Celebrating garlic

Purple garlic
Photo: Penny Woodward

The Australian garlic harvest is now finished, but there is some fabulous Australian garlic available for sale. Don’t forget when you buy this from growers at farmers markets or online, that while you can certainly eat it, you can also keep it to plant, from late March to late May this year, for your own crop.

There used to be a period about this time of year where garlic in supermarkets was also Australian grown. This year we have been seeing some supermarkets mixing up a little Australian garlic with a load of imported garlics and labelling it Australian and imported garlic. While the Australian garlic will be freshly cured and delicious, the imported garlic will be terrible, starting to soften and rot, because it has been stored for so long before being dumped into the Australian market at really cheap prices.

Any garlic from overseas being sold in Australia now will have been sprayed with chemicals to extend shelf life. And all garlic imported into Australia has to be sprayed with the toxic biocide, methyl bromide. So it’s worth making the effort to find and buy Australian Garlic now, for both eating and planting.

If you are a passionate garlic lover, there are also five important garlic events coming up, four of them open to the public.

They kick off on Saturday 17 February with the Meeniyan Garlic Festival. This is the second year of this community driven and organised event. They have Garlic Heaven, including garlic from many different garlic growers, and garlic-themed foods including beer and ice cream. There is also lots of activities for children, regional wines and cheeses and a range of garlic experts talking about garlic in the education centre.  For more information

A week later, Saturday 24 February takes us to Tassie and the Tasman Peninsula for the Koonya Garlic Festival. The oldest Australian garlic festival, this one celebrates the joy of garlic, the food it flavours and the music and arts it inspires. Tasmania has a great array of garlics that will be for sale on the day. There are also great speakers and the iconic garlic competition that is open to home gardeners and commercial growers alike.
For more information

Again in Tasmania, but in the north this time, is Tasmanian Natural Garlic & Tomatoes, Garlic and Tomato Festival in Selbourne. This is all happening on Sunday 18 March. Again with speakers and food stalls and entertainment, there will be lots of garlic (and tomatoes) to taste and buy. For more information

Finally you can go to Grazing on Garlic in the Garden at Katamatite Garlic. Part of the Food and Wine Festival, it’s on 23 March at Katamatite, in northern Victoria. For more information

The other event is the garlic judging for the Australian Food Awards on the 28 February. This is not open to the public, and entries are only from commercial growers, big and small. But it's an interesting day for myself and my three fellow judges with 50 or so garlics to pull apart, smell and taste, both raw and cooked. I’ve been doing if for more that four years now, and every year I’m amazed at the beautiful array of Australian-grown garlic. The variations in flavour range from mild and sweet, to hot and spicy. Other words that are used to describe garlic are savoury, to peppery, fruity, citrusy, nutty, mellow and sulphurous. The results are usually released a couple of days later.

And finally, what do you eat when you need to clear the palate in between tasting garlic? Well, blueberries, apple and lemon sorbet of course!

By: Penny Woodward

First published: February 2018

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Organic Food, Garlic, festivals, buying, celebrating, Food
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