IN just its second year, the garlic competition at the 2015 Royal Melbourne Fine Food Awards attracted 35 entries from across five States (none from WA) and put the judges’ palates to the test.
The judging panel consisted of Penny Woodward, writer, Australian Garlic Industry Association (AGIA) board member and author of the recently released book “Garlic”; chef and former owner of Sunnybrae restaurant George Biron; and garlic enthusiast, knowledgeable grower, eater and AGIA member from NSW Trevor Gray.
Penny Woodward said the competition is only open to commercial growers and most of the entries were from Turban, Creole and Artichoke groups.
“But there were a few from Silverskin and Standard Purple Stripe and one Rocambole,” she said.
“Just over a quarter of the entries were Certified Organic and this is first time there was a separate Certified Organic category.”
The judges were looking for quality of the bulb, uniformity so that they could see they are representative of a good crop, firm bulbs and cloves with good colour, no water staining, disease or fungal problems and a reasonable size for the specific group.
“For all entries at least one bulb gets pulled apart to see if there is any disease, if there are problems we pull another apart and see if that too is affected.
“Then we cut cloves, test the aroma and score for that, then eat some raw garlic and score that.
“While we are doing this, the Fine Foods chef is baking the garlic, so after lunch we taste the baked garlic and score it.
“We then discuss all the garlics and come up with an agreed score for each attribute for each entry then total all of these.
“It is only at this point that we get an idea of the best garlic and how many gold, silver and bronze awards.
“We have no idea where the garlic has come from or who has entered it until the results are published on the Fine Food Awards website.”
Australia still only produces about 3000 ton of a total of about 12,000 ton consumed however the judges were very happy with this year’s entries as it was a difficult year for growers with wet weather at crucial times.
This was reflected in some fungal problems with some bulbs but they found the majority of garlics very good.
The Turban Group in particular reflected the difficult year with some being smaller in size compared to last year.
Overall the panel was pleased with the entries, also to see some more unusual garlics in this year’s competition and believe things are definitely improving.
Tasmanian Gourmet Garlic scooped the pool with four gold for their Spanish Roja, Deerfield Purple and Dunganski standard purple stripe organic hardnecks and Lokalen organic softneck, a silver medal for their Tasmanian Purple and best in Show with their Dunganski standard purple stripe while Australian Garlic Producers Victoria also won gold with their Australian Purple entry.
Tasmanian Gourmet Garlic has 10 commercial cultivars selected for their culinary excellence and grown certified organically and ecologically in cold climate conditions to intensify their quality, flavour and aroma when raw or cooked.
The company cites the long, cold Tasmanian winters produce the best flavour and aroma, and the natural long dormancy of some cultivars that allows them to supply garlic to the Australian market from December through to late October without chemicals or artificial cold storage.
According to its website: “Our certified organic garlic is grown free of synthetic chemicals and our natural ecological farming techniques ensure beneficial communities of micro-organisms thrive to increase plant health, quality and maintain pest and disease suppression.”
“Only premium soil conditioning and bio-stimulant products have been used like fish hydrolysate, liquid kelp, guano, rockdust and humates.
“We have collected, grown and tested the most renowned cultivars in Australia and imported new award winning, highly prized cultivars that grow well in our cold climate.
“We love the fresh fruitiness of the early Turbans, rich sweetness of the Rocamboles, complex true-garlic flavours and aromas of the Creoles and the amazing heat and fiery flavours of the Purple Stripe groups.
“Each cultivar is cured over four to eight weeks and each has its own natural storage period.
“Our optimal storage conditions do not try to artificially prolong this storage period, but do maintain the garlic in premium condition.”