Although California-grown garlic is proven to be a more flavorful, fresher and safer product, Chinese garlic is produced and exported to the U.S. in such mass quantities that it can be sold at a considerably lower price. Christopher Ranch, on the other hand, faces higher costs to grow quality, safe garlic, including equitable wages to farmers and workers; maintaining an exclusive heirloom seed program; following an extensive food safety program; sustainable farming practices; cost of land and inputs, etc.
Additionally, because many aren’t aware various garlic varieties exist (particularly Chinese, Mexican and Argentine, which offer significant flavor, freshness, safety, healthy, sustainability discrepancies), they take whatever they get, assuming it’s the same. And thus, 160 million pounds of Chinese garlic was exported into the U.S. in 2008 – more than all domestic producers combined.
The good news is – the situation might be slowly turning around, as the price of Chinese garlic, at the moment, is rising. Why? One reason is, for many years, Chinese farmers were not receiving a fair return for growing, and, therefore, acreage has decreased and remaining growers demand to be paid up front – see article in The Produce News.
However, Chinese garlic still resides in the majority of grocery stores and restaurants, so we wanted to share a few major differences between California-grown and Chinese garlic, which might encourage a greater interest in what you’re eating:
* California-grown garlic is available year round and requires only days to reach customers. Chinese garlic can require up to 60 days transportation time in an ocean container to reach U.S. markets.
* Transporting garlic from China to California annually generates 4.5 million pounds of pollutants and emits 120,000 pounds of soot and-smog forming pollutants into the air. Both contribute to environmental degradation and increased medical conditions, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council.
* California-grown garlic contains higher levels of essential oil and nutrients (vitamins, amino acids, proteins, minerals) than Chinese, Mexican and Argentine garlic, according to National Food Laboratory Results. This translates to a more flavorful, healthier garlic.
* California-grown garlic holds its flavor throughout the life of a dish when cooking, whereas the flavor of Chinese garlic drops dramatically – in some cases, losing up to 50% of its original flavor from kitchen to table, according to sensory evaluations conducted by leading chef, Cary Neff, who tested three recipes using equal amounts of California and Chinese garlic.
* We can only speak to Christopher Ranch here, but we operate according to strict food safety and quality-control regulations, including Good Agricultural Practices and Good Manufacturing Practices (developed by the Food & Drug Administration); are subject to third-party food safety audits (which we’ve received near-perfect scores) and have an extensive traceback system in place, wherein we can track a product within two hours of a recall request. Chinese suppliers are not forced to comply with any of these practices, and it is nearly impossible to trace product back to its point of origin.
If you want the most flavorful, fresh, healthy, safe and sustainable product, look for California-grown garlic in the supermarket, by checking for the Christopher Ranch label or selecting garlic bulbs that are off white in color, more heart shaped and have their roots intact. Chinese garlic is typically bright white, flatter, with no roots. Or, if you’re dining out, ask your waiter what variety of garlic they cook with.
Remember – All Garlic is Not Created Equal!