This week while grocery shopping, I watched a shopper fill a brown paper bag so full of organic garlic that the bag couldn’t close.
I admired his gung-ho garlic attitude, so I said, “Hello fellow garlic lover!”
“I love this stuff. It’s Space Man’s easy-to-peel garlic.”
“Grown on Mars?”
“No, look―‘extremely local.’”
Since coming to Salt Spring Island, I’ve been amazed every summer by the many different varieties of garlic. The people who eat it―and grow it―are equally as diverse! Salt Spring Islanders revere garlic, and this reverence is refreshing.
Garlic powder was all my parents used when I grew up. It isn’t as assertive as the fresh stuff nor as versatile, and you can’t marinate and roast it. So, when I moved out on my own, I bought my first garlic bulb―that came all the way from China.
China, India, Korea, Russia, and Egypt are the top garlic-growing countries, with China growing 84% of that and the United States 2%. Canada wasn’t even included in the 2012 Garlic Crop Report.
Yet, garlic festivals have been sprouting up across British Columbia and Canada to give praise and recognition to the previously unsung hero of alliums. Salt Spring Island is about to celebrate garlic for its second year.
In 2015, the Salt Spring Events Community Contribution Company, which is actually a charity, birthed the Salt Spring Music and Garlic Fest. It’s a way to raise awareness and funds for music, the arts, and farm aid. As Neale Smith, founder and organizer of the festival, says, “It’s all about being organic and Non-GMO.”
The festival’s website links to 24 garlic festivals worldwide, including the Czech Republic, Italy, and Korea. Its website also has 12 fun facts about garlic, such as its use against vampires and the name for the fear of garlic. Did you know there was such a thing? And the website also has a page dedicated to the medicinal use of garlic over the last 5000 years!
Although this festival takes its garlic seriously, it boasts all kinds of “garlicky good fun” and two days of great music! Vendors will be selling garlic to eat, garlic to grow, and garlic as an ingredient in other delicious products and dishes.
So there we were, standing in the produce section of the Country Grocer, one of the Garlic Fest’s sponsors, when the fella buying Space Man’s garlic started peeling a bulb of garlic. He revealed the tender, juicy flesh of one clove to show me how easy it was to peel. He popped it into his mouth and chewed it without a flinch! “Give thanks to the garlic gods!” he said before he gulped it down.
Then he turned around and showed me that back of his t-shirt: "There are many miracles in the world to be celebrated and, for me, garlic is the most deserving." Leo Buscaglia