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Meeniyan Garlic Festival

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by Rossana Fazzolari (subscribe)
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Grand Garlic
Did you know there are over 300 varieties of garlic?

Garlic Market Arles
Garlic - Arles Market, Provence

Learn all about them at Victoria's first festival celebrating garlic. The Meeniyan Garlic Festival will be held on 18 February 2017. So where is Meeniyan? If you've been to Wilsons Prom then you've driven through Meeniyan and if you love garlic you can't miss this festival. It promises to be a spectacular day of tasting, cooking demos, education, garlic games for the kids, music, bush poetry and garlic art. There will even be garlic ice-cream and garlic beer. I wonder how they will taste? I'm going to give them a try.

Gardening expert Penny Woodward, who has written several books and is the current horticultural editor of Organic Gardener, will be hosting all things education in Meeniyan Hall including garlic info sessions, garlic plaiting, garlic growing, garlic displays and garlic tasting. Attending the garlic plaiting workshop is a must for me as my garlic braiding skills need improvement.

Home Grown Garlic
Home Grown Garlic

There will be the opportunity to sample produce from over thirty growers at Garlic Square with at least sixty stalls of garlic and other regional food products.

Maria Stuart from Millie and Romeo's Cooking School and Tasmin Carvin from Tasmin's Table will hold sessions in the Festival Kitchen. Celebrity Chef Alejandro Saravia (Pastuso and ex Heston Blumenthal's The Fat Duck UK), who hails from Peru will be holding sessions showcasing garlic as will Head Chef Andreas from MoVida showing us a Spanish flare to using garlic. Check out what's on at the festival here.

The ancient Hebrews, Greeks, Romans, Chinese and Egyptians used garlic medicinally. When eaten raw, the powers of garlic are endless. It is an antibiotic, anti-inflammatory, antifungal, antioxidant, antiseptic, a detoxifier, an energy booster and it kills parasites and worms. It aids the circulatory and immune systems. To achieve these benefits you would have to eat a least one well chewed raw clove every day to release those good smelly juices and their benefits. Garlic's primary nutrients are calcium, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, potassium, selenium, sodium, sulphur, vitamins A, B-complex and C.

Sulphur is what gives garlic its strong odour It is said to repel vampires (so don't use it around Edward Cullen), evil spirits or someone you don't want to kiss (or anyone you don't want near you).

Wonderful Garlic

If eating a whole raw clove on its own doesn't tickle your fancy, add raw garlic to dips, homemade salad dressings, pesto or garlic butter. Spaghetti Aglio e Olio con Pepperoncino is one of my all time favourite classic quick pasta dishes. Just add freshly crushed garlic, oil and chopped hot chilli to just cooked pasta, toss and eat right away. Cooked garlic will lose its power so I add it late in the cooking of other dishes so it doesn't cook right through. I'll be looking for more ideas on how to use raw garlic at the festival.

If you're planning to take advantage of garlic's medicinal properties, you have to make sure it hasn't been stored for a long time, not laden with chemicals like those used on imported garlic, such as growth retardants that inhibit the cloves from sprouting and - like all things imported into Australia - sprayed with methyl bromide which is a pesticide. Garlic treated in this way loses its medicinal qualities and you won't be able to plant it because it won't sprout. Often imported garlic has hardly any taste and lacks that magnificent aroma you can smell whilst peeling it and cooking with it. So if you cook with this uninspiring garlic you would probably have to use 3 or 4 cloves to get the equal flavour from one clove of garlic that is grown organically but the effect would still be mediocre in comparison.

Even more reason to go to the festival and buy Australian, locally grown garlic, so stock up. A garlic braid hanging in the kitchen looks fantastic as well.

I've been growing garlic for years and it's quite easy. Home or locally grown garlic is satisfying to eat and cook with. I love the pure pungent aroma as it hits the hot pan or as it mingles with herbs or soy and honey in a marinade. I usually grow a few months worth of garlic and I top up what I grow with buying high-quality garlic from local growers. I'll be buying this year's top up at the festival. When the cloves start to sprout around May- June I plant some in the ground and they'll be ready to harvest around November - December. There are varieties that do better in hotter or colder areas so speak to the experts at the festival about which would grow better in your part of Melbourne.

BYO chairs and picnic rug to lounge around while eating and listening to music. John Rees from Men at Work will be one of the musicians playing some tunes.

Adult tickets are $10, kids under 16 are free.
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Why? The splendour of garlic
When: 18 February 2017
Where: Meeniyan
Cost: Adults $10, kids under 16 Free
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