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The season for garlic

This past weekend, while my sister was having a restful few days, I was not. I slept on the ground (note to self: bring a real pillow next time) and hiked 7.5 miles in 5 hours. But that’s not complaining – it was actually pretty awesome. I ventured up to Woodstock, NY with my nature-loving man, saw beautiful fall colors from Indian Head Mountain, learned how to cook salmon on a campfire (tin foil packets are magic) and discovered that garlic is best enjoyed in solitude.

What’s behind that garlic statement? On Sunday, we went to the annual Hudson Valley Garlic Festival in Saugerties, NY (20 minutes from Woodstock on the banks of the Hudson River). There were garlic farmers from all over the Northeast and vendors cooking up garlic in ways you didn’t think were possible, i.e. garlic chocolate chip cookies. Garlic really can be used for everything: decoration, vinegars, salts, krauts, fried, raw – the list goes on. You name it, this festival had it covered.

We spoke to some really nice farmers who imparted some knowledge on us, so it was more than eating. Here’s what we learned:

– There are 2 kinds of garlic: soft neck (typically what you buy at the grocery store, has cloves in the center) and hard neck (there’s a big stalk coming out the middle). Soft neck is milder and better for pestos, etc.

– A head of garlic should be hard, dry, very papery and not smell. If you smell garlic from a fresh garlic head, it’s rotten.

– Garlic is planteded in October, harvested in July and dried in August.

A lesson we learned that we didn’t hear from the farmers was that eating a lot of garlic, regardless of its form, is hazardous for anyone around you even half an hour after consumption. Garlic is good for you, but let’s just say it doesn’t stop being potent after you eat it. That said, I still recommend going to this fest at some point if you’re up in the area the same weekend. It’s not the main attraction – the mountains are – but it’s the perfect addition to a weekend spent in the countryside.

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