Garlic harvest beats expectations

Christopher Ranch: Ideal weather nets strongest crop in years

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christopher ranch garlic harvest season bulb
Truckloads of fresh garlic have been pouring into Christopher Ranch in Gilroy as the harvest season hits a high gear. Photo courtesy of Christopher Ranch

With nearly 105 million pounds of garlic consisting of more than one billion bulbs, Christopher Ranch’s 2022 season is the strongest it has been in recent years.

Ken Christopher, executive vice president of the Gilroy-based company, said ideal weather conditions, such as a cool winter and a dry spring and start to summer, have been very beneficial for the crops.

“From all early indicators, we’re going to have all the California garlic we need to satisfy all of our customers for the first time in a long time,” he said.

It’s a far cry from just two years ago, when the start of the Covid-19 pandemic and the skyrocketing demand for California-grown garlic devastated supply throughout the nation.

This week, expect to see those “big, white, beautiful Christopher Ranch heirloom garlic” bulbs in the grocery stores, Christopher said, as the first trucks for West Coast customers departed on June 20.

To meet demand, Christopher Ranch recently invested in an expansion of its garlic production plant, adding more employees as production ramps up.

“We’re able to run more garlic than ever before on a general day,” Christopher said. “That’s real jobs and real dollars coming back to Gilroy. The timing couldn’t have been better.”

Christopher said garlic grows best in stable weather patterns, with a certain number of days that drop below freezing temperatures in the winter, and warm days in the spring and early summer that hover around 80-95 degrees Fahrenheit. Garlic can take rain up until April, Christopher said, but anything after that can cause molding and decay in the bulbs.

But the weather has been unpredictable at best over the past few years, he said, with exceedingly hot temperatures in the spring and warmer winters followed by late rain, impacting the crop.

“This is the first time in a long time we’re seeing the perfect winter, spring and summer conditions to grow garlic,” Christopher said. “We’re glad to see the trend is back, at least for this year.”

Most of Christopher Ranch’s garlic is grown within 100 miles of Gilroy and shipped back to the nation’s largest garlic producer’s headquarters in southern Santa Clara County, so expect the familiar smell to hover over Gilroy for the next couple of months.

“At any one point there’s going to be tens of million pounds of garlic right here in the Garlic Capital of the World,” Christopher said.

Harvest season wraps up in August, with the 2023 crop to be planted in mid-November.

“With the crazy world we’ve been living in the last two years, it’s impacted the garlic industry significantly,” he said. “For the first time in a long time we’re looking up, we’re positive.”

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Erik Chalhoub joined Weeklys as an editor in 2019. Prior to his current position, Chalhoub worked at The Pajaronian in Watsonville for seven years, serving as managing editor from 2014-2019.