Former grocers tread a path of garlic to business growth
SPEND five minutes with The Gourmet Garlic Company's Will Cotterill and you'll quickly make a promise never to buy imported Chinese garlic again.
The down-to-earth organic garlic grower is passionate about the pungent bulb and his detailed description of the wretched treatment of the Chinese variety is enough to turn you off it forever.
"The health benefits of garlic are world-renowned, but most people are consuming an inferior product," Mr Cotterill said.
Some 90% of Australia's garlic is sourced overseas, most of it from China, where it undergoes a series of chemical treatments including bromide bathing and fumigation.
"When you grow and wash garlic in chemicals it takes those chemicals into its core, because it's a seed," he said.
"My gut feeling is by the time it hits the shelf, it's dead."
People were saying we were nuts because the area floods, and in the first year we found out what they meant
Mr Cotterill and wife Vanessa entered the garlic business in 2007 after running a Sydney organic grocery for several years.
They moved here with a vision: to establish a viable small-scale garlic farm offering a range of fresh garlic to the local market and processed products nationally.
Like any business, they learnt a few tough lessons along the way, like realising their garlic field went underwater in a heavy flood.
"People were saying we were nuts because the area floods, and in the first year we found out what they meant - the whole property, bar the house, goes underwater," Mr Cotterill said.
"After two days underwater they were holding on to dear life but we ended up with a good healthy crop. It's a tough little plant."
Mr Cotterill cited the local network of farmers' markets, health food stores, and committed "buy local" community as key ingredients in their success so far.
"As organic growers, one of our goals is to sell all our produce locally to cut down on food miles, and the farmers' market circuit here is the best in Australia," he said.
Their next phase is to set up a processing plant with a commercial peeling machine and mincer, and they're looking to start processing fermented Japanese "black garlic", the latest culinary and health food craze with supply unable to meet demand.
The Gourmet Garlic Company
- Sells at: Mullumbimby, Byron, and Lismore farmers markets, Farmer Charlies, Fundies, Santos, Eden's Landing, Green Garage, Nimbin Organics, Spar Suffolk Park, or farm gate: Boomerang Creek Farm, 1 Strong Rd, Corndale.
- Available varieties: purple garlic - strong and pungent; 'aussie white' - slightly spicy; elephant garlic - milder, oniony flavour with larger bulb.
- Garlic cooking tips: Let your garlic sit for five minutes after you've taken the skin off. Crushed/chopped, it will boost the health giving compound, allicin. Don't overcook it, which can kill the compounds.
- For more info: gourmetgarliccompany.com.au