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Life in the Slow Food Lane

A look at the eco side of eating, with Richard Cornish

Is your garlic irradiated?

Australian Garlic

Home grown garlic doesn't have to be all white.

Credit: (c) Richard Cornish

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Autumn Garden - Growing Garlic

Want irradiated garlic? Go to the supermarket and buy Chinese garlic. I saw documents the other day from the Chinese nuclear industry that gave the specifications for the irradiation machines used in their garlic industry.

I don't want to alarm you, but it was either I tell you about that or the fact that some farmers are using outdated chemicals that have been banned here.

Australia imports 90 per cent of its garlic. If you're lucky enough to avoid the irradiated garlic from China then try the garlic from Mexico or Chile. That has only been sprayed with methyl bromide by Australian Quarantine as part of its standard fumigation.

That would probably explain why my chef mates complain that imported garlic has so little flavour and power and sometimes they have to use three times as much to get the flavour they need.

Three good ways to tell Chinese garlic:

  1. The whole box will be all perfectly large and white. (Australian buyers only buy the cosmetically perfect Chinese garlic)
  2. There will be no roots on the bottom of the bulb. (Workers will have cut these away to sped up the drying process)
  3. It will have the Country of Origin label

But now, right now, before Christmas is when the first of the new season’s Australian garlic is being harvested.

It will dry in a shed for 28 days. During this time it will loose 25% of its harvest weight. Australian garlic will be available from December, and if it stored correctly, until June. Australian garlic can be white, but can also have flecks of brown or even generous blushes of purple.

If you want to get your hands on some local garlic head to your local farmers' market or ask for it by name from your greengrocer. I even check the box it comes in to make sure that it was grown locally.

If you have no luck you can buy it online from Patrice Newell (patricenewellgarlic.com.au), former TV host and now top Bio-Dynamic farmer. She'll post out some of her top quality Hunter Valley garlic.

Call me an old fashioned farmer boy but you could avoid irradiated garlic altogether and grow your own. Not a hard thing to do by any stretch of the imagination.

You can watch Alexander Thatcher in the Blue Mountains give you some grass roots tips on his "Autumn Garden" video above.