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stardiff

Grocery Store Garlic Quality

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We are living in an an age in which I can go to Whole Foods, Citarella (yes, I live in NYC), or any one of several local grocery stores and get great meat and produce. Herbs are neatly cleaned and packed and I have a choice of at least a half dozen varieties if I want to get a pate or a dry aged steak.

Yet...

When I venture over to the "garlic bin," it is a wasteland. It's labelled "from China," which isn't by itself a bad thing. But shriveled, often blackened and therefore already run-in with spores, I find myself buying three heads just so I know I can get a half-dozen good cloves out of them.

Is there a reason for this? Why is one of the most useful ingredients also one of the most hard to find (in proper form)... Is simple over-use the answer? Why do no local growers produce garlic?

And yes, maybe this is a regional phenomenon, so I'd love to hear from those in other areas. If I have to start bulk-ordering garlic from somewhere else, I am more than willing.

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I live in the Los Angeles area and prefer USA garlic. I have not noticed a dearth of firm and flavorful garlic. Yes, California is a garlic producer so that may factor in. As with most bulk bin items, I have to test for firmness and make sure I don't get a head with a soft clove that will pollute the lot. A sniff test is also performed. I have not had to throw away more than the odd very occasional clove in at least two years. This is with major grocery chain garlic. I do purchase from local farmers markets when available. I should note that I use masses of garlic so my sample size is representative I think.

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Hi Stardiff, and let me be the first to welcome you to eGullet! I agree that lately, the garlic selection is awful. I think the best quality I can usually find is from Fresh Direct - but with that being said, it's not great either. Most cloves already have a considerable germ, but at least they're not terribly bruised or rotten.

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Welcome to the forum. It is not just garlic. I am having issues with potatoes and onions. I am having to throw out several in each bag of potatoes. Onions in the bag just are sorry.

With all of the other great stuff in the markets why does produce suck so?


Dwight

If at first you succeed, try not to act surprised.

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As a fellow New Yorker, I can say that pretty much every onion or garlic purchase I have made at Whole Foods (always out of convenience at this point) has ended up with rotting layers in my onions or bad cloves in the bulb of garlic, even as careful as I am. I don't know if it's every Whole Foods in NYC, stardiff, but I've noticed it at the Bowery and Union Square locations.

On the other hand, I've pretty much never gone wrong buying garlic bulbs (or onions) at the smaller local market I frequent; it's usually quite fresh and never rotten. I don't know the provenance of this garlic, however.


"I know it's the bugs, that's what cheese is. Gone off milk with bugs and mould - that's why it tastes so good. Cows and bugs together have a good deal going down."

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I love it when its garlic season around here and I can buy heads with big, juicy cloves. The paper of the garlic they grow around here is usually a pleasant light purple. Then garlic season is over, and I'm stuck with spongy old cloves for a few months because that's what the stores sell.

I imagine it might be more difficult to get good garlic in New York because there are so many people that want it. There's got to be a way to get some fresh US garlic, but I imagine it probably shows up in the farmer's markets more than anything. Have you checked there during garlic season (mid to late summer and fall)?


nunc est bibendum...

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Sorry to hear your garlic isn't good quality. It's fine in Beijing so it must be a freshness issue. My relative in Illinois grows large crops of it, last year was horrible for garlic in his area, too wet I believe? Anyway, keep your fingers crossed? Are the bottled varieties worth using?


Maybe I would have more friends if I didn't eat so much garlic?

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Garlic from China is cheap, and doesn't/shouldn't require refrigeration. Many supermarkets buy a case or two and just let it be.

Because garlic from China is cheap, many local growers have given up on it. Growing garlic may require the same care as other produce, but the harvesting and subsequent drying and storing prior to sale does require a bit more time and effort.

So, we have a choice, cheap garlic, or good garlic.

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there was a few years that getting even half decent garlic between christmas and the first crop of the season at the farmers markets was next to impossible. Luckily now , we have a few stores that are stocking good fresh garlic even if it is 2 to 3 times the price of the cheap bullk stuff. Organic from argentina, Canada and sometimes from California mostly. luckily the fresh crop from Argentina is starting to hit the stores now.


"Why is the rum always gone?"

Captain Jack Sparrow

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Searching out garlic grown in the USA is difficult and costs more than garlic from China.

I have to assume that to lower transportation costs, its shipped from China in unrefrigerated containers on container ships that compounds any quality issues existing from being grown in China.

Around Chicago and at H-Mart its usually OK and but even H Mart sells USA garlic when they can obtain it at a substantial increase in price and it sells so that will tell you something!

"I am having issues with potatoes and onions. I am having to throw out several in each bag of potatoes. Onions in the bag just are sorry."

This problem I have found is store dependent. To keep price lower bags are offered of sometimes low quality and smaller size. I have to travel 45 miles from Wisconsin to a place on the North side of Chicago that keeps excellent supplies of single onions of all types. The onions are large and high quality and reasonable price because that's the store standard.

This is a very large grocery store that caters to middle European groups but also has a lot of Asian shoppers, its called Fresh Farms and its on Touhy Ave.-Dick


Edited by budrichard (log)

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I have to agree with budrichard. The crap from China is useless. Any chance I get I pick up some hardneck garlic at the farmer's market in Union Square, but at $1.50 a head, even those have some green shoots by this time of year.


Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

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I don't know where the garlic comes from around here, but I've found the quality to be anything from bad to just ok. This has been a constant for all of my cooking life (30 years) with grocery store garlic (the only place I'd ever bought it). Year before last, when we joined a CSA, was a revelation. The garlic was so fresh and juicy that I was tempted to eat a raw clove. We've joined a CSA again for this year and I'm hoping that we'll get that incredible garlic again.

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In August, we have several garlic festivals. I buy braids of the stuff, different varieties and store it in a cool cupboard in the basement. It lasts quite well. In fact, I just used some tonight and there is still not a sign of any germ. in June or so I will see germ in it but by then the festivals are just around the corner and I make do. If I should happen to run out, I will buy American garlic. I stay away from the Chinese stuff.

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its the time of year, the stuff has been laying around forever,,,Hopefully the stuff I planted will be ready in a few months...(sez he ,Hopefully)

Bud

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Stardiff, go to an Asian grocer. The turnover will be better, the customers will be far more demanding and the garlic will be about 1/3rd the price.

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Stardiff, go to an Asian grocer. The turnover will be better, the customers will be far more demanding and the garlic will be about 1/3rd the price.

I was going to suggest a mercado for the same reason. The mexican store by my work always has beautiful garlic and it's cheap.

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I have started buying garlic in bags from Costco. They are 2 pound bags of California garlic that are of good quality. I keep them in a cool place and they last very well. I haven't even had a problem with a large germ.

I agree about potatoes though. I have had to buy grocery store russets a couple times lately and had to cut away half because of bruising!

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In NYC, food quality from China has been going down hill gradually the past few years, and prices are going up.

As living standard is rising in China, the quality stuff is being demanded by the Chinese population.

I saw a report on ABC a couple of days ago, showing a massive high-tech factory making quality items for Apple Computer. China will be focusing less and less into low-tech industries.

I met a fellow from China here in NYC, he was in the USA to negotiate to buy up the entire supply of Wagyu beef to import into China.

dcarch

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In NYC, food quality from China has been going down hill gradually the past few years, and prices are going up.

As living standard is rising in China, the quality stuff is being demanded by the Chinese population.

I saw a report on ABC a couple of days ago, showing a massive high-tech factory making quality items for Apple Computer. China will be focusing less and less into low-tech industries.

I met a fellow from China here in NYC, he was in the USA to negotiate to buy up the entire supply of Wagyu beef to import into China.

dcarch

True +2

It is not just the living standard in general.. but the # of almost rich has risen exponentially.. within 5 years China will have more households with similar wealth & incomes as the top 10% of U.S. households, and within 10 years that number is expected to double... as such they will compete intensely for the best of everything.. already the market for fine art has seen some gravitational shifts, as well as rare wine etc.,

For the last 20 years the best California produce has been exported to Japan but the Chinese are starting to make a dent on that.

The funny thing is that in California (which is suppossedly a great garlic producer).. we had quite a few bad garlic years.. but the garlic available everywhere right now is great & cheap such that I throw away anything with the slightest hint of a green vein... of course now I feel kind of guilty :biggrin:

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Stardiff, go to an Asian grocer. The turnover will be better, the customers will be far more demanding and the garlic will be about 1/3rd the price.

This matches my experience - the large asian grocery I go to has the nicest garlic in town. While your there, get some greens.

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As someone who grew up on the California central coast, garlic is synonymous with Gilroy. If is ain't from Gilroy, it ain't garlic. I am deeply insulted by Chinese garlic and refuse to buy it on both socio-economic and quality bases. I regularly go to produce managers and ask where the garlic was sourced. If China, I walk and tell him why, insisting that they return to local garlic.


eGullet member #80.

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I started growing my own garlic 3 years ago just because the quality of most of the store bought was so poor. Unlike other posters in this thread, some of the poorest quality was from an Asian market that generally has good quality produce. My guess was that it simply was stale. Tho' my homegrown yield is fairly small, if there is enough, they last till spring. Some of the market garlic is a papery husk, or a fungus pod within 6 weeks of purchase.

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Ever since I've switched to buying peeled garlic, this hasn't been a problem. When you can see all the cloves, it's much harder to hide rot and mold.


PS: I am a guy.

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I haven't seen any problems in Indiana. I'm not sure about the ultimate quality or provenance of the variety of garlic we get, but in terms of it's serviceabilty, it seems quite good. No black spots, or growing chutes. The paper is white and dry and intact. The bulbs are firm.

However, if I buy too much and let them sit, well, that's another story....

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