Many people ask me, what's the big deal about Ontario garlic? And I always tell them, it's the taste.
Ontario garlic really is different from the imports. Local farmers mainly raise hardneck varieties. Hardneck garlic has a more robust flavour profile than the softneck type of most imports. Hardneck types -- like Purple Stripe, Rocambole, and Porcelain -- deliver flavour variations the imports just can't match, everything from mild to very hot flavours.
Added to this, Ontario garlic also has a higher sugar content or "degrees Brix" than most imports. This works well in both savoury and sweet dishes. Ontario garlic yields fantastic tastes the bulk imports can't touch. Imagine roast garlic and buttered popcorn ice cream, black garlic dark chocolate truffles or garlic brittle with almond and cashew. Is your mouth watering yet? These aren't gimmicky foods -- they're real! Try delicious dishes like these and your appreciation of local garlic will be transformed.
Garlic is good for you. A recent study in the journal Cancer Prevention Research claims that subjects who ate raw garlic at least twice a week cut their risk of lung cancer by 44 per cent. Other studies claim raw garlic has anti-oxidant properties.
So, if Ontario garlic is so great, why isn't it in my supermarket? Basically, imported garlic is cheaper and more uniform-looking, so supermarkets prefer it to the more expensive local varieties.
It's simply a matter of supply and demand. Demand more local garlic and the supply will follow. Discover Ontario garlic and ask for it at your local farmers' market and produce section. Farmers are smart: they'll get the message and plant more of it.
While it's true local garlic is not as common as local apples, it is increasingly available at farmers' markets, farm stores, supermarkets and produce stores. There's even a garlic map showing hundreds of locations across Ontario where you can buy it. Not to mention the plethora of garlic festivals across the province.
Some people say local garlic is too expensive. But is it really? Using a clove of local garlic in a meal adds a mere twenty-five cents to its cost. The flavour will be noticeably better. Can you afford that twenty-five cent investment in your nearby garlic farmer? Or would you rather support a mechanized operation thousands of miles away?
Part of my satisfaction in cooking with Ontario garlic comes from knowing it was grown in a field a few hours down the road. Local farmers cultivate garlic for its flavour and health benefits. Overseas farmers grow whatever ships well or produces a uniform bulb conducive to mechanized farming. I prefer delicious-tasting garlic more than "perfect-looking" bulbs. Don't you?
Finally, try visiting your local farmers' market or garlic festival to talk with the garlic farmers. These people are passionate about their garlic, and will share their recipes for you to enjoy. If you still have doubts, try this simple taste test. Crush a clove of raw Ontario garlic and a clove of imported garlic. Place each on a slice of buttered bread. I'm sure you'll taste the difference. Then tell your grocer you want to buy more Ontario garlic!