The Joy of Fresh Garlic

Fresh local garlic is a little bit of a luxury in Australia. The vast majority of ours comes from overseas and we are pretty much used to its semi dry nature. But I tell you what, have a go at the real thing and it is life changing for a serious foodie and cook. The fresh stuff is completely different, its bleeds when it is cut, not blood obviously, but sensational garlicky goodness. And some varieties like the one I have had to try in this post can even be eaten raw. Incredible.

A friend of mine has done something I would love to do. Pack up move north and buy a farm. Then grow garlic. WHAT? Garlic, yes. The most difficult crop on earth. I have to admire his dedication. I asked him for a little background on the farm.

Darkwood Farm is a family run organic farm in the beautiful Thora Valley on the mid north coast of NSW.

We believe our food supply should be in the hands of family farms and not greedy multinationals.

Our aim is to provide high quality, organically grown produce to consumers direct, from paddock to plate. Our online shop will be operational from June 2013 at and the Darkwood Farm Facebook page you will be able to see how we grow our products and follow the entie lifecycle of each crop.

Our first commercial crop is Garlic, of the Russian variety aka known as Elephant garlic due to its large size.

We grow our garlic on the alluvial flats next to the Bellinger River which adjoins our property.

Our next crops will include Ginger and Turmeric as well.

Hopefully from 2014 we will also be able to provide organic handmade goats’ cheese as we are currently selecting the first goats for our herd.

Last week he arrived in Surry Hills on a loud motorbike packing goodies. A pile of fresh garlic got handed to me and I couldn’t wait to try it. Over the weekend I test cooked a few different things including French Garlic and Onion Soup, a Pizza with Garlic and Whitebean Sauce and perfect Spaghetti with Olive Oil and Garlic. There is no where to hide in the last dish, it is just the olive oil and garlic and boy did the garlic do some talking. The difference with fresh is amazing.

So here are a few pictures of the final results. I am no photographer but you get the idea.

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So despite all the clever recipes the funny thing is that it was the simplest thing that absolutely won us all over. Basic pizza dough, some good olive oil and shaved fresh garlic. Absolute perfection.

I encourage you all to follow Darkwood on Facebook so you find out the moment they start selling direct to the public. Try the real thing, you will not regret it.


Shopping Smarter

Shopping smarter like anything you learn about in life is about asking questions. A lot of us feel intimidated about grilling our green grocer or just assume that food must be fresh because it’s in the shop and has a nice spray of water over it. Not always so! Some produce has to travel thousands of kilometers on the back of a truck or even by air to get to the store, or may have been sitting in a cool store for months. And when you find a grocer who’s passionate about what they do they’re sure to love telling you what to look for. You’ll be surprised about what you’ll discover.

For starters though, next time you’re out shopping ask yourself some questions?

What’s in season?

Always look for fruit and vegetables that are in season, they’ll be cheaper and fresher. As a quick guide, in spring look for new growth things like baby leaves, asparagus and new potatoes, summer is the time for warm lush fruits like mangos, grapes, cherries and other stone fruits which don’t last well, autumn is for apples and mandarins and the start of the root vegetables, and winter is the time for the cool loving vegetables like brussel sprouts and cauliflower. You should also try and choose items that are firm and heavy for their size and have no signs of bruising or wilting. If it’s fresh it’ll usually look brighter and crisper.

When buying meat similar rules apply: it shouldn’t look slimy or grey, nor should it be swimming in fluids. Look for meat that’s light and even in colour for it’s species, that hasn’t got a strong smell and that has a firm looking texture.

Where does it come from?

It always pays to ask where your fruit and vegetables have come from. More and more these days thanks to free trade agreements and other globalization pressures local produce is competing on a bumpy playing field. But Australia is a big place and we can get an enormous range of fruit and vegetables year round.

How has it been made?

These days it’s a lot easier to tell where produce has come from as customers have become more and more demanding and labeling has improved. But if your not sure, ask! It’s always better to buy produce that uses a minimum of chemicals and pesticides and meat that comes from humanely treated animals.

What am I going to eat?

It’s also a good idea to buy food that you’re going to be interested in eating! How often have you bought a big bunch of bananas and then left them to spoil after eating just a few. Try and buy a variety of fruits and vegetables. For a healthy diet you need about five vegetables and three pieces of fruit a day so think about what’s going to tempt you the most. That also means choosing a range of ripeness, some for today, some for later.

What do I need?

Have a good think about when you’re going to buy, where you’re going to buy and what you need for the week. Everyone is racing to beat the clock but keep things fresh and reduce waste by buying just what you need for a few days. Try to minimize how far you have to travel with food to keep it in good condition and minimise how long it will be un-refrigerated or in plastic. And finally pull out that pen and pad! Nothing beats a good list and a diary for working out what you really need, preventing waste and saving money.