GORDON garlic farmer Brian Woodstock is challenging consumers to think a little bigger and be prepared to cook a little different to best support the region's producers.
Mr Woodstock aims to raise education and awareness for local produce and said for his farm, this meant changing up his business structure and finding ways to talk to more people.
Market-goers keep telling Mr Woodstock they cannot get enough Australian garlic. The region's garlic supply took a hit with heavy rains during harvest late last year and, coupled with strong export demand for Australian garlic, this had made for a shorter season.
But this does not mean Australian garlic is unattainable until next summer.
Mr Woodstock said, like any fresh produce, buying seasonal was best but other naturally preserved methods could be just as effective. This includes picking, value-add products like salts and oils, and dehydrated garlic.
About 20 per cent of garlic consumed in Australia is grown in Australian, mostly in Victoria.
Mr Woodstock said garlic was a largely misunderstood product and imported cloves was often bleached white or chemically treated. He said supermarket-bought garlic tended to get shoots because refrigeration to help it keep in storage simulated winter conditions.
Mr Woodstock's Harmony Garlic primarily sells local via farmers' markets and in neighbouring farm-gate shops. In the past month, he has moved to open a weekday farm store inside his Gordon property. Customers, he said, had been asking for it particularly the more discerning foodies.
It's an experience. You're seeing where it grows here, where it's made...We're giving people an alternative.Brian Woodstock, Harmony Garlic
"It's an experience. You're seeing where it grows here, where it's made, you get something different here," Mr Woodstock said. "We're giving people an alternative...people can buy direct from the farm. We're not trying to change the world, just give options.
"People love to talk to the farmer and, if it might seem more expensive than the supermarket, usually if you buy for quality not price point then you get better value for quality in not using as much for great flavour. It's good to learn where a product comes from and how to best use it."
Harmony Garlic will still be at farmers' markets across the region, but he said the store was another avenue for people to learn about how to most effectively get the taste they were chasing.
Many, he said, were unsure about using dehydrated product when they were chasing fresh or smoked garlic. Mr Woodstock said dehydrated was a great out-of-season option, which could pack a powerful and flavoursome punch to rival fresh garlic in dishes - particularly in winter soup season or even crushed on top of a salad.
But it was about knowing how to adapt.
Other producers across the region have also opened up their farms in educative alternatives like Spring Creek Organics, which have established a series of pick your own corn or tomato days.
Growing demand for Australian garlic means an increasing appetite for diversity in varieties. Harmony Garlic won Australian Food Award recognition last year for its printanor (silver skin) garlic and Italian purple.
Mr Woodstock continues to evolve his range and has been working on two variations of black garlic, one slightly softer for use in desserts.
In a society focused on convenience, Mr Woodstock urged people to source more locally and find what was out there. In being prepared to expand taste, he said people became more educated about exactly what they were consuming.
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