Another fabulous grower of the Sunshine Coast, there is nothing quite like fresh Australian grown garlic.
Garlic. Love it, as those that breathe the air around me might occasionally get a hint of. I am not alone, it is a popular and much sought after herb, adding flavour to many wonderful cuisines.
However, there is something about garlic that you should know. Not all garlic is garlic. By this I mean, in specifically, is that not all garlic is Australian grown garlic. Sure, there are many fruits and vegetables that are not Australian grown, but with garlic, the market had become so condensed with imported garlic, that Australian garlic has actually become quite hard to find.
Why is this so important? Well let me give you a few facts, and then you decide. For starters, imported garlic is fumigated with methyl bromide. It is a biosecurity thing – I am not debating whether or not is should be done, biosecurity is an important step in protection of our own industries and environment. Most imported fruit and vegetables go through some sort of fumigation process – even organic fruit and vegetables. Having said that, many countries have banned the use of methyl bromide – Australia has not, only for certain industries.
So there is a good reason for you – if other countries are banning it, then I suspect it would be correct to assume that there are a few ‘issues’ with the use of this fumigant…
Second reason. Have you ever wondered why imported garlic is so white and perfect? Well, imported white garlic, which is generally coming from China, has been bleached with chlorine to make it more ‘ascetically pleasing’. Personally I like it when my fruit and veg is less than perfect. 🙂
Then there are the growth inhibitors – to inhibit the garlic from sprouting before it has reached a more pleasing (and no doubt lucrative) size. Then there is the storage… by the time garlic reaches Australian shores, it will have been picked some time ago – enter – the growth retardants again as we can’t have garlic sprouting prematurely. And then there are the stories about it being grown in human effluent etc. Okay, so they may be urban myths, I don’t know, and I don’t want to state it as fact, but there was a story that caused great uproar not so long ago involving some imported frozen berries… so it is not something that can be discounted either. But really… Australian garlic had me at no methyl bromide…
We keep sprouting excuses to buy local, and I can’t think a better reason than this solitary one, but imported garlic has such a stronghold in the market place, it leaves little room for its Australian counterpart… why? That would be the price. We all know that cheap imports are just that. So we need to change our mentality and pay that little bit more for quality, Australian grown produce.
That’s the best reason of all. The #supportlocal reason.
There are a few Australian garlic growers based on the Sunshine Coast. One of them is Naturaleza Farm.
Love Naturaleza Farm and love using fresh Australian garlic – and yes, there is most definitely a difference, which is pretty easy to determine once you have used it. For starters it is much ‘glassier’, by that I mean when you crush it, the flesh is much more transparent, and crisp. I don’t even bother using a garlic press any more. I just crush the cloves with the flat surface of a knife on the chopping board. It almost turns to cream. Vast contrast to its much more rubbery, probably bordering on stale, imported counterpart.
Add to that, I love the way that Luke Stacey, the man behind Naturaleza Farm, is growing his precious cargo… and that would be, essentially chemical free.
Luke’s background is environmental science, so it would make sense that he would be concerned about the environment and the environmental aspects of farming. Added to that he is currently the custodian of the family heirloom elephant garlic, the seed stock of which was first planted by his late grandfather in the 1950’s. Luke grows 4 varieties of garlic, including the much treasured elephant garlic.
Being an heirloom, it is as true to the source as possible. It is not genetically altered in anyway. It has had decades of natural growth, acclimatisation and evolution. It looks the way natural garlic is supposed to look, not plumped up and bleached because that’s the way we think it is supposed to look.
Naturaleza Farm, when I visited, was located in the Mary Valley, but progress has caught up with the family property and he has recently relocated to a new location at Cootharaba. So there is a whole new process of establishment and permaculture infrastructure going on at the ‘new’ Naturaleza Farm, as well as the move towards organic certification.
Luke is passionate about what he does, and while garlic is his mainstay, he is currently experimenting with ginger, Jerusalem artichokes, turmeric, galangal and a few other rarities and heirloom varieties. He is busily composting and naturally preparing the soil with green manures to give his crops the best possible foundation. Importantly, everything grown is chemical and synthetic fertiliser free. That means no methyl bromide, no growth retardants, no bleaching, no fumigation.
Everything is done by hand, though Luke did say that the first planting in 2013 was so backbreaking that he was not going to do that on his own again! Through trial, Luke discovered that the flowering process expends the condition of the garlic bulbs, so flowers are harvested as they flower, so that they don’t impact on the garlic too greatly. With the exception of a select few, from which the seeds are saved for the next year. Having said that, the magnificent purple floral pom poms look pretty spectacular when the flowers burst from their delicate paper-like mantles. I am a bit of a fan of these floral anomalies.
When the garlic is harvested, it is laid out on racks to cure for 2-3 weeks, at which point it is then ready for sale.
If garlic was not credited with medicinal and nutritional properties on its own, Luke has been experimenting with black fermented garlic, which has a whole gamut of its own nutritional benefits.
Black fermented garlic is an aged garlic of which the sugars and amino acids, when fermented, produce malanoidin, which in turn, turns the garlic black. It is a slow month long process of monitored heat and humidity, producing tender cloves that have lost the intense, somewhat antisocial fragrance that garlic is otherwise known for – no garlic breath with this stuff!
I recently enjoyed some black fermented garlic hommus (will post recipe shortly), that Luke had brought to a function, which was just delicious. The black fermented garlic gave the hommus a subtle sweet earthy fragrance and flavour, rather than the pungency you would normally expect. Naturally high in antioxidants, the fermentation process amplifies this, attributing to a number of additional health benefits making the garlic even more of a super food that it already was… even more so as an Australian garlic without the handicap on its natural attributes that the importation process puts on it alone.
It’s all about ethical farming practices and then Naturaleza Farm goes that one step further and donates a percentage of the profits to support community projects as well. Luke is also actively involved in the Mary Valley Growers Co-operative that showcases its produce for eager local shoppers at the Dagun Station Growers Market every Saturday afternoon. It is a fabulous little market if you are ever out that way (starts at 3pm).
So… why should you buy Australian grown garlic? Because I can’t think of one good reason as to why not.
While the season is almost at its end, make sure you look out for it, and if there is an option, choose the Australian grown one.
Naturaleza Farm garlic is available from select retailers – Maleny Street Co-op, Farmer and Sun, and Cooroy and Pomona IGAs, as well as directly from Luke through his website.
Visit the website for more information:
This story was written by Petra Frieser – Pebbles + Pomegranate Seeds