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The Stratford Garlic Festival once again drew food aficionados to the Festival City this past weekend. The event, celebrating its seventh anniversary this year, gathered all things garlic-related to the old Stratford fairgrounds, extolling the virtues of the world’s number one natural medicine.
That’s the way event chair Warren Ham, of August’s Harvest, a garlic farm in Gad’s Hill, described the pungent bulb.
“When our forefathers came over, they brought their medicine in a suitcase … and it was two or three bulbs of garlic,” he said. “Modern science has backed it up. Garlic is the most healthy food on the planet.”
This was reiterated by guest speaker Roman Oscada, a garlic guru from New Jersey who spoke to a gathered crowd on Saturday afternoon.
According to Oscada, of the top five healthiest foods on the planet, garlic is number one. (The other four are honey, apple cider vinegar, ginger, and cinnamon.)
He noted the use of garlic as an antibiotic, and advised those in attendance that, in order to unleash the best medicinal potential of the bulb, it should be ground and left to sit for 10 minutes before being consumed. This is so that an anti-bacterial compound found in garlic called allicin, which is only activated once a bulb is damaged, has an opportunity to form.
Garlic wasn’t the only thing on the menu at the festival, though; over 80 vendors were on hand offering goods such as honey, beans, kimchi, ice cream, lavender, barbecue sauce, homemade marshmallows, bread, bison meat, and hand-crafted kitchen implements.
Throughout the two-day event, a long line-up of musical acts populated the stage, many of them, in an act of clever booking, classified as “roots” music.
Lastly, celebrity chefs, such as author Elizabeth Baird and broadcaster Rose Murray, advised patrons on the finer points of cooking the ancient foodstuff, preparing recipes live onstage in the festival’s demonstration tent.
Popular on the menu this year was black garlic, relatively new to North American markets. Black garlic, so called due to its dark colouring, has been used in Korean and Japanese cooking for centuries.
According to Ham, black garlic is becoming more and more popular as people become aware of it.
“It’s been reduced to its sugars … so the primary thing left is fructose,” he noted, the high sugar content being the catalyst of the bulb’s black colouration.
“Plus, it’s so sweet and tasty,” he added.
Heavy rain on Saturday morning didn’t dampen the spirits of those who braved the weather to attend the festival. As sunny skies prevailed, more and more people came out.
“Every year we’re building on repeat customers, but it’s the weatherman, not the rain, that beats the deal,” Ham noted.
The garlic expert said it’s the availability of garlic, as well as its varied use and health benefits, that makes it so popular amongst food fans.
“It’s a seed owned by everybody, it’s not owned by big companies like Monsanto and others. It’s the kind of vegetable that inspires a lot of passion in people.”