A blogger's take on the Netflix Documentary Series, Rotten. Includes tips on how to source good garlic that is not from China.
Earlier this month I reviewed the first episode of the new Netflix documentary, Rotten. It is a documentary that shows some of the - well rotten things that go in the world with different foods we eat everyday.
The third episode of the series is on the topic of garlic.
Yes I am jumping around with episodes here. Haven't reviewed episode 2 yet on peanuts, but this garlic episode was took captivating that I couldn't wait.
Summary of Episode 3 : Garlic Breath
Here is the rundown of the episode. A lawyer named Ted Hume is looking to stop the Chinese company Harmoni International Spice from dumping cheap Chinese grown garlic on the U.S. market.
There are anti-dumping laws in place. A duty is charged for garlic being imported from China into the United States. This is to protect the U.S. garlic growers, so they can compete in the market. This lawyer is saying that Harmoni is getting around these anti-dumping laws.
The claim being made is that the Fresh Garlic Producers Association is allowing Harmoni to not be reviewed. This California organization brings attention to the government that a Chinese importer needs to be investigated for dumping. The government does NOT monitor this themselves personally.
Christopher Ranch is a large garlic producer out of Gilroy, California - I have been to this city, you can smell the garlic in the air while you are eating garlic ice cream (when in Gilroy...) They are a part of the Fresh Garlic Producers Association. Ted Hume is saying because they purchase garlic from Harmoni they are convincing the Fresh Garlic Producers Association to not ask for any reviews on Harmoni.
Ted Hume needed some farmers to join him in the cause to stop Harmoni. He needed a farmer to step up to get the Commerce Department to review Harmoni. Ted couldn't find anyone in California to join him so he went to New Mexico and got a garlic grower named Stanley Crawford to step up. You can read more about his story and his reasons for joining the fight in this article in High Country News
Ted added more garlic growers to the fight as well. Kristen Davenport & Avrum Katz from Boxcar Farm joined up as well although that relationship would eventually break down - tons of drama in this epsiode.
Another portion of the documentary is about the story where there is undercover video being shown of garlic being peeled in Chinese prisons. The video was taken by the owner of wholesale garlic company that traveled to China to expose what was taking place. The most shocking part is that prisoners had to peel the garlic with their teeth because their finger nails got too soft from doing it for so many hours.
The whole thing is a long story that is that I don't want to spoil here - so I am not going to tell ya how it ends. From an entertainment standpoint the episode has a lot of drama and twist and turns to it. You would have thought it was all written as a story for entertainment purposes alone. There is a lot of real stuff that has happened going on here.
Perfect Summary of the Episode
Kristen Davenport said that "no one hands are clean". I believe that is the perfect way to sum up this episode.
Many documentaries can be pretty biased. We all have our bias; that's for sure. The way this episode shows that everyone involved has made a mistake or two I think really validates it in my opinion.
The Christopher Ranch Response
Christopher Ranch took huge exception to this show. They feel like the episode dragged them through the mud and they claim they have done nothing wrong. You can read all about it in the Mercury News. It was amazing the amount of support that has come out on social media in favor of Christopher Ranch. Many residents of Gliroy, CA, were outraged by the claims on the documentary. They are vouching for the characters of the Christophers.
How to Find Good Garlic
This episode is a pretty firey, hot button issue. With that being said I want you to watch the episode for yourself and read the news articles I linked to. As for the rest of this post, I want to help stir you towards finding good garlic. Let's put all the lawyer talk aside and do what we do best here and that is finding great food 🙂
Here are some tips on finding & buying good garlic.
- Buy local garlic.
- Buy a LOT of local garlic
- Don't buy a lot of garlic at the store at once
- Know the Origin
- Never buy peeled or chopped garlic
- Grow it Yourself
Buy Local Garlic
I say this A LOT on this blog, but I have great reasons to. Often local is the best because it is grown by passionate people who must make a quality product to stay in business. A lot of the brand name products we find in the grocery store is not produced for flavor but profitability only. I have heard stories of these big ag growers saying that flavor doesn't matter. It is not important. I disagree. That is why I get my garlic local when I can,
For my Fruits of their Labor project, I interviewed a couple who have grown over 40 varieties of garlic in a single season. That's crazy. Most people think garlic is just garlic, but there are different flavors, variations in spiciness, and how sweet the garlic can be. If you could try their garlic you too could taste the difference.
Pretty much every farmer's market will have someone growing garlic. So check with yours, when in season in your area - typically in the late summer.
Buying local means you are supporting those that live in your community, not big, rich corporations from China.
Buy A Lot of Local Garlic
Here is the great thing about garlic, it lasts a long time. Hard neck garlic varieties can store on average for 4 to 6 months, while soft neck varieties store up to a year even. Ask your source whether it's a hard or soft neck variety.
Sometimes you can buy garlic in a braid that you can hang in your kitchen. Not only will you be stocked up for a while, your kitchen will look nice, and guests at your house will see that your a serious cook.
With garlic you buy from the store it is hard to know how old it is. I can't tell you how many times I have bought garlic that was already starting to sprout. It can be hard to spot this already sprouting garlic until you cut it open. So it's best to stock up when you can know how fresh the garlic is.
Don't Buy a Lot of Garlic in the Store
Expanding on the idea that you don't know how old the store garlic is, if you need to get it at the store don't buy too much. I don't want you to end up with a whole bunch of garlic that isn't any good and you end up throwing it out. Resist buying those big bags of garlic you find at places like Costco or Sam's Club and just buy a bulb as you need it.
Know the Origin
If you are unable to buy from your local garlic source, then try to buy garlic where you know the origin of the garlic. Some grocery stores will display the origin of all their products. Unfortunately not all do. You can try to ask someone that works there to check for you if you are concerned. Sometimes grocers get their garlic from all different sources, so that may already be all mixed up.
Go for organic when you can as that garlic has to be certified so you won't need to worry about it being cheap, low quality Chinese garlic.
Never Buy Peeled or Chopped Garlic
This might be the most important tip of them all. Never buy garlic that has already been peeled or chopped. First off this garlic will be inferior in taste than to fresh garlic. Second, much of the already chopped or peeled garlic is going to be from China. I can understand it's tempting to try and save time by buying these convenience products, but it's not worth it on so many levels.
You also end up paying more per pound for these already prepared products. So you are actually paying more money for an inferior product. It would be like paying a new car price for a used car. Resist the temptation for convenience and get the fresh stuff, each and every time.
Grow It Yourself
If you didn't know garlic is not that hard to grow yourself. You take the individual cloves and plant them in the ground. Best time is to plant them in the fall the same time you would plant tulips or other types of bulbs. Just pick up some garlic from a local grower and plant some each year and you can have your very own continual supply of tasty, fresh garlic.
Sometimes I even plant it in the spring just for the purpose of growing green garlic, which is just like green onions but it's garlic. You don't see it many stores but it is super tasty and can be used like green onions. I used them to make to make an amazingly flavorful green garlic pesto.
I hope I was able to stir you towards getting great garlic into your home. Make sure to watch Netflix's Rotten and be entertained and educated.