Garlic Festival on Sept. 12 to showcase more than 40 vendors

Although William Shakespeare may not have appreciated the culinary and health benefits of “the stink­ing rose,” Ontarians and others around the world are becoming increasingly aware of them.

In an odorous testament to the growing consumer appetite for Ontario garlic, and an ac­knowledgement of its superior taste and health benefits, Strat­ford is well on its way to be­coming a permanent addition to the growing list of Canadian and U.S. communities hosting garlic festivals.

On Sept. 12 from 9am to 4pm, the third annual Stratford Garlic Festival will feature more than 40 vendors, plus demonstrations, samples and information at the outdoor, family-oriented event.

“Shakespeare mentions gar­lic a number of times in his plays, but not exactly in a positive way,” said Eli Ham, who will be giving a talk on the Shakespeare-garlic connection during the event.

Over 90 per cent of the garlic at the festival will origi­nate from with­in a 100-mile radius – ideal for anyone inter­ested in adopting, or sup­porting, the 100-mile diet.

The event is presented by the Kiwanis Club of Stratford in conjunction with the Garlic Growers Association of Onta­rio (GGAO) and all proceeds go towards local community projects.

“The popularity of these festivals is getting bigger all the time,” said Warren Ham, president of August’s Harvest, a Perth County-based organic garlic grower and a participant in the event. “There’s just some­thing about people who love garlic. They have a little bit more of an exclamation mark on their personalities,” he said.

While most of the garlic found on Ontario grocery shelves is from China, con­sumer demand for Ontario gar­lic has been increasing in recent years, despite costing an average of five times as much as the imported Chinese bulbs. “That’s because the garlic we grow here in Ontario is excep­tional,” said Ham. “There’s no comparing it to Chinese garlic, which is bitter and biting.”

Koreans can attest to that, he said. “They eat about 50 pounds of garlic per person a year – compared to our three pounds – and they say we have the best garlic in the world. We are their taste preference.”

Ham added, “People are in­creasingly discovering garlic. Across the world’s cultures, garlic use is second only to salt in terms of flavouring. And in this cross-pollination of food culture, it’s evident the cultures with low garlic use are picking up the garlic habit, not the other way around.”

The growing interest in garlic is also attributable to it be­ing increasingly recognized as a nutraceutical. While the word itself is fairly new (coined in 1991) and refers to any substance that is consid­ered a food that also provides medical or health benefits, recognition of the power of gar­lic dates back to 1550 B.C. 

Garlic has also been indis­pensable to Chinese medicine for thousands of years, it was used during the Second World War to prevent septic poisoning and gangrene, and has been used in folk medicine treat­ments for such ailments as bronchitis, respiratory prob­lems, gastrointestinal prob­lems, leprosy, menstrual cramps, and high blood pres­sure. No wonder it is often re­ferred to as the “poor man’s treacle,” or cure-all. It’s the enzyme in garlic, called allicin, that is attributed to having a positive effect on various ail­ments and Ontario garlic con­tains high levels of it.

Hardneck garlic also pro­duc­es a seed pod in June, called a scape, which, Ham said, is a real delicacy and “the best kept garlic secret.”  The celebration of Ontario garlic is also part of an emerg­ing trend that is seeing consum­ers increasingly interested in buying and eating local food as often as possible.

“Food is delicious medi­cine,” Ham said. “And garlic inspires real passion in a lot of people.”

For a list of vendors, schedule of events and direc­tions visit www.stratford­