In the United States, we consume over 250 million pounds of garlic each year, and believe it or not, unlike 10 years ago when most of it came from California, today over 50% of our garlic comes from China. Yes. China. Where "organic" food doesn't exist. Where crops are manured with human waste. Where they force people to move far away from their homes to towns dedicated to a particular industry (toy town, electronics town, carpet town, etc.)... but the production and export of garlic from China has grown so much that they have an entire province dedicated to their stinky garlic production--Shandong.
My son Lucas was the first to bring Chinese garlic to my attention last year when we were in our favorite supermarket. "Dad, look at the label on that mesh bag of garlic! It's Made in China!" He was right. I've since learned that the Chinese garlic is to be avoided at all costs for a variety of reasons. I mean, really? We can't grow our own garlic?
There's even a Black Market of Chinese garlic with cartels that act just like drug dealers. In Europe, smuggling garlic in from China is a big business, often wreaking havoc on the market price of garlic.
We here in the U.S. can be a pretty complacent bunch. It doesn't matter where Walmart gets the products that stock their shelves, as long as we can get it cheap. So much for Made in the USA. Sure, we complain about not enough jobs, but then go ahead and support industries that buy from China and Mexico and a host of other countries, while they close down factories and farms here in the States.
Apparently, with us buying over 50% of our garlic from the China, we don't care much... as long as it's bleached white (yes, they actually use bleach), blemish free (they use many toxic chemicals that kill everything, even beneficial insects) and is cheap (they manipulate the market) and tastes more or less like garlic. Most Americans have no idea what organically grown garlic tastes like.
Italians love their Aglio!
And because of that passion, Chinese garlic isn't going down easily with Italians.The total production of garlic in Italy is about 30 millions pounds, with only around 2-2/5 million pounds of Chinese garlic being imported annually. There are a few a good reasons for this...
First of all, to Italians, there isn't just one generic type of garlic. Italians are used to buying fresh garlic in local open air markets. And they have many options: the red garlic of Sulmona, Polesano garlic, white garlic of Vessalico, garlic dell'Ufita, garlic of Molino dei Torti, the garlic of Resia, the Massese garlic, red garlic of Castelliri, Nubia, garlic from the Maremma in Tuscany and the Monticelli garlic from Campania. Italians have choice. Italians love choice, too... especially when it comes to their produce.
The other reason why Italians aren't warming up to Chinese garlic is because their love of fresh, healthy ingredients. The Italian diet makes Italians one of the healthiest countries in the world. (Read about Italy, the Healthiest European Country HERE). In 2010 China won the dubious distinction of the most contaminated foods being exported to other countries. Their garlic contain mycotoxins, additives and colorants not approved by the European Union. Many of the irregularities are due to their garlic coming into contact with other toxic chemicals either during storage or shipment. Italians like to know where their food comes from--often from their own garden, or from a farmer they are on a first name basic with.
The surprising thing in all this is that Italians may be in for a real fight against how the European Union is warming up to Chinese garlic. In 2011, the European Union's Official Journal gave the Chinese garlic variety, Jinxiang Da Suan Protected Designation of Origin (DOP) and Protected Geographical Indications (PGI). Che cavall0! This is how they protect Chianti wine, Parmigiano Reggiano, Prosciutto di Parma and other Italian regional specialties. How could this be happening. The EU is run by a bunch of business leaders. The fat cats. The "One Percent-ers". That's why.
So, Bravo! to Italians in fighting back and not letting Chinese garlic take over their marketplace. As for me, I suppose I'll just have to start growing my own. Garlic is supposed to be so easy that you can grown it indoors.
I'll let you all know how that plan goes... Hey, since Lucas started this, I'll get him to plant the garlic!