Toronto Garlic Festival celebrates Ontario’s annual garlic harvest with Ontario farmers selling heirloom garlic and local chefs cooking with garlic. Festival visitors stock up on their winter supply of fresh garlic and taste delicious garlic-themed food and black garlic beer. They buy garlic-themed products while listening to live music, participate in educational talks, get a free garlic shot from a garlic barista, enjoy grilled garlic scapes, have their breath measured in the parts-per-billion in the garlic breath contest, attend art workshops and cooking demos and; donning VR goggles, participate in a Virtual Reality Ontario Farm Tour. Programming includes live music and dance, plus talks, presentations, storytelling, food sampling and tastings.
The Festival provides economic opportunities for Ontario-farmers, chefs, and food producers and, through curated programming, promotes Canadian cultural diversity.
The festival works year-round with farmers, chefs, chocolatiers, small-scale food producers, and craft breweries to develop, promote and sell Ontario garlic-themed products. Founded in 2011, and incorporated as a not-for-profit in 2017, Toronto Garlic Festival is largely volunteer run, with revenue applied to operating costs including venue rental, security and insurance, public relations and advertising.
Stakeholders in Toronto Garlic Festival include entities from agriculture, food and beverage, and tourism and culture industries, environment and waste reduction, and education.
Garlic is a vitally important part of virtually every culture and cuisine in the world. The Festival provides opportunities for shared garlic-themed experiences among members of Toronto’s ethnic and religious communities. From chefs selling food based on family recipes, talks on the connection of garlic and culture, and farmers selling heirloom garlic, the Festival brings a heightened awareness of the importance of culturally inclusive behaviour, and the positive influence of immigration, to Canadian values.
Farmers – At the festival visitors learn about the many strains of local garlic from Ontario farmers who grow and sell rare and heirloom dozens of varieties of hardneck garlic including Porcelain, Purple Stripe, Rocambole and more.
Chefs – Many mouth-watering savoury dishes are featured at the Toronto Garlic Festival, including Seared Halibut with Roasted Parsnips and Garlic Puree (Kukum Indigenous Kitchen), Fries with Garlic Aioli & Toasted Garlic Chips (Jamie Kennedy Kitchens), Garlic Sliders (Chef Brad Long), Vegan Smoked Salmon Lox with Lemon Roasted Garlic Hummus & Dill (Vegiterra), Roast Suckling Pig with 50 Garlic Bubs (Chef Ron Raymer), Scone Dog with Smoked Garlic and Cheddar Dunk (Pow Wow Cafe), Organic Kale & Garlic Crusted Popcorn Drizzled with Chili Maple Caramel & Himalayas Pink Salt (The Spice Chef), and Karaage Chicken (Gushi Toronto), Garlic Poblano and Cheese Tamale (Chef Erika Araujo) and many more.
Garlic and Desserts – The secret to using garlic in desserts is featured in ingeniously delicious creations made especially for Toronto Garlic Festival by local pastry chefs, ice cream makers and chocolatiers. These have included Garlic Chocolate Brownies (chef Anne Sorrenti), Truffle infused with Coffee, Black Garlic and Passion Fruit (Brandon Olsen), Black Garlic infused Salted Caramel Truffles (Laura Slack), White Miso Caramel layered on top of a Dulcey Black Garlic Ganache all in Valrhona Satilia Dark Chocolate (ONYX Chocolate). Also, Garlic Almond Brittle, Donuts in Black Garlic and Caramel Sauce (Globe Bistro), Garlic and Butter Popcorn Ice Cream, Dark Chocolate and Roast Garlic Ice Cream (Tim English).
Garlic Beverages – Festival visitors enjoy garlic-inspired beverages.Past creations include Black garlic, Ginger, Honey, Maple, and Cranberry Soda (County Bounty Farm and Artisanal Soda); DIRTY G-TINI: Sobieski Vodka, Olive Brine, Dry Vermouth, Pressed black garlic (DUNDAS AND CARLAW); and a cask ale with a unique combination of black garlic, mango and sea salt (Brimstone Brewery).
Garlic Products – Also available for purchase are black (fermented) garlic, pickled garlic scapes, garlic jelly, garlic dill pickles, garlic soda, garlic braids, garlic bulbils (for planting), garlic pesto, and several types of Ontario-made condiments.
Live Music and Dance – Performances in many genres by local musical artists reflect the diversity of cultures represented at the Festival. Past performers include Kobena Aquaa-Harrison (Traditional & Contemporary Ghanaian Music); Sue Croweagle and Eagle Woman Singerz (drumming and singing); Demitrios Petsalakis & Brenna MacCrimmon (World Percussion and Turkish singing); Vandan Vishwas (South Asian); Stella Walker (Yiddish Songs and Jazz Standards).
In 2022 the Festival partnered with Dream Zero, a Canadian company that supports events and food businesses in their sustainable efforts by providing rentable, reusable dishware. By replacing disposable containers, cups, and cutlery with reusable alternatives, we significantly reduced the amount of waste accumulated over the course of the festival and created a summary report on the outcome. We hope this reusable system will inspire our guests, food businesses, and other events to implement sustainable practices not only in preparation for the 2023 federal plastic ban, but for the sake of our environment.
Toronto Garlic Festival has created the Ontario Garlic in the Classroom lesson plan. Starting with Autumn planting this versatile guide takes students on the garlic growing journey through the school year. It incorporates modules in Math, Science, Humanities and Language Arts and is suitable for grades 3-5 but is easily adapted for other grades. Garlic is a forgiving plant offering great rewards.
Created with help from teacher/farmer Shawn Stevens, the Ontario Garlic in the Classroom Student Lesson Plan will engage your students on many levels:
• It brings them closer to the soil
• It helps them gain a better understanding of where food comes from
• It gives them an opportunity to participate in a team activity
• It helps them understand their connection to other cultures through garlic
• It channels their new-found interest in Ontario garlic into an interest in cooking and diet
Ontario Garlic in the Classroom Student Guide and Teacher’s Guide are available to download for free on Toronto Star’s Classroom Connection.
Covid-19 – Despite Covid-19 the Toronto Garlic Festival went virtual in 2020 with the Garlic Map. connecting farmers with customers looking to buy Ontario garlic. Also, online festival programming included live music and talks. In 2021, with Covid still a significant risk, Toronto Garlic Festival presented Ontario Garlic week. This province-wide event included food and beverage establishments from Thundery Bay to Timmins and Ottawa to Sarnia creating and selling a garlic themed dish, dessert or beverage. Patrons could order a garlic-themed item via dine in/takeout or delivery.
Ontario garlic is grown in the traditional territory of the Attawandaron (Neutral), Anishinaabeg and Haudenosaunee peoples, unceded Algonquin territory and most recently, the territory of the Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation and the Métis.