Gilroy, California has been considered the “garlic capital of the world” and many people believe that the bulk of our garlic indeed comes from California. But, it turns out, there is another garlic player on the planet producing and selling it cheaper, and as a result of that quality, of course, is also lower.
Now that sounds like a very familiar formula that one particular country thrives on. But no way have they found a way to cheapen such an essential staple of food, and one that has high medicinal values to it as well, right? Wrong. It’s true. Leave it to China to find a way to make cheap and crappy garlic.
Most of us in America believe that our garlic comes from California, and you would have been right if it was a few years ago. The self-proclaimed garlic capital of the world Gilroy, California, used to be the largest supplier, but they've been outdone. Cheaper production from China has made it easier for the U.S. to import it instead. China is no stranger to controversy when it comes to safety and food though, and garlic is no different. Aside from being bleached with chlorine, it's also heavily fumigated with pesticides, found to be grown in untreated sewage water and sometimes contaminated with lead.
The bleaching process covers up the natural dirt stains that come with being pulled out of the soil. Henry Bell of the Australian Garlic Industry Association believes that the bleaching done by Chinese farmers causes the garlic to stop sprouting whitens it and kills insects. But what its often fumigated with is methyl bromide, a deadly toxin.
High Doses of methyl bromide can cause respiratory and central nervous system (CNS) damage. According to the UN, its 60 times more dangerous than chlorine. Is that worth saving a couple of bucks on imported garlic?
To meet import regulations, Chinese garlic must have the root removed to prevent soil borne diseases and illnesses from entering the country. American farmers won't pay the extra expense to do it as it's not required for them.
This one can be tricky if you're mixing the garlic with other ingredients, but a lot of chefs have said the Chinese garlic has a slight metallic taste. The flavor is believed to be due to allicin level, the contributing compound to taste and smell of garlic. The American ones had 4400ppm (parts per million), and the Chinese ones had 3500ppm.Even though the majority of garlic in the U.S is imported, you can still find some locally grown if you know what to look for. Never be afraid to ask if something isn't labeled and keep your body free of unhealthy chemicals.