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Purple garlic

Garlic celebrations, 2020

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Love garlic? Penny Woodward tells you how to celebrate with garlic.

The Australian garlic harvest has not quite finished, but there is already 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, for your own crop.

There used to be a period about this time of year where garlic in supermarkets was also Australian grown. In recent years 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 should be freshly cured and delicious, the imported garlic will probably 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, most of them open to the public.

They kick off on Saturday 15th February 2020 with the Meeniyan Garlic Festival. This is the fourth 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 are also lots of activities for children, regional wines and cheeses and a range of garlic experts talking about garlic and other produce in the education centre.  For more information

Two weeks later, Saturday 29th February 2020 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 terrific 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 15th March 2020. Again with speakers and food stalls and entertainment, there will be lots of garlic (and tomatoes) to taste and buy. For more information

The other event is the garlic judging for the Australian Food Awards on the 19th February 2020. This is not open to the public, and entries are only from commercial growers, big and small. Entries are open from the 26th of November 2019 until 7th February 2020. If you want to enter go here For more information

Judging is always interesting for myself and my three fellow judges with  60 or so garlics to pull apart, smell and taste, both raw and cooked. I’ve been doing if for more that five 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!