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Garlic Breath

Used worldwide, adding complexity and excitement to bland tastes, garlic is right up there with salt and pepper as a main staple in most pantries. Commemorating the many and varied uses of this root vegetable and experimenting with an array of new ones, over forty vendors will descend upon the quaint shopping enclave to tempt visitors with innovative and exciting ideas for cooking with this ancient ingredient.

The distinctive, odorous, aroma will be wafted about as the award-winning celebration gets underway. Garlic interpreted dishes including: garlic parmesan truffle fries, garlic sausage, garlic ice cream, garlic jellies, fried dough topped with roasted garlic pesto and more will be enjoyed by all.

“If you like garlic, this is definitely the place to be,” said David Sousa, owner of Essex Garlic, in Essex CT. He is a usual attendee of the Mystic Garlic Festival, however, this year, because he had a small crop, he is all sold out and won’t be able to make it, but he encourages others to check it out.

“It is a great event, there are always lots of different things to try and lots of different unique ways the chefs prepare food, using garlic you never thought of before,” said Sousa.

Referred to as the “stinking rose” for obvious reasons, garlic is relatively easy to grow here in Connecticut. It is in the same species as the onion and related to the shallot, leek, chive and Chinese onion. Most accurately defined as a vegetable, it grows underground like other spring bulbs and is planted in the fall just before the deep freeze and harvested mid-summer. Typically it is set to dry for a few weeks; however, it can be used freshly pulled from the ground.

Satiated with a unique flavor all its own, garlic is not only a food but also a medicinal soldier. Touted for its health benefits, it is a good source of manganese, vitamin B6, vitamin C, selenium, calcium and phosphorus.

Over thirty different varieties of hard stem garlic will be on hand at the festival to choose from. According to Sousa, garlic is especially adaptive and the hard stemmed varieties do well in climates with cold winters and wet springs. He encourages those who like to cook, be inventive and have an interest in learning more about garlic to head over to Mystic to enjoy the festival.

He also encourages people with backyard gardens to try planting a few cloves of their own this fall, around Halloween and look for the little green sprouts pushing through the ground sometime in late January after the thaw.

“I would say start out planting a dozen or so cloves, with the pointy end up. It is important that there is good drainage and a lot of organic matter and make sure the area is insulated with leaf or straw mulch,” said Sousa. “In Essex, we usually harvest sometime during the first or second week of July, but if you are closer to the shore you may harvest sooner and if you are more inland you may want to wait a little longer.

He continued, “Fresh garlic, if harvested in the summer, will last all through the next winter if you keep it in the right conditions, somewhere there is good air flow, away from humidity, so don’t hang it near the dishwasher or the sink and you should have it available throughout the year, whenever you need it.”

For more information about the Mystic Garlic Festival go to www.oldemistickvillage.com.

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