Gilroy’s Garlic Festival is only three weeks away, and I’ve been
on a quest for the best garlic. And not just because of its health
benefits, which are said to include the ability to control acne,
repel mosquitoes, get rid of athlete’s foot, alleviate
constipation, and lower cholesterol and blood pressure.
Gilroy’s Garlic Festival is only three weeks away, and I’ve been on a quest for the best garlic. And not just because of its health benefits, which are said to include the ability to control acne, repel mosquitoes, get rid of athlete’s foot, alleviate constipation, and lower cholesterol and blood pressure. Even Louis Pasteur, who discovered penicillin, recognized the anti-bacterial powers of garlic way back in 1858.
Garlic, ground with animal fat, was the leading antiseptic ointment used by many cultures, including Native Americans. A papyrus (dating from 1500 BC) documents the use of garlic for 22 diseases. King Tut had cloves of garlic in his tomb. Egyptian slaves caused the first ever-recorded strike when a ration of garlic did not turn up on time.
But I don’t take a mere historical interest in garlic. A friend of mine from San Jose works as a volunteer at a big annual conference held in Sacramento, and she has been bugging me for an inside connection here in garlic town that would enable her to score a lot of garlic – real cheap. Nina needed at least 100 bulbs, and she needed them fast. At first, the best price I could find was 50 cents per bulb, which was more than she wanted to spend.
Various booths were to be set up in the park in front of the State Capitol Building, representing the districts that make up northern California and Nevada . Nina decided that the token that would best represent Santa Clara County would be bulbs of garlic.
In my search, the first place I found garlic cheaper was a produce stand which advertised garlic for $1.25 per pound. I discovered that when I weighed the heads, I could get about 8 in pound, so it worked out to roughly 15 cents a bulb. The problem was that the selection of garlic wasn’t so great, and I spent a lot of time picking out the best heads. I only came up with about 20 that weren’t bad looking.
Someone suggested I try Garlic World, located on 101, just south of Gilroy . At first I balked, thinking of it as a tourist trap. But finally I gave it a try, and to my amazement, they had the lowest priced garlic I had found anywhere.
“How much is in a bag?” I asked the sales girl at the counter. She estimated it at 38 to 40 bulbs. Forty bulbs for $3.50! That worked out to less than ten cents a bulb! Another plus: the garlic had been grown locally (did I tell you the produce stand’s garlic was marked “From China”?)
“Even though it’s from last season,” the clerk told me, “It will still last for five to six more months.” I couldn’t believe it – the heads showed no signs of cracking or drying out and looked fresher than anyone else’s garlic. I was pleased to discover that the cheapest and most robust garlic (I spent $7 for 80 bulbs!) was grown right here at Christopher Ranch in Gilroy.
I met Nina in south San Jose for the garlic handoff, and she was thrilled with the quality of the garlic. She decorated each bulb and tied a special quote to each one, a verse taken from the Torah in Judaism, which is also known as the fourth book of the Old Testament in the Christian Bible. After escaping from slavery in Egypt and following Moses out into the desert to start a new life, there were those who complained: “… Soon they had the People of Israel whining, ‘We ate fish in Egypt – and got it free! – to say nothing of the cucumbers and melons, the leeks and onions and garlic.’ (Numbers 11:4-5).”* I was amused to read that without necessities like garlic, there were ex-slaves who even questioned the decision to pursue freedom!
The 29th Gilroy Garlic Festival is planned for July 27 to July 29, 10am to 7pm daily at Christmas Hill Park. Tickets cost $12 for adults, $6 for seniors age 60 and older, and $6 for kids ages 6 to 12. Kids younger than 6 are admitted free. For more information, visit www.gilroygarlicfestival.com.
*Scripture taken from The Message. Copyright 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group.
Garlic history from: A Brief History of Garlic, Lichtwer Pharma AG, Berlin, Online, 5 May 2000 http://www.lichtwer.de/Seitenenglisch/e_gknob_2.htm; & Kloss, Jethro, Back to Eden.