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September 26, 2013

Garlic Festival crowded with people, bulbs

(Continued)

Rowley, along with Vinnie Avanzato founded the festival 13 years ago. Both thought it would provide growers like themselves a great venue to educate and sell their product to the local community. Avanzato still supplies his own restaurant, Stella Luna in Oneonta, with bulbs. After supplying the Plaza Hotel in New York City for years, Rowley said he is content to grow garlic and chair the festival.

Gies, owner of The Pasture Farm along with his wife Jill, shared his vast experience in the garlic information tent. Refusing the title of garlic guru, Gies said, “a litany of errors has made me an expert.”  

Ten years ago, encouraged by a friend to try his hand at garlic, Gies planted some bulbs. Months later, with no tending in the meantime, he watched his friend’s “eyes pop out of his head” while he pulled his first bulb. Sometimes the only thing a garlic grower has to know is when to harvest. Gies notes it’s time to pull when 2 or 3 leaves are turning brown at the bottom and the scape is standing up. 

One of the biggest mistakes made, according to Gies, is planting garlic deep in clay soil.

Gies said he remembers being unwilling to sell one crop’s pathogen ridden bulbs for seed, knowing the growth would be compromised. A stubborn farmer within the community insisted he needed the seeds vowing he would exchange his secret for saving them to Gies for the right to buy. The secret was 80 proof vodka. Apparently soaking the bulbs in the stuff before planting kills the pathogens.  

Garlic offers health benefits galore, ranging from treating skin infections, to reducing cholesterol. It’s use has been linked to positive effects on a myriad of diseases, including diabetes, cancer and combating allergies. Common lore has even stated that garlic in your spaghetti is an aphrodisiac, stirring up passions due to increased circulation.

For more information about next year’s event, please contact farmers@svgarlicfestival.com.

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