If you are an avid garlic user, you are most likely quite disappointed with the quality of the garlic you can find in grocery stores right about now. The bad news is that it’s not likely to get any better until later this summer when the new harvest comes in. The good news is that there is a perfect substitute available, produced right here on Vancouver Island and available around the province in shops and via mail order from Gabriola Gourmet Garlic.
That little green sprout in the middle can be quite bitter, and it ruins the overall crispness and quality of the garlic. Can you answer yes to the following question? Did you plant at least 50 or 60 cloves of garlic, in your garden, in mid-October of 2009, under the light of the full moon, buck naked? No, I didn’t think so. That’s why you’re stuck with supermarket garlic now. You can’t even get properly preserved fresh garlic from the man I’m about to introduce you to, because he’s sold out. Ken Stefanson is the guy who gave me the garlic planting advice. He’s otherwise known as the owner of Gabriola Gourmet Garlic, I buy my garlic seed stock from him, and I’ve had pretty good success growing my own following his advice, except maybe for the naked part. That’s probably why my garlic is smaller than his.
Any garlic you get now that's sprouting means that it has been shipped to Canada in refrigerated containers, and that’s where the trouble starts, because it sends the garlic the wrong signals. Garlic gets planted into warm soil in the fall, and starts to develop its root system. When it gets cold it goes dormant, a kind of plant hibernation. When the soil warms in the spring, the clove sends out a stem. So Ken says the garlic that is shipped here at 4 degrees Celcius suddenly is warmed up to 20 Celcius in the grocery store, and it thinks it's time to sprout. Presto! Ruined garlic….
Ken really knows his garlic, but before garlic came music, he was a key player in the Vancouver folk music scene before and after he moved to Gabriola Island in the late 90’s, but that was where he discovered garlic. He bought a small garlic business from a woman on the island who wanted to retire. That first year he did around $6000 worth of business. Now he probably does forty times that and harvests a quarter-million bulbs of garlic every summer. Ken sells it as fresh garlic for your kitchen, seed stock for you to plant in the fall, four different kinds of pickled cloves, a cured clove with sherry and soy sauce, minced garlic, garlic chutney, powdered garlic and even a couple of different kinds of garlic chocolate bars, developed in conjunction with a chocolatier he met on one of his innumerable voyages on BC Ferries.
The love affair with garlic came at a great time for Ken, he had just suffered a series of four strokes and his blood pressure was sky-high. His doctor actually recommended that he eat some garlic every day to help control the blood pressure, and it really worked.
I planted over 50 cloves of Ken’s seed stock, every single one sprouted, and it is now up about a foot and a half in my garden. Here's what my harvest from two years ago looked like….why don't you give it a try?