Australian Garlic vs Imported Garlic
The low down on Australian garlic vs imported.
Unfortunately, for most of our own history, Australia has relied on garlic imported from China, Argentina, Mexico and Spain. The key attributing factors have been local supply issues, cost and seasonality. However after several challenging decades, the future is looking brighter for Australian growers.
In the mid-1990s when tariffs were removed, the local garlic industry was all but destroyed by cheap imports, retailing for as low as $2 a kilogram – five times less than Australian garlic at the time. The industry collapsed, wiping out Australian growers taking away local knowledge and experience with it.
However in the 2000s, Nick Diamantopoulos envisioned that Australians would never have to buy imported garlic again. He travelled the world investigating varieties that would be suitable across Australia's diverse climates.
Today, Diamantopoulos is the chief executive of Australian Garlic Producers, which holds approximately 292 varieties of garlic, around 12 of them grown commercially. The association's focus has been to get farmers to grow different varieties around Australia so local high-quality garlic was available all year and could compete in terms of availability with the imported product.
The truth behind imported garlic.
Imported garlic may be grown with chemicals banned in Australia. According to the Australian Garlic Industry Association, imported garlic is cool-stored, treated with growth inhibitors to stop it from sprouting, bleached with chlorine for whiteness, and fumigated with methyl bromide (by law) to kill bugs and plant matter.
For example, those big, very white bulbs of garlic you see at the supermarket from China probably look so white because they have been bleached with chlorine. This is because retailers believe the flawless white colour will make the garlic look more aesthetically pleasing to the consumer. As consumers we need to truly understand what we're putting in our mouths, and that perfect aesthetics don't always equal healthy produce - in fact, sometimes it's the opposite!
Worse still, the varieties are selected for their yield and storage life. Not for flavour.
These are the 4 points you need to remember when reaching for a bulb of garlic at the supermarket:
Imported garlic can be several months old before it arrives into Australia & therefore lacks the flavour it should have.
Imported garlic may be grown with chemicals banned in Australia.
Imported garlic may be treated with chemicals post harvest and in storage.
How much is it really costing you? Yes it may be cheaper, but it's an inferior product in all aspects.
Image: Australian garlic grower - Shane Leahy at Kangaroo Island Fresh Garlic
So how can you support Australian garlic?
Growing quality garlic is extremely labour intensive compared to growing other crops. Many boutique Australian growers do everything by hand, including seeding, planting, weeding, picking, curing and packing the garlic. No sprays, no chemicals, just fresh garlic. The care clearly counts, as the taste is exceptional.
So shouldn't we support local growers who are doing the right thing instead of importers, who take short cuts and produce inferior-tasting garlic that is sprayed with chemicals that affect our health and the environment?
As with most things we need to vote with our dollar.
Always check the origin of your garlic and only purchase Australian garlic. If your local retailer doesn't stock it, ask them why.
Try not to be persuaded on price point.
By giving imported garlic the flick, you'll be reducing your carbon footprint by supporting local, home-grown produce with a superior taste, quality and health promoting constituents, but also because you'll be doing your body a favour by ingesting fewer harmful chemicals.
Tips if you can't find Australian garlic at your local retailer (especially during Winter):
Towards the end of summer, buy a heap of Australian garlic at your local markets, pull the cloves apart and freeze or preserve/pickle them.
Purchase Dried Garlic Granules or Salts like the below from Kangaroo Island Fresh Garlic to ensure you have a constant supply of Australian grown garlic all year round.
At Foodies Collective we care deeply about supporting Australian made and introducing you to the best artisan products. The above Kangaroo Island Fresh Garlic granules are featured inside our new Winter Box. Check out the ultimate Foodie Box here