Monday, August 25, 2014

I Love Garlic!

Yes I do! I love garlic. It's aromatic and enhances my meals like no other ingredient. This tiny inch long vegetable completely changes the flavor of many of my favorite dishes. It can be the most distinct seasoning in a dish when you use it, or it can play in the background to other ingredients and give that perfect touch of YUM that you need to impress your dinner guests. But choosing good garlic that has a round and beautiful taste can make or break your dish.

Garlic is the reason why I can use almost no salt in my cooking. It is the perfect "distraction" that both adds to the flavor of a dish, and enhances the taste of your ingredients. But again, using lower quality garlic can overwhelm your dish with just pure heat or fall short of flavoring the dish at all. And so to truly appreciate garlic dishes, you need to choose your garlic wisely.

Now I'm no expert on garlic. There are lots of sources on the wonderful medicinal and culinary advantages to using garlic. But this little piece of produce is so important to me that I would be willing to pursue it further if I am able. And a fire has been lit under my butt. I want to know more and be involved. I've pulled out a $7 garlic bulb I bought 3 years ago and plan to use it in my first home garlic plantation. I'm excited! (And yes, it has kept for that long in the refrigerator!) The more I read about the production of garlic and the sources of garlic in North America, the most motivated I get to grow it myself.

I have recently made the decision to boycott the little garlic bulbs that are most prevalent throughout North America. Those inferior bulk produced bulbs are the ones imported from China who account for 77% of the world's garlic supply. The next two highest grossing are India at 4.1% and then South Korea at 2%.

"So what?" you may ask. So what if the quality of garlic is far inferior and is created in bulk? It's cheap and not everyone has the money to spend on high end garlic bulbs from local farmers.

Consider this: Since around 1994 (20 years ago), China has been investigated for their violation of international anti-dumping laws with their garlic export. "Dumping" is when a country sells their product in another country at below cost of what they would sell it in their own country, or below production costs in order to take over a market share in the country they are exporting to. This is exactly what the Chinese garlic growers did about 20 years ago when they discovered a market for garlic in North America. This has led countries to introduce high tariffs on the import of garlic from China.

In Canada, the anti-dumping duty is around 375%. In the US, it's higher. But this is not stopping the Chinese companies. They have found ways to circumvent the tariff to continue to export their garlic to the North American market. For example, in the US, because the tariff is more lenient on new companies, the Chinese garlic export companies simply close down the company once they have exhausted this option and are discovered to purposely be avoiding paying duty, and then simply open a new company and start over again. US customs simply cannot keep up fast enough to put a stop to it.

So let's see.
(1) The quality of Chinese garlic is far below standard and doesn't enhance my dishes they way good garlic does and should do.
(2) This Chinese garlic which is the most widely available brand in North America (and worldwide) is here with a stranglehold on the world-wide market because of a violation of international law by Chinese garlic companies for the last 20 years.

Yup that settles it. I either grow my own garlic, or I buy locally.

And by the way, in case you weren't aware of this: a good bulb of garlic can last you the entire year. There's no need to buy it every week or two. It's not supposed to go rotten so fast. I suspect the fact that these low-quality garlic bulbs from China are unable to sustain itself over even a couple weeks is another way to keep you dishing out your money to buy more and more. Does this sound like cost-savings? I think not.

For more information about the garlic industry, watch their episode on garlic in Deconstructing Dinner. Or listen to their podcast.

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