The Gleaner
Agriculture

Bright prospects for local black-garlic producer

About a year into the pandemic, Hinchinbrooke garlic producer Ken Rimmer found himself with a glut of the savoury bulbs after a slow season at his roadside stand in Athelstan.

“I’m just food-obsessed,” he laughs, when asked how he came upon black garlic as a potential solution. Without having ever tasted the fermented form of the cloves, he self-modified an oven and began experimenting.

Black garlic is regular garlic that is cooked at a very low temperature over a period of weeks. It is the fermentation process that gives black garlic its unique colour. The process also imbues the caramelized bulbs with a sweeter and slightly tangy flavour. Rimmer says it took him the better part of a year to get the temperature and cook time just right.

“I was aware it is a culinary thing, so I was looking for a taste that I thought would meet that standard,” he says, suggesting he was pleasantly surprised when he finally found some black garlic in a store and discovered his version tasted as good, if not better. As a black-garlic producer, he is part of a fairly exclusive group in Quebec.

Rimmer says he is hoping to introduce black garlic to the area as a healthy and versatile option that, while gourmet, is also very accessible and easy to work with. The cloves are very high in antioxidants and nutrients, and Rimmer does not use any additives or preservatives in ageing his garlic. It can be eaten raw or used in cooking to enhance soups, sauces, or to add flavour to just about anything.

 

Ken Rimmer is now selling his whole black garlic bulbs or peeled cloves at his Farmworx Black Garlic farm stand in Athelstan on Fridays from 10 am to 7 pm PHOTO Kieran Ward

 

Several local restaurants have jumped at the opportunity to work with locally sourced black garlic, including the Taverne de la Ferme in Ormstown and the Marine Marchande & Co. in Saint-Stanislas-de-Kostka. Rimmer also participated in all four of the winter Huntingdon County Farmers’ Markets between February and early April. “They were fantastic,” he says, suggesting he particularly enjoyed seeing people’s initial reaction to his products. “It ranged from mild revulsion from the look of it, to those who were excited to try it,” he laughs, acknowledging that people in general don’t eat a lot of black foods.

“The surprise on people’s face when they stick this black stuff in their mouth is just amazing,” he says. The garlic “makes a great tapenade, and it’s also great in miso,” he suggests, but shares that his favourite snack is a peanut butter sandwich with sliced black garlic.

Demand in the area is starting to grow, and his Farmworx brand black garlic is increasingly available in local stores including bakeries, specialty shops, and health food stores in Huntingdon, Ormstown, Franklin, Mercier, and Salaberry-de-Valleyfield. Rimmer is also increasingly starting to work with local garlic growers and processors to develop new products, including a rumoured hot sauce with local award-winning chilli-heads, the Capsaicin Cartel.

Farmworx black garlic will be available at the first farmers’ market in Huntingdon when it opens for the summer season on Wednesday, May 17. Rimmer says he is looking forward to the start of the season, with this year’s garlic crop already sprouting up from its winter slumber.

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