A purple patch

November 15, 2009

garliccatenov09Remember my quest for Australian garlic, which then resulted in the talented Cate Kennedy sending me some of her garlic shoots?

Well, that garlic is coming along nicely in my garden as we speak, this one pictured here next to the tomatoes and some purple basil and salad greens – tricky in my small garden to do the right companion planting, as Stephanie Alexander tells me it won’t grow well with peas and beans, both of which I’ve got a little further away. But, while Cate’s garlic will hopefully tootle along, it takes six to eight months for it to grow, and a girl’s gotta find a substitute in the meantime, right?

So, praise be to the lovely purple cardboard box that arrived by post this week.

garlicboxSome time ago I had heard of Patrice Newell’s organic biodynamic garlic available online. I registered monthsago, way back before her harvest time, and then forgot about it until receiving an email a couple of weeks ago, telling me Patrice’s “purple glamour garlic” was ready to go, and did I want some?

Yes I did, despite expecting it to be horrifically expensive. I thought ‘bugger it’, and got online. And to my surprise found that a kilo of garlic, which turns out to be 16 gorgeous heads of the stuff, was $38 plus about $5 postage. So we’re talking $2.70 per head of garlic.

And what garlic it is. We had our first taste the other night, and I cannot tell you how fresh and moist and delicious it is. The kind of fresh you see sometimes in very new ginger, just glistening with juice as you slice it. The instructions that come with the box (elegant, recycled and recyclable packaging) tell me the garlic will last for five months before sprouting if kept in a dry, well ventilated spot, and your kitchen bench is recommended as good a place as any. I was staggered at that keepability, which makes me wonder just how old is the garlic we’ve been buying at the grocer, which often begins to sprout after a week.

garliccloseBut this is a bit of a moot point, because at our usual rate of consumption we will get through it long before five months. And I’ve begun taking a bulb of this garlic with me every time we visit a friend, because it’s so good I reckon it’s a cracker gift to take along to dinner with a bottle of wine. So actually I expect I’ll be on to my next order very soon.

If you check out Patrice Newell’s website there’s lots of interesting facts about garlic – including the advice to never keep garlic in the fridge, as dryness is crucial.

And anyway – as you can see, it’s so beautiful, who wouldn’t want it on display?


  1. I just bought some bulbs at the markets on Sat. Was keen to buy a string, v. reasonable price, but think our place is too damp for long storage. Have kept self happy with large handful of bulbs instead.

  2. If it was at Eveleigh markets Lou I am pretty sure it was from the same place, Elmswood farm? They had a thing on the website about Patrice N’s daughter having her own crop and selling it at the Carriageworks on 14 November. So snap. I reckon your place would be fine – I emailed them later about the damp thing and Roger, the nice man who works with PN, says it can cope with a variety of humidities but just try to keep it as dry as you can. I have decided to keep mine in a bamboo wok steamer on the bench, partly cos ran out of bowls, but also cos gets air underneath.

  3. Yum, Patrice’s purple perfection looks nice. My home-grown garlic patch is getting a bit wobbly, with a few plants struggling so much after those days of heavy rain that I harvested them early, but a few plants look like making it all the way through to adulthood. Yours looks fine to me, Charlotte. Should be ready to pull up just in time for a nice, garlicky Christmas roast.

  4. OOh goody, thanks Jamie. Have never grown it before so no idea when it’s ready. And I shall soon be seeking your advice on my spuds. I’ve killed them!

  5. mmmmmm looks good.

    Taking garlic as a gift for friends is a lovely idea…

    I wonder if sunlight does something too them too, to make them sprout to early after you buy them?

  6. The garlic looks gorgeous! Not like the dry, white bulbs I find in our supermarket. And you’re correct, I have to use it fairly quickly or it will sprout, so I wonder how old it is. And what a fabulous hostess gift – even without the bottle of wine. You can come to my house anytime.

    • Hi Screamish & Grad – I’m not sure about sunlight, but I have had a communique from Patrice Newell and it turns out they’re revisiting the storage issue, because of humidity. She reckons that while a fridge is usually too damp, it’s better than a hot & humid kitchen. Our house is cool and well insulated now though, so I’m going to stick with the benchtop for now. And we are cracking through the garlics anyway (you are right Grad, people do like getting a little bulb as a pressie!)so I don’t expect it to be an issue.

  7. Charlotte: I planted six spud plants and four are doing OK still, but two succumbed to that recent heavy rain and never recovered. So I pulled up the two ‘dead’ plants today and still came up with about a kilo of spuds. So my tip is to hang in there with spuds, and when all seems lost, go bandicooting and you might get a spuddy surprise! The only other tip that might be useful is to sit the spud bag up on something (ie, a couple of lumps of 4 x 2) so excess water can drain away from the bag. I think that’s what caused my early casualties – lack of soil drainage after the deluge.

    • Oh phew Jamie. I think that’s exactly what happened to mine. I only had two bags, but they were FLOURISHING and I was feeling very smug, and then one bag just upped and died, looked sort of rotted on the stem. The other was doing fine but then this week it too has carked it. I wondered whether there might be some babies in there but had to consult you first. Shame I didn’t get any pix of them while they were looking good … now all I have is bags of compost & straw, but we can re-use these, right? I might have another crack at the spuds later.

  8. My compost and straw is going straight back to the compost bin. It’s compost royalty, having been kissed by spuds (or at least that’s what I tell the bin).

  9. This garlic looks beautiful. I’m almost tempted to buy some. So purple and I love getting food through the mail! BUT it’s not local for me and I know that here in Central Victoria all the local garlic will start to appear in a week or two. It is really delicious, there are many varieties and, of course, it’s only come a few miles from where I buy it. Last year I bought too much because it was so delicious and fresh so I gave heaps away as presents for Christmas and beyond. People loved it. And it’s only just recently I’ve run out of my supply so I’m ready for more. Here in central victoria the rough ‘rule’ for planting garlic is that you plant on the shortest day of the year and harvest on the longest. I wonder what it is elsewhere.

  10. I’m with you on getting food through the mail jd – there’s something so exciting about it! Plants too – I’m going to check out the Diggers Club and see what they can send me. Very wise re your local garlic; maybe you could post it to yourself for that extra thrill.

    Interesting about the shortest/longest day cycle too – Jamie, does that work for us here in Sydney? Oh and I have a disastrous report: no spuds. Not a thing. Not a button. Hrmph. Might try again down the track some time and figure out what I did wrong – I think maybe I added the straw & compost too quickly, and definitely not enough drainage.

  11. when would it be the right time to plant PURPLE GLAMOUR GARLIC. I live in Nowra 100 mile south of Sydney

  12. […] oil, several long sprigs of fresh oregano from the garden, a chopped clove of garlic (received our annual five kilos of Patrice Newell garlic the other day, yippee) and the juice of one lemon. Squidged it all together with clean hands, […]

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