Harvest season has begun for Australian garlic growers. Australian garlic is seasonal and available for just a few months of the year, from around November through to May. Outside of those months, most shops only stock imported garlic.
Now is the ideal time to support our Australian garlic growers and buy a year’s supply of garlic.
The Australian garlic industry was devastated in the mid-1990s when cheap Chinese garlic flooded the Australian market. Very few growers persisted. For more than a decade, most stores only stocked imported garlic.
"Quite apart from the inherent food miles, there are several other reasons why we shouldn’t eat this garlic," writes Penny Woodward, author of Garlic: An Organic Guide To Knowing, Growing And Using Garlic.
"Imported garlic is often bleached, irradiated, sprayed with maleic acid to stop it from sprouting, kept for months in cold storage and, finally, it is always treated with methyl bromide before being allowed on to our supermarket shelves."
Thankfully, the Australian garlic industry is starting to recover. There are small-scale growers popping up everywhere. I recently met with one of these boutique growers – Elizabeth Durbin from Pokolbin Purple. She grows garlic on her Hunter Valley property and is secretary of the Australian Garlic Industry Association.
To make sure your precious stash of Australian garlic lasts until next season, you will need to store it carefully.
"The first thing to remember is that garlic is a living organism. Unlike fruit and vegetables that start to decay as soon as they’re picked, garlic remains alive and breathing – just waiting for its opportunity to spring back to life after the summer hibernation,’’ Elizabeth said.
"You need to store your garlic where it can breathe. Never wrap or store fresh garlic in plastic and don’t place it in the fridge. The cold, humid environment of the fridge is a big no-no. These environments can cause your garlic to die, become mushy and rot, or sprout out of season."
"Store your bulbs intact and unpeeled in a cardboard box, paper bag or wicker basket in a dry, dim and well-ventilated location. On top of the fridge or in your laundry or garage may be suitable."
Stored garlic will typically start to sprout in early autumn. To help your stash last a few more months, you can freeze it. To freeze, separate the cloves and place in a container in the freezer. "Frozen garlic will become mushy when defrosted and the flavour not so intense. But frozen Australian garlic is still better than any import you’ll find in the supermarkets over winter," Elizabeth said.
Where to buy Australian garlic
The best place to find Australian garlic is at your greengrocer, farmers’ markets or direct from the farmer. Many Australian garlic growers sell online, including some Hunter region growers (see list below).
If you want to buy Australian garlic, you better be quick. Some growers have sold this season’s harvest already.
Hunter region garlic growers
These growers sell online and/or at various Hunter region markets. Visit their websites for information on where to buy.
Four Acre Farm. Available for a short time only from Newcastle City Farmers Market.
Originally published in the Newcastle Herald Monday 8th December 2014.
For those of you who grow your ow garlic - check out this new website by Penny Woodward. It contains up-to-date in-depth information on Australian Garlic Cultivars.