Although garlic originated in the East it caught on in the US in the early decades of the 20th century. There is now a lot of US grown garlic on the market – as of 2013 America was the world’s eighth largest producer of garlic. In that year just under 4 million cwt of garlic were grown in the US. Which is an impressive figure but a long way behind the 400 million cwt from the world’s biggest producer, China.
The vast majority of US garlic – between 80 to 90% of the total crop – is grown in California which has become known as the garlic capital of the US. It tends to be the central part of the state that produces most of the garlic sold for culinary purposes; the climate in the more northerly regions of California is less well suited to garlic growing.
Although California is the most prolific garlic producing state it isn’t the only one. Significant commercial scale garlic production also takes place in other states, most significantly in Nevada and Oregon as well as, to a lesser extent, Arizona. As with northern California, most garlic from Nevada and Oregon is sold for seed.
If California is the garlic capital of the US then Gilroy is the garlic capital of California – if not the world.
Gilroy is a city of around 50,000 people located to the south of Santa Clara County in the midwest of California. It’s named after a Scotsman named John Gilroy who arrived there in the US in 1814.
Today garlic is one of the mainstays of the town’s economy and Christopher Ranch Heirloom Garlic is one of the largest employers in the area. The company is especially well known for its Monviso varietal garlic.
Gilroy Garlic Festival
To celebrate its affinity for the stinking rose, Gilroy stages an annual Garlic Festival – probably the most famous of many such festivals around the world.
The history of the festival goes back to 1978 when the idea was conceived by Dr. Rudy Melone. It has taken place annually since then, so 2016 will be the 38th. The focus of the Festival is, of course, food with Gourmet Alley being at its heart. Other attractions and events include the Great Garlic Cook-Off plus music and a children’s area.
For more information see the festival associaton website.