If you want liven up your garden with pretty flowers, look no farther than Mansoa allicea, better known as Garlic Vine or False Garlic. Garlic Vine is a tropical vine native to northern South America, from approximately Brazil to the southern edge of Mexico.
It has been transplanted all over the world, from as close to its native area as Puerto Rico and the West Indies to southern Africa and Thailand. Garlic Vine is commonly referred to as False Garlic because, while it is not related to true garlic (Allium sativum), False Garlic has a garlicky taste and smell, especially when the leaves are crushed.
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Garlic Vine can be used in place of true garlic in a pinch. In its native habitat, Garlic Vine is known as Ajo sativa. This is Spanish-Quechua for forest garlic or wild garlic, so named because of its garlicky taste and smell and because it grows wildly in its native forested habitat.
How to Grow Garlic Vine (Mansoa allicea)
Mansoa allicea is in the family Bignoniaceae, which is the Trumpet Creeper family. This family is made up of related plants whose flowers are trumpet-shaped, such as Glow Vine and Bignonia.
Garlic vine, as well as its closely related cousin Membranous Garlic Vine (Mansoa hymenaea), is a woody vine that likes to attach itself to the trunks of large trees as it grows up towards the sunlight.
If you don’t have any large trees handy or want to make some other ornamental use out of Garlic Vine, it can also be grown over an arbor to make a beautiful entrance to a garden, up a trellis to bookend a garden area, or over a chain-link fence to gussy it up.
Just keep in mind that since garlic vine is a woody vine, you should be careful about growing it over wooden structures or fences, as it can get quite heavy and possibly cause the structure to collapse.
What makes garlic vine such a great ornamental addition to any garden is the fact that it has beautiful and very showy flowers. The flowers on Garlic Vine are funnel or trumpet-shaped and grow in clusters on the vines. Most begin as a startlingly bright shade of lavender before gently fading to a pale pink and white color.
Since garlic vine’s native environment is a tropical environment, it enjoys a warm, sunny environment with lots of direct sunlight throughout the day. If that’s not possible, then it will tolerate some partial shade as well.
A good rule of thumb is that it will grow best in USDA zones 9 through 11, although it can be grown in pots and brought inside during wintertime if you live in a colder environment, or if you wish to grow Garlic Vine on your porch to frame your door.
One thing to keep in mind is that if you choose to grow this spectacular vine in the ground, it can grow from between three to five feet, although it can possibly grow up to eight feet tall. Luckily, Garlic Vine grows only moderately fast, so it should be fairly easy to keep it in check with regular pruning after it has shed its flowers.
When planting Garlic Vine, it prefers rich soil that drains well, although it can tolerate other soils as well. It is also easily propagated from cuttings, so once you get your plant, you can spread Garlic Vine to different parts of your property easily.
Cuttings will also make it easy to share this spectacular plant with friends and family, and pass on the enjoyment of beauty to others.
Can You Eat the Garlic Vine?
Garlic vine also has some gastronomic uses in addition to being a beautiful addition to your garden. Even though it is not related to true garlic and is not in the Allium family (which includes garlic and onions), False Garlic can still be used in cooking.
Can you eat Garlic Vine? Yep – and will add a garlicky taste to food.
The reason why False Garlic can still taste and smell like true garlic is that it shares some similar chemicals like sulfides and some oils from the plant. If you want to eat Garlic Vine, there are several ways to enjoy it.
- The young Garlic Vine leaves, since they are so soft and tender, can be chopped up and used in food like you would use chives.
- The older Garlic Vine leaves can still be chopped up and used fresh like the younger leaves. Since they are tougher than the younger leaves, they can also be crushed for use in food.
- The older leaves can also be dried and turned into powder for use the same way you would use garlic powder in food.
- The flowers of Garlic Vine can also be eaten, much like zucchini flowers are eaten. The taste and texture of the flowers are much better when they are younger, and can have a crispy texture with a fruity or sweet garlicky taste.
- As the flowers get older, the texture won’t be as nice and the flavor will fade.
Garlic Vine Medicinal Uses
In addition to its gastronomic versatility, garlic vine has also been used in the medicinal traditions of the indigenous Amazonian tribes.
This is not medical advice. Always consult your doctor before taking any medicine, natural or otherwise.
It has been used in traditional medicine to potentially alleviate the symptoms of fevers, colds, flu symptoms, and respiratory issues, as well as arthritis and other rheumatic and inflammatory issues.
As with true garlic, False Garlic is sometimes used to alleviate symptoms of high cholesterol, constipation, and indigestion.
The traditional ways of preparing and taking False Garlic is by infusion, decoction, tincture or capsule.
- The fresh leaves are usually used to make an infusion or tea to help with sickness or inflammatory issues.
- The bark or roots of False Garlic are usually used in decoctions or tinctures, which may aid in the treatment of illnesses, inflammation, or as a laxative or antispasmodic.
- The leaves can also be added to a bath to help fight aches, pains, cramps, fatigue, and fever
- Crushed leaves are applied to the forehead to help with headaches.
- Leaves were traditionally applied to the body as an insect or snake repellent.
Since False Garlic shares some of the same compounds as true garlic, it is also thought to be potentially helpful in treating high cholesterol as well as being an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory agent.
In some traditional medicine, it is also used as an antifungal, diuretic, and for treating diabetes. If you wish to use Garlic Vine as holistic medicine, please make sure to contact your doctor to make sure it is OK for you before adding anything to your medical repertoire or going off any medicines.
This is not meant to be medical advice, but more as a presentation of traditional medical practices of some of the Amazonian native tribes.
Will You Grow a Garlic Vine?
Mansoa allicea, also known as Garlic Vine or False Garlic, is a beautiful and eye-catching addition to any garden. It loves a warm and sunny garden the best, although it can be grown in pots in more temperate climates.
The biggest requirement for it, though, is a sturdy and high place to climb up as it grows, since it gets up to five feet tall, occasionally reaching heights of eight feet.
Garlic vine’s stunning beauty and garlicky smell belie its many uses, and despite being no relation to the Allium family, it can still be used to season food and in traditional indigenous medical practices. Hopefully, all this information gave you a better idea of the versatility of the Garlic Vine.