Marlborough still maintains the title of New Zealand’s garlic king, producing about 70% of the country’s total crop. There was a time 20 years ago when the aroma of garlic was what Marlburians woke up to during the months of January and February.
John Murphy, chief executive of Marlborough Garlic (one of two major producers in the region) says there is no way they can compete against the US and China in volume, but they can excel in quality.
Interestingly, given Marlborough’s renown for wine, it is the brix (sugar level) of the garlic grown here that sets it apart from that grown elsewhere..
You may not think of garlic as sweet, but to put it in perspective, a ripe sauvignon blanc grape would contain about 23 brix. A ripe garlic clove, ready for picking would hit the 40 brix level – something almost impossible to achieve elsewhere in the world.
Marlborough Garlic has 80ha of garlic under production and harvests close to 7 tonnes/ha. That, Murphy says, is considered a reasonable yield worldwide, even if it is well below the 10 – 12tph grown in some other countries. The smaller yield goes into premium products -- fresh, dehydrated, crushed or peeled.