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The Economics of Garlic
by Stephen Morris
(Editor’s note: I had originally planned this editorial for our "Big, Fat, Boring Money Issue," but when we changed the theme to "Eat, Drink, and Be Merry" I discovered it worked just as well. Money doesn’t have to be dirty and dull, when it is delicious and healthful at the same time.)
There are lots of reasons to grow and eat garlic. But now we’ve found a new one ... money!
When it came time choose a visual symbol for Green Living, we considered the ubiquitous leaf, a stylized version of the earth, and even a frizzy-haired hippie who we were going to name "Natural Grace." But instead, we chose garlic.
Here are a few reasons why:
Garlic has now gone big-time. The grand daddy festival in Gilroy, California draws over 100,000 people annually. Fifteen years ago, it was unthinkable for a home gardener in the Northeast to grow garlic. It was too exotic, too California, too French. But the truth was, we were just too ignorant. Now, there are numerous garlic festivals in this part of the world, and even a rank amateur such as me can have a dozen varieties in the back yard garden. I treat it as precious cargo, and I delight in giving prize bulbs to friends as little gifts.
There is only one reason I can think of NOT to grow garlic is that it is so darn cheap. When I go into a supermarket and see these huge, white bulbs, often imported from China, for about fifty cents each, it makes me feel like a piker. What kind of gift is a fifty-cent bulb.
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But things are changing. At Farmer’s Markets now I regularly see "fresh, local, organic" garlics going for $2/apiece, and I’ve seen it fetching up to $10/pound. I’ve started doing the math: Garlic is not grown from seed, but by planting the individual cloves that collectively comprise a bulb. It's the quintessentially sustainable crop. With each bulb having 4 to 12 cloves, depending on variety, you can easily double the size of your crop every year and still have plenty to eat.
Most recently I entered my garlic in the agricultural competition at the Tunbridge World’s Fair. The results speak for themselves. $9 in prize money, including a blue ribbon for my braid of a variety I call "Randazzo Red." A picture of my check is included as proof.
The possibilities are endless. I can keep expanding the crop, giving it as gifts, and entering it in competitions.
Garlic has never been afraid to be controversial. Throughout history cultures have either violently opposed it (Victorian England) or ardently embraced it (Native Americans). In America we disdained it for decades, but now have had a complete change of heart. At Green Living we know which side of the garlic fence we are on.
Now, I must call my financial advisor to see what she thinks I should do with my nine bucks. Don’t tell me I’m not a rich man.
Editor and Publisher
(PS–In braiding my garlic I discovered that YouTube.com is an incredible source of how-to videos on every possible subject. If you are, like me, someone who learns best by seeing, try this wonderful reference the next time you need to glaze a window, or change a washer, or sharpen a knife, or build a strawbale compost pile ...)
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