About one third of the garlic in North America comes from China – and it shouldn’t be trusted. Most, if not all of the imported garlic that comes from China is bleached to whiten the garlic and stop sprouting. It is also fumigated with methyl bromide to kill insects and plant matter. According to the UN, methyl bromide is 60 times more damaging than chlorine and is the base of CFCs (Chlorofluorocarbons).
If you’re looking to get your hands on some good-quality garlic, getting the stuff from China shouldn’t be your first pick. China is one of the largest garlic growers, producing around 500,000 tonnes a year. Garlic produced in Yongnian County, in Handan, Hebei, the centre of garlic production, is often sprayed by two illegal pesticides called prorate and parathion. This saves the farms time and effort, but puts our health at risk.
In 2014, an official government report showed that over one fifth of China’s soil is contaminated by arsenic and cadmium, two heavy metals that have a variety of health consequences when consumed (and by consumed, I mean consumed in the produce you consume that has been growing in said soil). Almost all major rivers in China are tainted by large amounts of industrial chemicals and household waste. If we continue supporting the garlic industry from China, we are directly supporting the on-going of these detrimental practices.
Henry Bell, of the Australian Garlic Industry Association, notes that “some garlic growers [in China] use raw human sewage to fertilize their crops, and [he doesn’t] believe the Australian quarantine regulations are strict enough in terms of bacteria testing on imported produce.” Still want to eat China-grown garlic?
Another problematic about buying your garlic from China manufacturers is the fact that it can sit in storage for over 1 year before you actually eat it. Buying garlic that has been sitting this long means that you aren’t getting the beneficial compounds, like allicin, which is the main thing in garlic that makes it one of the most powerful antibiotics in the world.
Garlic From China
So how can you choose garlic that isn’t from China, and is locally grown?
1. Grow an endless supply of it yourself
2. Buy locally, from farmers you know and trust (check out a farmers’ market!) or from a CSA outlet
3. Garlic bought locally tastes and smells much stronger than garlic from China – so you can tell simply by taste itself!
4. Garlic from China often has the root base cut off the end – however, many people claim this is not an accurate way to tell whether garlic is grown in China or not (as many American growers also cut off the roots). This isn’t proof positive that garlic was specifically grown in China if roots are lacking.
5. Check out brand names of garlic you are purchasing from. Anything labelled as from China, do not buy. If it only shows the company name, look them up first, do some research, and find out where the garlic comes from!