In search of a title for his 1980 culinary documentary, filmmaker Les Blank chose the proverb, “Garlic is as good as ten mothers.” While the saying may have more to do with the inevitable effect of the “stinking rose” on one’s breath (useful in staving off unwanted suitors), it also calls to mind the aromatic vegetable’s worldwide reputation as a cure-all, or at least a formidable preventative. Garlic’s well-documented health benefits include being anti-inflammatory, antibacterial and antiviral, not to mention helping stave off cancer and cardiovascular disease.
But that’s not why most of us consume garlic, is it? It’s how it tastes, of course. Properly prepared, that powerful smell translates into delectable flavor.
Even if garlic is one of your regular go-to ingredients, though, you don’t get much variety at most supermarkets and greengrocers, or even farmers’ markets: maybe a choice between a single loose bulb or a stack of them in a plastic mesh sleeve. Whole braids of garlic are nearly unheard-of in stores. It’s a shame, when you consider how many different varieties are actually grown – each with its own flavor profile, best culinary applications and suitability for quick consumption or long storage.
So, if you haven’t already found your own secret source for a favorite garlic type, head for the Hudson Valley Garlic Festival, returning to Saugerties for its 27th annual outing this weekend. Once you’ve been someplace where 55 different knowledgeable garlic farmers congregate, offering varieties that cover the whole flavor spectrum, you’ll never be the same easily satisfied cook that you were before. But how do you choose? Softneck or hardneck? Silverskin, Artichoke, Rocambole, Porcelain, Purple Stripe? Once each year, Cantine Field becomes the place to ask the garlic experts for their advice, and to sample all sorts of amazing foods (yes, even ice cream) prepared with different garlic varieties.
The Hudson Valley Garlic Festival offers a formal and fun educational component, with a lineup of chefs and lecturers holding forth over the two days of the event. Live entertainment goes on continuously, including musicians, a Turtle Island Medicine Show performance by Arm-of-the-Sea Theater, wandering giant puppets, costumed roleplayers and a Morris dance troupe. There’s a children’s hands-on crafts activity area, a climbing wall, crafts and food vendors galore.
The Hudson Valley Garlic Festival opens at 10 a.m. on October 1 and 2, closing at 6 p.m. on Saturday and 5 p.m. on Sunday. Tickets are $10 per day at the gate for entry; kids under age 12 get in free. Parking is free, but mostly offsite, with free shuttle service; visit www.hvgf.org for more details and to view the full schedule, or call (845) 246-3090. Cantine Field is located on Pavilion Street in the heart of Saugerties.
Hudson Valley Garlic Festival, Saturday, October 1, 10 a.m.-6 p.m., Sunday, October 2, 10 a.m.-5 p.m., $10, Cantine Veterans’ Memorial Complex, Pavilion Street, Saugerties; (845) 246-3090, www.hvgf.org.