TORONTO — Lovers of the “stinking rose” will have plenty of opportunities to sample its pungent delights during festivals devoted to garlic.
Visitors may be surprised to learn there are dozens of strains of garlic and that the cloves can be used in both savoury and sweet dishes.
Twenty chefs will be on hand at the fifth Toronto Garlic Festival, set for Sept. 20, to concoct such dishes as savoury garlic ribs and roasted corn with garlic butter.
“We also have some more things that will challenge the palate,” says festival founder Peter McClusky.
“For example, we do garlic and dessert items. People are always surprised by this and raise an eyebrow. They’re always happily surprised when they taste it.”
A chocolatier is creating a dark chocolate truffle with black garlic.
“Black garlic is fermented garlic. It has kind of a tarry texture. It’s got a flavour like licorice or coffee, chocolate, very dark deep flavour,” says McClusky, who grows eight strains of garlic on a farm east of Guelph, Ontario.
“It’s got a sweetness to it, so it works really well not only in savoury things but dessert items.”
Caramelization occurs when garlic is roasted, releasing its sweeter, more mellow elements.
Other sweets include macarons with roasted garlic, toasted homemade marshmallows with black garlic, roasted garlic chocolate ice cream — which always sells out, McClusky notes — and black garlic butter tarts.
Meanwhile, visitors to the ninth Stratford Kiwanis Garlic Festival, running Sept. 12-13, may be tempted by black garlic chocolate brownies, garlic fudge and garlic ginger cookies.
The Stratford event started because the Ontario garlic crop was being hit hard by the import of Chinese garlic and many farmers were struggling, says co-ordinator Teresa Renee.
The crop is recovering, thanks in part to awareness raised by the festival and the eat-local movement.
Visitors to both festivals, which are each expected to welcome about 5,000 attendees, will be able to stock up on their winter’s supply of fresh garlic, along with condiments, jellies, pestos and other specialty items infused with garlic, and can watch cooking demos and presentations on health and wellness.
Once you’ve indulged in garlicky food, consider entering the garlic breath contest at the Toronto festival.
The Ontario Science Centre will rate the breath of contestants using a gas chromatograph, which measures parts-per-billion of hydrogen sulphide, methanethiol and dimethyl sulphide.
In Stratford, Renee says there will be a demonstration that allows people to understand that different types of garlic can change the flavour of food because some are hot and spicy while others are mild. She’ll have some imported garlic on hand for people to compare. “Chinese garlic is watery and flavourless, in my opinion,” she says.
Attendees can also learn what steps to take during the growing season to prepare garlic for braiding, then take part in a competition.
Other communities in Ontario as well as B.C., Quebec and Alberta celebrate garlic. Coming up are the Verona, Ont., festival this Sunday and the Hills Garlic Festival in New Denver, B.C., on Sept. 13.
In Andrew, Alta., an hour’s drive northeast of Edmonton, the 400 residents there welcome more than 1,000 people to their annual festival on Thanksgiving weekend, which will include a garlic peeling contest, an “Amazing Garlic Race,” a country hoedown and barbecue and, in a nod to the community’s Ukrainian roots, a perogy dinner.