Australian garlic vs imported garlic – what’s the difference?

When you toddle off to the shops to pick up your produce do you ever wonder where it comes from? If you are anything at all like me, then you are probably trying to make the shopping as fast and as painless as possible, as you slot it in between the other multitude of tasks on your agenda on any given day. It is generally easy – and necessary – to just whizz through the shop, grab what you need and get on to the next thing and grocery shopping really shouldn’t take up too much head space – or should it? If we are to have any control at all over what we are putting in our family’s mouths we need to be as informed as possible because even the simplest of purchases can become an ethical dilemma these days.

Take garlic. When you are grabbing a handful for the stir-fry or the spag bog (spaghetti bolognese for my non-Australian readers) do you reach for the garlic bulbs that look lovely and fat and white, like this –

or does your hand wander to the garlic that looks a little smaller and less uniform in size? More like this –

If you answered yes to the former, you might be interested to know a little more about the provenance of what you are about to put in your food. The large, white bulbs of garlic so readily available on our supermarket shelves are generally imported – often from China. Why do you need to know this? Chinese agricultural practice still uses chemicals that have been banned here in Australia to grow garlic. The imported product is just that, so has been picked for quite a while before it gets here, has probably been in cold storage for some time and therefore treated with some sort of growth retardant to stop it from sprouting, has been sprayed with methyl bromide ( a highly toxic substance that is also proven to be 45 times more effective at destroying the ozone layer than chlorine) by AQIS and is that lovely, clean, white colour because it has been bleached with chlorine!

The second picture is of Australian garlic. It has been grown here so has not been sprayed as all the imported varieties must be, is grown under Australian regulated conditions and is unbleached and certainly less travelled! The Australian garlic industry has struggled in the past. Most of us had never tasted it before the influx of post-war migrants started to invigorate our bland, colonial cuisine and until recently growers here have been held back by poor seed quality and competition from cheaper, large scale imports. Now, according to an ABC Landline report the Australian industry is looking up, with the possibility of even exporting to France in the future!

The choice is yours.

This recipe is from a cookbook called “The Splendid Table’s How to Eat Supper”. I spend a lot of time in the car, driving up and down the hill, ferrying the various teenagers about and the invention of Mp3 players and podcasting has been a huge blessing for me! “The Splendid Table” is a wonderfully informative US food radio show produced by American Public Media and available for download on podcast here. The book is full of fresh, simple meals that can be made fairly quickly, plus a ton of information on ingredients, cooking tips and food wisdom! The following recipe is one of my favourites when I need a quick, tasty and healthy meal. I adore rosemary and have left a trail of rosemary hedges in every house I have owned and, with garlic and olive oil, it is a marriage made in heaven. Don’t skimp on the quality of the ingredients with this one, as you will taste them all. I serve this as a side dish or, with a green salad and some crusty bread, it makes a great light lunch.

5 garlic cloves, crushed and chopped with 1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup good quality extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tbsp tight packed chopped fresh rosemary
2 cans white beans, drained and rinsed (or you can soak and cook your own – but then it’s not so quick!)

1/4 cup toasted breadcrumbs
3 tbsp fresh grated Parmesan (Reggiano)
ground black pepper

Mix the pepper and cheese with the bread crumbs. Set aside.

Put the garlic and the olive oil into a cold pan and heat slowly for 1 minute – you don’t want to hear it sizzle. Add the rosemary and stir for another minute or so until the garlic starts to soften.
Add the beans and fold in very gently – don’t break them up – and heat through for about 3 minutes.
Place in a serving dish, top with crumb mix and serve.


7 responses to “Australian garlic vs imported garlic – what’s the difference?

  1. The best thing for me is when I toddle to the back yard and pick fresh vegies – then I certainly know they are truly organic !!

  2. I can’t wait until the law makes it compulsory to display the place of origin of all foods.

  3. haha! i seached for this recipe online last night- no luck- had to use my memory. almost go it right! thanks!

  4. We’re growing our own garlic for the first time, and crossing fingers that Sydney’s wet weather won’t ruin the crops. Australian garlic is wonderful – we usually buy from friends with an organic crop – but so seasonal. We usually buy in bulk, break the bulbs into cloves and freeze them – works a treat, and means we never have to pay for the horrible bleached stuff!

  5. It’s really difficult to buy garlic that isn’t Chinese here. It tastes like soap and like you I’m suspicious of the chemicals they use. Thankfully finding some Spanish garlic right now. Not the most fragrant ever but a huge improvement.

  6. You are so right about the dangers of Chinese garlic. It’s the same story here in the US; however, several of the major supermarkets and suppliers are reducing their dependence on Chinese-grown or processed foods. Many now are offering garlic and many other products from California or local products when in season. Ann Arbor where I live now has a dedicated garlic farm!

    When I shop, it takes time but I look at labels to learn the source of my foods and avoid Chinese products as much as possible — they are worse yet when it comes to applesauce and apple juice.

    best… mae at

  7. I honestly don’t know why anyone would buy the Chinese stuff. I also don’t understand why we even import garlic. You’d think Australia could produce enough to keep us supplied.

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