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Festival puts garlic in the spotlight

Gardeners and food enthusiasts alike will gain expert knowledge at this weekend’s Garlic Festival in Black Diamond. On Oct.
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Garlic grower Cheryl Greisinger will have tips to share on growing the seasoning during Sunday’ s Garlic Festival in Black Diamond.
Garlic grower Cheryl Greisinger will have tips to share on growing the seasoning during Sunday’ s Garlic Festival in Black Diamond.

Gardeners and food enthusiasts alike will gain expert knowledge at this weekend’s Garlic Festival in Black Diamond.

On Oct. 1, the Makers and Growers Market Guild is hosting a market with garlic products, as well as presentations on topics ranging from how to grow garlic to using garlic for medical treatments. The market will take place beside The Westwood and the presentations will be held in the Griffiths Seniors Centre from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

“There is such a variety that people are unaware of and different flavour profiles, textures, sizes and colours of garlic,” said presenter and garlic grower Cheryl Greisinger. “It’s just a really good crop to grow in Canada and it’s just one of the things that I think we could be doing locally.”

Greisinger, co-owner of Forage & Farm near Millarville, grows more than 20,000 bulbs of garlic each year.

Her talk on Sunday will address how to grow garlic, which varieties are best suited for the region’s climate, when to plant, how to plant and how to care for the plants.

“It’s in the ground for eight months so I will talk about the different things you need to do to keep it healthy and growing in a natural way organically,” she said.

Greisinger will also sell culinary garlic and eight varieties of seeds for planting.

It was after Greisinger earned her permaculture design certificate that she became interested in growing garlic.

“I’ve spent time with other growers so we could share experiences and build a garlic growing community,” she said. “I hope (those attending the festival) will try to grow a few of their own and just experience something other than what they would normally be exposed to at the grocery store.”

The Makers and Growers Market Guild has been celebrating garlic in a one-day festival in Black Diamond for three years. This weekend’s event is also sponsored by the Town of Black Diamond.

Guild representative Evonne Smulders said the festival increases awareness around how to grow, harvest, store, cook and market garlic, as well as how to use it for medical purposes. Smulders said there will even be some garlic art to view.

“It’s a day to learn new things about garlic,” she said. “Garlic isn’t just something you add to your frying pan; garlic can be medicinal. People are making garlic drinks, there’s garlic art, there’s a whole culture around garlic. It is an industry.”

Smulders said this weekend’s festival will offer some history on how garlic evolved from a medicinal component to a culinary seasoning.

“Historically, if we look back in time, garlic was really admired for medicine and if you smelled of garlic it was a sign you were healthy,” she said. “There are so many folktales surrounding garlic. We are going to have fun with that.”

On the medical side, presenters will share how to use garlic for a basic cold, congestion and in a cough syrup.

Smulders recalls watching a documentary that stated about 80 per cent of garlic sold in North American grocery stores comes from China. She said she would like that to change.

“It’s such an easy crop to grow and grows so well here,” he said. “It’s a commodity crop that we’re not even exploring.”

More people are interested in growing their own food so the Garlic Festival is becoming a big draw, said Smulders.

“I think people are just wanting to be more connected with their food,” she said. “There’s an abundance of young people who want these hands-on skills.

“With families where both parents worked, a lot of these traditional skills have fallen by the wayside. Young families are finding they need to be more skillful.”

Smulders said garlic is a good crop to grow on small plots for those looking to diversify and get a good return on their investment.

To learn more about the Garlic Festival visit makersandgrowersguild.com




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Tammy Rollie

About the Author: Tammy Rollie

Tammy Rollie is a staff reporter at OkotoksToday.ca and the Western Wheel newspaper, focusing on Wheel's West, local arts and culture and entertainment. For story tips contact trollie@okotoks.greatwest.ca
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