Garlic’s in…….

12 04 2012

Garlic is something I use every day.  Any time I start cooking anything (unless it’s a chocolate cake!) I reach for the garlic and onions.  I love the stuff, and its medicinal properties are well understood.  These days though, you have to be careful when buying garlic, most of what you see on supermarket shelves is total crap that comes from China.  The bulk of the world’s garlic is produced in China where the cost of labour significantly reduces the cost of manual processing that garlic requires. For this reason, in those countries that accept imported garlic like Australia but, interestingly, not Europe, buying imported garlic is cheaper.  A lot cheaper, as much as 75% in fact!

Despite this, Chinese garlic does not meet with food safety protocols (at least those in Australia). According to Henry Bell of the Australian Garlic Industry Association, “garlic from China is doused in chemicals to stop sprouting, to whiten garlic, and to kill insects and plant matter. He also reports that garlic is grown in untreated sewage” (…) .

what’s wrong with purple garlic?

Garlic is whitened by using chlorine or with a mixture of sulphur and wood ash. Whitening garlic supposedly helps to “make it look healthier and more attractive to consumers”. This is plain crazy……  what on Earth is wrong with purple?

In fact this obsession with white foods has led to the bleaching of lots of food products (flour, salt, sugar) using chlorine dioxide or benzoyl peroxide.  It gets worse…..

Growth inhibitors are used to stop garlic from sprouting and can be made from hormones or chemicals. When garlic begins to sprout, the garlic clove loses much of its potency. Growth inhibitors together with gamma irradiation is supposed to extend the shelf life of garlic.  It doesn’t work in any case, when I have bought this crap, it’s gone off before I got to the end of the bag……

Gamma radiation is also used to sterilise many products, and in Australia, this treatment is not accepted for foodstuffs. This does not prevent food treated by gamma radiation to enter the country.  And if you try to plant it……  it doesn’t grow!  You are in fact eating dead food.

Australia also requires that all garlic regardless of origin is fumigated with methyl bromide at entry to Australia. Methyl bromide is a colourless gas and a potent chemical used as an insecticide, fungicide and herbicide.

So now you know why I really need to grow my own.  But it’s not easy in this sub tropical climate, garlic likes a Mediterranean climate (like Tassie!) where the summers are dry, and winters cool and wet….  the total opposite of Cooran.  I’ve tried and tried, and while I know people around here who’ve succeeded, I have mostly met failure.  But I’m having one last crack.  At thirty bucks a kilo, it’s also getting expensive when you use it like I do.

Garlic needs a good six months in the ground to grow properly.  My French mate Serge, who has more green thumbs than fingers and toes combined, has successfully grown his garlic near Gympie.  He tells me in Normandy they plant it on the shortest day of the year, and harvest on the longest.  You can’t do that here, Christmas is way way too hot for garlic, and Permies in my area recommend planting on the Autumn equinox, and harvesting on the Spring equinox.  Except March has been way too wet of recent years (garlic just hates wet feet..) and I think it’s still a bit warm.

This year’s Easter weather finally seems to have brought an end to La Nina and the accompanying flooding rain.  So over the past week or so, I have been enjoying the milder weather and doing lots of “chop and drop”, building mounds of arrowroot greens and weeds and comfrey, to which I must get around to adding the goats’ bedding to finish off another couple of cubic metres of compost.  Over the past couple of years I’ve built up a raised bed of such compost, just to grow root vegetables….  and it’s ready for action.  So last weekend, I bought a whole kilo of organic garlic a farmer grew just 30km away in the Mary Valley.  Surely if he can manage it, so should I?  I forked over my deep bed (which was full of worms), added some blood and bone and composted chook poo, and mulched the freshly made bed.  From the kilo of garlic, I got about 200 cloves, and I planted the lot in one hit.

Wish me luck.  It should have sprouted within a week, especially as we are again victimised by some rogue heavy showers…..  hopefully it’s not going to be too wet again!