California Travel Tips

Eat Your California Garlic!

Published on: June 05, 2012

Shown in photo are chefs from Christopher Ranch cooking at the annual Gilroy Garlic Festival held July 27-29, 2012. Organic grower Christopher Ranch says it grows the majority of garlic in the U.S.

As you drive along the 1-101 between Monterey and San Jose, you begin to pick up a stinky smell near Gilroy. You can’t escape it, even with the windows closed and the air conditioner blasting inside your car. Never fear. It is just the smell of garlic, sweet & simple! This year’s garlic crop is about ready to come to market in July, and it’s the perfect time to eat your California garlic.

Garlic is believed to offer many benefits to human health and also makes a great natural pesticide for plants. The garlic Americans eat (approx. 2.3 pounds per capita, 75% in dehydrated form,)  only partially comes from California. While the state is top garlic producer in the nation providing over 90% of the country’s garlic,  it competes with China and Mexico under trade laws that make it possible for other countries to flood the market with their products. China has been known to sell their garlic lower than cost of production, so Americans usually are eating 40 to 55% Chinese garlic, which is typically cheaper than our very own products.

Who cares? If you read about the growing practices of Chinese garlic you learn that:

  • Garlic from China often is grown in untreated sewage
  • Is doused in chemicals to stop sprouting
  • Chemicals to whiten garlic
  • Chemicals to kill insects and plant matter
  • If your Chinese garlic comes by way of Australia (which it often does) it is fumigated with methyl bromide. If inhaled or absorbed through the skin, methyl bromide is toxic to both humans and animals causing chemical burns, kidney damage and damage to the central nervous system.

Health conscious consumers are beginning to look at the sources of their garlic and are trying to buy California organic grown products. One way you can tell the difference between Chinese and U.S. garlic in the store is to look at how it is cut. Bill Christopher, president & CEO of Christopher Ranch,  says Chinese garlic is easily recognized: “In California we cut the roots off but we leave a little bit of a brush. In Chinese garlic they cut the root plate off flat, with no brush.”

As you pass by Gilroy, stop at one of the local garlic shops such as Garlic World ( or The Garlic Shoppe ( to purchase garlic products, and you can also drop by the Gilroy  farmers market on Sundays (10 a.m. – 2 p.m.) May through October.  Christopher Ranch (  garlic is sold in stores such as Costco.

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