So one of our readers asked us this question the other day, Why do flavors like garlic and onion stick around in the taste buds so much longer than others?
There is a compound in garlic called allyl methyl sulfide (AMS). It is a gas which gets absorbed into the blood when you are digesting the garlic (and onions and shallots). From the blood it is transferred to the lungs where it is then exhaled. A big part of flavor reception is through the nose so you get that lingering taste that way.
Some of the AMS compound is also released through the skin. Unfortunately, in people who have diets that use onion or garlic heavily, the smell can linger on for days. The smell seeps through the skin with sweat and you slowly start to smell of what you eat. When I travelled to India I noticed some people smelled like curry, onion and garlic. Luckily I love curry, onions and garlic. As an anecdotal counter-point, a coworker of mine has an Indian brother-in-law and apparently Indians think white people have a noticeable smell due to our meat heavy diet. So perhaps all of our foods contribute and we’re simply used to it.
These types of flavor compounds can be sucked up by your skin. To try this out, if you put some cut up garlic in between your toes, you can taste it after a little while. Garlic cloves are also used to clear up vaginal yeast infections (tucking it on up in there) and women do start to taste garlic after a while. Garlic is antimicrobial and slightly acidic. It can treat yeast infections by rebalancing vaginal Ph (vaginas are supposed to be acidic, about a 4) and killing some of the Candida overgrowth.
This also works with quinine to help with malaria. Quinine is really nasty and bitter so it’s hard to swallow, which is one reason the British invented the gin-and-tonic. However since Muslims can’t drink alcohol they would cut the quinine bark and put it in their socks/shoes while building the Suez Canal. Research labs use a compound called dimethyl sulfoxide (DMSO). It’s slightly toxic and can be absorbed through your skin, and can also apparently make you taste garlic.
Nowadays commercial farmers prepare the animals we consume before they are even slaughtered. Some farmers make goats that are about to be slaughter eat garlic to flavor them from the inside. When they do kill them the blood gives off that garlic aroma.
A useful tip I would like to give here is that if your hands smell like garlic and the smell doesn’t come off with soap try rubbing them against the steel sink and wash them again. Steel neutralizes the odor.