Garlic: From Appetizer to Dessert!

Sunday–while it started rainy–turned into a lovely fall afternoon.  The kind of afternoon that’s perfect for heading over to the second annual Toronto Garlic Festival.

This was a great experience–a place for the whole family.  Everywhere you looked there were opportunities to taste garlic,  learn from presenters about its history or how to use it or how to plant it in your garden.

Live Green provided the introduction to the world of  garlic with a show and tell of some popular types–like these beautiful porcelain multi-use bulbs:

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From here, I turned around and bought a little plate of barbecued ribs. They were irRIBistable! Slightly smoky, tomato, garlic, tangy sauce on ribs that had been cooked to tender juiciness, meat barely clinging to the bone.

Delicious ribs!

Scouting it all out first seemed like the best  bet–but there was just too much to ignore!

First table in, I’m admiring the garlic and the way the light is hitting it… when a voice behind the table comments on how beautiful it is — I take the camera from my face, look up, and see Shannon, from Kawartha Ecological Growers. They were here with some beautiful food!

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My next stop was at the Acadian Shamrock Farm table, where I had to sample some of their pickled garlic scapes. Crunchy, vinegary, naturally mild garlic flavour… I just had to get a bottle. They’ll be wonderful with chicken, hamburgers… and I bet one of those in a Bloody Caesar would be a good thing to try!  Their garlic is so good, they won an award at the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair last year!

Pickled garlic scapes

Add Love and Stir had two dry products that you mix with some of your own ingredients to create a creamy dip based on sour cream or a creamy cheese, and an olive oil dip for with bread. They were both delicious.

And the owners were great fun to talk with!

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My next stop was at the table of Bob and Irene Romaniuk, garlic farmers from the Brantford area and owners of Brant County Garlic Company. They had garlic whole, flaked and dried, individual cloves by the pound for planting, and packages of bulbils.

Garlic bulbils

Bulbils: tiny things, these are what results if you don’t remove the scapes from garlic, but let it bloom, be fertilized, and develop. From bulbils, it takes five years to build a full garlic head. It’s faster to grow garlic from cloves split off a head (that only takes a year), but that garlic is a clone of its parent bulb. Do that too often, Bob explained, and the garlic starts to weaken genetically. Build from bulbils, and you’ve got more genetic diversity in the crop.

When to plant? Now’s a good time — you want to get it in the soil so it gets established before freeze-up happens.

The Next Generation of Garlic Farmers

I love meeting young people who are farming! Reicza’s doing just that with her company, Reicza’s Rocambole. She’s renting space from her father’s farm and farming garlic. She gets some help from her friends, lessening the load when it’s time to remove the scapes or harvest the garlic.

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After all that learning, it was time to indulge!

Gradually I made my way from the whole garlic products area over to where fresh food was being served. And I’m in luck! I spot the one thing I couldn’t find last year at the festival — garlic bread. It’s available, as is a garlicky grilled cheese sandwich. Resistance is futile. Cheesewerks really satisfies.

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How about some Bay of Fundy salmon sashimi with onion and garlic? This was the presentation from Sushi Making for the Soul.

Salmon sashimi with garlic & onion

The next table over had something that piqued my interest: paella. For some reason, there were large shells on top of it. Could it be? Yes, it was! Snail paella, and you know there’s some good garlic in that!

Last bit of snail paella in the pan

I couldn’t resist getting a plate. It was delicious, and the snails were very tender.

At one end of the hall was Chocosol, with an intriguing blend of product: chocolate and corn tortillas with garlic hummus.

The chocolate I tasted was rich, dark, not overly sweet, but not bitter.

And homemade corn tortillas! Working from corn that he had rolled into balls, the cook flattened them using a cast-iron tortilla maker, and then cooked them on the griddle.

Garlic hummus on a corn tortilla

Once ready, he spread the tortilla with garlic hummus, added salsa, sprouts, and some spicy oil, and voila! Delicious spicy creaminess wrapped in warm, crunchy corn. No prefab tortilla can equal this.

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Seriously, Garlic for Dessert.

Have you heard of garlic ice cream? I first heard about it in association with a west-coast US garlic festival, and was glad I had the opportunity to try it here. There was a line-up as people clamoured for some sweet roast garlic goodness.

The Verdict?

Very nice chocolate ice cream; the garlic adds smoothness and depth to the chocolate flavours without adding any harshness. Well! If chocolate and garlic go well together, there’s one other thing to try: Morgan’s black garlic chocolate brownie. Morgan speedily wrapped up this brownie for me!

It went back to the office, where we all shared in its chocolate richness — it was a great way to finish up celebrating garlic!

Next year’s festival dates have yet to be announced, but I’ll be checking their website frequently for updates.  You should too!  It’s not to be missed.

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