Why I Am Peeling Garlic This Year
I am harvesting a huge bumper crop of garlic this year and coincidentally I watch the episode about garlic on the Netflix documentary “Rotten”. In the episode I find out 90% of the garlic sold in America comes from China. If this isn’t shocking enough imagine this: most of the world’s peeled garlic is done by prisoners in Chinese jails.
The shock for me is not that prisoners are spending their days, and apparently losing their fingernails, peeling garlic. The shock is that people peel garlic in advance. Or rather, people actually buy peeled garlic. Isn’t this just a waste? I usually just peel garlic as I use it.
So just to be clear I am not in jail and I do not have that much free time on a daily basis but I do have a lot of those piddly little garlic cloves because my garlic self-seeds all over my garden and sometimes I don’t see it right away until the plants are grown and are ready to pull. And then in fall and winter I peel as I go – using it up in my kitchen. I love garlic, but when the cloves are small you have to peel two or three to get enough to equal one good clove. So I have to find out if there is some advantage to peeling garlic in advance.
I start peeling the smaller heads and take more time to peel. These ones are small because they had seeded themselves randomly and didn’t get the water they needed. Or they were on the edge of the bed where they dried out and didn’t size up. I sit and peel garlic for an hour and my hands get really sticky. I fill two small jam jars, put on the lids and and pop them in the fridge. No liquids, no cooking. Just raw garlic peeled in the jars in the fridge. Over the next week I discover both Helpful Husband and myself love this garlic. Scrambling an egg? Press and toss in a garlic clove. Stir frying those endless summer peas or green beans? Melt butter and add garlic. Making a stew? Shake in a few cloves of already peeled garlic. Salad dressing? Always better with freshly crushed garlic.
So in just over a week we use up an entire jar of peeled garlic – it is just so convenient and easy to use with no time needed to get out a knife or peel while you cook. So I am an instant convert and I go to the store to see if this is really a thing and that’s when I see the “California” garlic peeled and sold in loose plastic bags in the fresh food section beside the basil. If the documentary can be believed this fresh garlic, for sale from California, is some of the prisoner-peeled garlic being shipped to California in shipping containers.
I love using freshly peeled garlic. I am also a gardener so I refuse to buy prisoner-peeled garlic. I am growing and peeling my own garlic from now on.
If you missed growing garlic yourself this season there is still time to buy locally grown product at the market this summer. And – if you want to feel self-sufficient and independent, put some fresh organic garlic aside and plant it in your garden this fall. It is a small step towards saving money and feeling independent plus it is easy to grow. And honestly it feels better to grow and peel your own product. It stores easily in jars ( no need to add anything or waste more plastic.) I posted this on instagram and everyone wanted to know how to do it. There are no special instructions: just separate heads of garlic into cloves, peel the cloves and store them in your fridge in a jar.
I am having so much fun I can hardly contain myself. Seriously.
Donna Balzer is the Brand Ambassador for BCGreenhouse Builders and she has two greenhouses in her big backyard.
What Would Donna Do?
Get my growing and gardening tips and pointers throughout the season.