Garlic and Food Miles

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left- local garlic from Alberta
right – Imported garlic from China

Did you know that most of the garlic in the grocery stores is from China? I guess I shouldn’t be that shocked, when so much of our food comes from somewhere else… But for such a seemingly simple thing, that is a lot of food miles. I have never really thought about where garlic comes from until a few weeks ago when I decided I wanted to try to grow my own. Not only for the animal deterrent properties, but because I really like garlic.

After some research, I decided I needed to find some hard neck garlic bulbs NOW. It is better for colder climates. Fall is the ideal time to plant garlic. It gives the bulbs time to develop some strong root systems, so when spring comes, they can just grow. You can plant in spring, but you will most likely have a disappointing harvest… Kind of like Tulips and Daffodils, and all the other spring bulbs that you plant in the fall. You are giving them time to establish their roots now, so in the spring, they don’t have to.  (Soft neck garlic is what you most likely find in the stores, and it is typically from china, or California. You can grow soft neck garlic too, but it is apparently less equipped to handle the cold here)

You would think that since hard neck garlic is ideal here, that I would be able to find it in a garden centre. I had no luck. I did find a package of “Regular” Garlic, so I am assuming it is soft neck. Since it was the only “seed” garlic I could find, I snatched it up, but I was slightly disheartened that I couldn’t find any kind of hard neck garlic around. I even tried the farmers market, but no luck there either.

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So I started searching on-line with more specific questions like “garlic grown in Alberta” “Alberta garlic” “growing garlic in Canada” Just trying to find some answers. And then I found a few stories about New Oxley Garlic. It is grown in Claresholm, Alberta. That is about 160km south of here. A LOT closer than China. I decided I could try and get my hands on a bulb or two and grow them.

I read the articles (yes, there is more than one) on the New Oxley Garlic, and was thrilled to find out that it is carried by all of the Calgary Co-op stores. But after my disappointing search of local garden centres, I went in expecting to be disappointed. I wasn’t! There was a large bushel basket of the “Canadian Garlic” and I almost jumped with joy! I snapped up a bunch of beautiful purple flecked bulbs and I cannot wait to put them into the ground and hope for the best. They also taste amazing, and since the cloves are large, you have less annoying paper peeling to do.

Next year, I will have to be more on the ball and find more local garlic to grow myself. Hopefully I can find out the variety also. This time around is going to be a large learning curve to keep the garlic happy and growing.  One last note, I know it is a little late for this area to be venturing into garlic growing, but we are going to put it into the new greenhouse, so the soil will be warmer in there… Maybe the soft neck I picked up in desperation will thrive in there. Do you have any garlic growing tips or tricks to help me out? Leave them in the comments below.

Not only am I excited that I found some so that I can grow my own, but I now know where to go to find Local garlic, that doesn’t travel all the way from China.

Speaking of Local Food… There is a project here in Alberta called Localize. It shows you in the store (mostly Co-ops and Sobeys’) which things are local. Also, on their website, they have listings of all the local growers. Check it out if you get a chance.

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All of my garlic for planting. The closer, purple ones are the Hard neck “Canadian” garlic, and the back ones were my soft neck desperation bulbs.
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5 thoughts on “Garlic and Food Miles

  1. It always blows me away how far some food comes to the grocery shelves….stuff that grows in abundance here in southern Ontario. I think it has to do with year-round contracts or something.

  2. I’ve grown garlic successfully here in Virginia without any special tricks, just planting in October with a good amount of compost and normal amounts of fertilizer, then fertilizing again a couple of times in the spring. The trickiest part of garlic growing, I think, is timing the harvest. You want to harvest the bulbs when they’re nice and big but before they’ve begun to split, because then dirt gets down inside the bulbs and reduces their storage longevity. Usually they’re ready for harvest when the bottom three leaves or so have turned brown. I hope you have success! It’s great that you were able to find a variety that’s tried and true in your area.

    1. A lot comes from California too… But that is still an import for me. Flour is even more mind boggling to me… I pass about 6 fields JUST of wheat on my way to and from Work… But the majority of our grains are exported and then imported back as flour. Something seems wrong with that.

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