galen, Pliny the Elder, and Dioscorides for many conditions, including parasites, respiratory problems, poor digestion, and low energy.
  • Pliny (23-79 CE), Natural History, Book XIX.110: The best Leeks come from Egypt, and the next to Ostia and La Riccia…There is a story that a member of the Order of Knights named Mela (Pomponius Mela, who wrote 'De situ orbis libri III' around 43 CE; the earliest Roman geographer), when recalled from a deputy-governorship by the emperor Tiberius to be impeached for maladministration, in extreme despair swallowed a dose of leek-juice weighting three denarii in silver, and immediately expired without suffering any pain."
    Pliny also records the often repeated story of the emperor Nero's use of the Leek for the sake of his voice: "It may also be suitable to mention the leek in this family of plants, especially as importance has recently been given to the chive by the emperor Nero, who on certain fixed days of every month always ate chives preserved in oil, and nothing else, not even bread, for the sake of is voice."
    Book XXIV.136: the ampeloprason ("vine leek") grows in vineyards, has the leaves of a leek, causes violent belching, but is an antidote for the bites of serpents. It promotes urine and menstruation. Taken in drink and applied externally it checks discharges of blood from the genital organ. It is administered to women after child-birth and for the bites of dogs.
  • Muslim legend tells that when Satan left the Garden of Eden after the Fall, garlic sprang up from his left footstep and onion from his right.
  • During the plague in Marseilles in 1722, four thieves made a good living from plundering the bodies of plague victims but escaped contagion themselves. They attributed their protection to the liberal application or ingestion of a special vinegar infused with herbs and garlic: Vinaigre des quatre Voleurs"-‘Four Thieves Vinegar’.
    There are many recipes for the vinegar, and all include garlic.
  • Louis Pasteur (1822-1895), French chemist and microbiologist, reported in 1858, that garlic and onion were antibacterial.
  • Albert Schweitzer (1875-1965), theologian, philosopher, organist, and mission doctor, used garlic alone to treat amoebic dysentery in Africa.
  • James A.Duke (born 1929), an American botanist, writes in "Herbs of the Bible":"Believing that garlic increases virility, Hebrews have relied on the herb to be able to “be fruitful and multiply” as directed in Genesis. According to the Talmud, there are five properties to the garlic that many Jews consumed on Fridays (Shabbat). 1. It keeps the body warm. 2. It brightens the face. 3. It increases semen. 4. It kills parasites. 5. It fosters love and removes jealousy. Why Fridays? After the women’s ritual Friday bath, or mikvah, the men could make love to their wives (with consent, of course).
    The use of garlic to increase virility may be more than just an interesting bit of folklore or ritual. Garlic has a high content of free amino acids dominated by the amino acid arginine. Arginine is used by the cells that line the artery walls to manufacture nitric oxide, which facilitates blood flow to the penis. Without nitric oxide, erections are impossible.

Bible resources:
  1. Numbers 11:5
    We remember the fish we ate in Egypt at no cost—also the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions and garlic.