The Garlic Farmers’ Cookbook

review by Christy Bassett

Garlic bookThese folks really like garlic. This cookbook begins with a table of contents that reads more like a menu: Appetizers, Dips, Dressings and Sauces, Beverages, Soups, Breads, Cakes, Cookies and Desserts, Chow Time, Entrees and Sides, Oils, Vinegars and Pickles, Tidbits and Fun. Who would have known that garlic had a place in every course?

In the introduction The Garlic Seed Foundation gives a brief history of how they collected recipes for the book from fellow farmers, garlic lovers and friends. They also mention that the recipes included are really more like guidelines- multiplying the amount of garlic from one clove to one bulb to taste in each recipe is mentioned more than once. (Because who doesn’t need more garlic?) Since it is written by farmers for farmers, the need for quick and easy recipes that can utilize homegrown ingredients is paramount. But the authors are also quick to note that winter time cooking may be different from kitchen activities during the rest of the year and include a handful of more time-consuming recipes as well. The additional information attached to these facts is infused with good humor and conversational tone.

Some of the more unique recipes included in this book are: Eggplant Caviar, Garlic Mousse, Butter-Like Garlic Spread, Garlic Wine and Frosted Garlic Carrot Cake. It also includes numerous versions of garlic-based staples like pesto (nine varieties) and salsa (six varieties). Personally, I have tried the Potato-Leek Soup without Leeks (they substitute garlic scapes for leeks), Roasted Garlic Salad Dressing, White Garlic Pizza Sauce, and the Oven Frittata. Each was delicious, but the white garlic pizza sauce stands out as a new staple in our home, rivaling our homegrown, homemade tomato sauce as a topping base on make-your-own pizza night. The Garlic Chip Cookies have me curious, but I’m not quite brave enough to give them a try quite yet.

As garlic growers ourselves, we tend to have a good stockpile of garlic to use throughout the year and appreciate the focus on the fact that this book “contains recipes from actual garlic growers”. The table included on page 11 called “10 Distinct Garlic Types” was unfortunately not very useful in determining which varieties to grow next year, as I hoped it would be. The table lists 10 classes of garlic along with the name of the variety, whether it is a hardneck or a softneck variety, the clove skin color, the average number of cloves that each particular cultivar grows, amongst other things. I would have loved to read about the different flavor aspects of each variety, how well they each store, and how well they grow in variable climates. These types of growing tips would have really carried the message through that the book was “by farmers” and appealed to a general audience who was interested in what goes on before the garlic hits the plate.

I was also unimpressed by the number of processed ingredients that some of the recipes called for. Flour, margarine, granulated sugar, and cans of condensed soup were staples in several of the recipes. If the reader is to buy into the idea that we should grow our own garlic, or purchase garlic from a farmer who loves it throughout it’s life, then it should be an easy jump to assuming that we would also prefer to purchase other ingredients from fellow farmers rather than from supermarket shelves.

One paragraph that I really enjoyed was in a content box labeled “Cooked or Raw, Taste Good or Good For You?” It shares the secret of enjoying the taste of cooked garlic in your recipes, but also reaping the medicinal value of raw garlic at the same time.

There are several black and white photographs throughout the book, but none of the finished dishes. One of the best things about a cookbook, in my opinion, is usually the photographs of the food that it is teaching you to prepare. But this is not your typical modern cookbook. It is wire bound, which allows it to lay flat while open, and lays out short one-sentence steps clearly and simply without a lot of fluff. The straight to the point language, simple step by step instructions, and no frill presentation make this a good cookbook to have in the kitchen instead of by your bedside.