The Stinking Rose

Garlic is known universally as the stinking rose, the term reportedly going back to Greek and Roman times. But why? The “stinking” part is obvious, but why “rose”? Garlic is an allium which is part of the Liliaceae family, which makes it closer to a lily than a rose. So what is the origin of the name?

Why Is Garlic Called The Stinking Rose?

Unfortunately there is no clear answer to this question.

In their excellent book “Garlic: Nature’s Original Remedy”, Stephen Fulder and John Blackwood discuss the issue. The ancient Greek name for garlic was scorodon. According to Fulder and Blackwood, French physician Henri Leclerc derived this from skaion rodon which he translated as rose puante, or “stinking rose”.

This still doesn’t explain why garlic should have been considered a rose in the first place. One possibility is that if looked at from underneath a bulb of garlic does slightly resemble a white rose with the large ends of the cloves forming the petals. Personally I find this rather a stretch of the imagination.

So I haven’t yet heard a theory about the name that really convinces me. If that changes, I’ll let you know!