Whats All The Fuss About Garlic?

There aren’t too many plants or food items that gets growers more excited than garlic. Sure, some folks get mushroom fever in the fall, and cannabis is all the rage, but garlic gets almost all gardeners hyped.

Why? After all, it’s just another onion (allium). Onions don’t command upwards of $15/lb. I’ve never heard of a Leek Festival. Apparently the labourers who built the pyramids were partially paid in garlic — I don’t think that shallots would have even got the Sphinx completed.

Garlic is easy to grow, but it takes some practise to get big high quality bulbs. The most important thing is to start with very large locally grown cloves that are proven and acclimatized to our region.

Never attempt to plant (or eat) store-bought imported crap, especially from China. Most of it is bleached, irradiated and fumigated to prevent sprouting. It could be years old and grown in a toxic environment. Yuk!

I truely believe the Pemberton to Lytton corridor grows some of the finest garlic in the world. In all my travels, in which I’m always scouting for garlic at markets, I have never seen or tasted better. We are fortunate to be able to grow both the more hardy and flavourful hardnecks and the more typical softnecks grown in the south. We are blessed with mineral rich soils, pleasant weather in October for planting, just enough insulating snow, an early spring, ample rain into June and a hot dry summer to force bulbing and easy harvesting. The most perfect scenario!

My interest in garlic happened unassumingly about 25 years ago by reading a book called the Garlic Testament. It was a zen and the art of growing garlic type novel written by a hobby garlic farmer in New Mexico. It was part informative, part biography, part philosophy. I don’t think it even comes close to the best book written on the subject, but the lifestyle intrigued me. That autumn, I bought 5 lb off an old hippie friend who lives on the Highline Road and the rest is history. I now grow over 12,000 bulbs.

The local homesteaders of the 60’s, 70′ and 80’s were probably unaware that the were planting the seeds of a future craze. The Rocombole Variety was introduced by the “back to the landers” between D’arcy and  Seton; the Red Russian from the Doukhabour settlement up in the Haylemore and Barkley Valleys; the Porecelains from the commune at the Langstaff Farm in Birken.  If you’re a misfit, garlic is the crop for you.

Nowadays, everyone with a garden has caught the fever. Take a drive up the Meadows and you will see lots of patches, big and small. And why not? It’s easy, healthy, tasty and gets people excited, talking and posting photos on social media… about a bulb in the onion family. Go figure.

The Annual Garlic Festival , Saturday August 25th at Willowcraft Farm in Poole Creek (Birken) is being sanctioned and promoted by the Pemberton Arts Council this year. Everyone is welcome after 4pm. There will be food, drink, live music and of course… Garlic!