Americans consume more than 250 million pounds of garlic annually to add flavor to many meat, poultry and seafood dishes. Consumers are even calling for more garlic at their favorite restaurants across the United States, as evidenced by Nation’s Restaurant News’ 2006 survey. But, did you know that a good bulk of the garlic we consume on a daily basis in most likely coming from China? What consumers think comes from California, the “Garlic Capital of the World,” is in reality most likely coming from overseas growers. It’s an agricultural trend that is taking its toll on California farmers and may eventually have an impact on consumers as well, given recent incidents of tainted produce coming from China.
However, it’s easy to spot the difference between California-grown fresh garlic and imported garlic. California-grown fresh garlic still has roots on the bottom of the bulb, whereas imported garlic is cleanly shaven of most, if not all, roots. Also, California-grown fresh garlic is heavier than the average imported bulb because of a higher density of soluble plant solids and lower water content, which are key to a high Brix score; a scientific measurement of produce quality and flavor. However, the key differentiator between California-grown and imported garlic is flavor. California-grown fresh garlic has a richer and more complex flavor than its imported counterparts.
Here’s how to spot a California-grown bulb:
• Appearance: Has roots and a stem.
• Weight: Greater heft and heavier hand-feel than imported garlic.
• Flavor: Richer taste with higher Brix flavor measurement number from the National Food Laboratories of the USA.
---California-grown scored 40 out of possible 40.
---China-grown scored 28 out of 40.
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