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. Garlic is closer to a lily
than a rose. So what is the origin of the name?
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!