How Did All These Garlics Get Here?

Ben Ronniger Last updated on Jul 12, 2024 by

A few of the kinds of garlic now in America came in with Polish, German and Italian immigrants over the centuries, but most of them came in all at once in 1989. The USDA had been asking the Soviets for permission to go to the Caucasus region to collect garlics but permission had always been refused because there were many missile bases in the area and this was where their spaceport was and is.

Finally, as the Soviet Union was disintegrating in 1989, they suddenly invited the Americans in to collect the garlics. They were under continuous armed guard and were allowed to travel only from village to village along the old Silk Road buying garlic from local markets and naming the cultivars after the town or village where they were purchased.

When they got back to the US, they realized they had no gardens ready in which to plant the garlic (The USDA plans things years in advance.) so they contracted out the growing to a few private growers on a share-the-garlic basis. After their crops were harvested and the USDA got their share, these growers began to trade with each other and to sell some to friends and other garlic growers and that is how they came to be available now when they were not available 30 years ago. There was no time for adequate phytosanitary precautions to be made so we don't really know what kinds of "hitchhikers" might have been brought in with them.

The above explanation also shows why these garlics are rare and expensive. Slowly more growers are beginning to grow these cultivars and as more of it is grown and the supply begins to catch up with the very great demand. Garlic lovers take one look at these delightful things and they feel an overwhelming urge to try them. In a few years, these gourmet garlics will be more widely grown and the price will eventually come down somewhat, but at present, most growers are selling out of premium garlic at premium prices in a short time so people who know what varieties and cultivars they want need to order their favorites early in the year in order to have  sothe best chance of getting the ones they want as most growers may be sold out if they delay ordering until October or even September on particularly popular varieties/cultivars.