The secret is out. Many people are aware of garlic’s attractions, and demand for garlic has never been greater. And when demand soars, the supply side tries to keep up. Beginning in the 1980s, Ontario became a significant grower. But local garlic farmers suffered more than a few bumps and bruises on the way.
A few garlic trailblazers set the stage for Ontario garlic farmers and gardeners to follow. Ted Maczka was a fixture in the Canadian garlic industry and was something of a cult figure at garlic events and festivals. Part showman, part funnyman, he was a garlic evangelist. From his farm in Prince Edward County, Ted answered questions for gardeners and farmers across Canada and was regularly featured on radio and in newspapers. Mark Cullen interviewed Ted on his CFRB radio show in 1995. Ted was in Toronto for the Royal Winter Fair, where he started garlic competitions in 1987. “Ted offered me a garlic brownie after the show, but I didn’t want to have reeking breath.”
This blog post is an excerpt from Ontario Garlic: The Story from Farm to Festival. Get Your Copy Now! Click Here.
I was lucky to meet Ted before he passed away on December 30, 2013. I invited him to give a talk at the 2013 Toronto Garlic Festival. Afterward, visitors swarmed him with questions, and as long as he talked about garlic they were happy to listen. It was a cold morning, Ted was feeling a bit chilly, so I gave him my sweater. My last impression of Ted that day was when he stopped talking about garlic just long enough to pull the sweater over his head. His head popped out, he straightened his collar and then continued to talk. He was a talkative man. Wayne Greer, who was a founding member of the Perth Garlic Festival and attended meetings with Ted, said that to keep within schedule, they’d let him talk for as long as he could hold a book at arm’s length.
August’s Harvest Garlic – Music
The most commonly grown garlic in Ontario is known as Music. A strain of Porcelain, it was named after Al Music, who came to Canada in 1956 from Bosnia (in the former Yugoslavia). Al got his first few bulbs from his Polish neighbour, who in turn got some from a farmer. He planted these and noticed that one in particular produced large bulbs with four to five tightly wrapped cloves. These proved to grow very well in Ontario soil, and Al was soon selling and giving away his “Music” garlic far and wide. Today, it’s the most popular locally grown garlic in the province. Al is also a co-founder of the Garlic Growers Association of Ontario.
Warren Ham & His August’s Harvest Garlic
Garlic came to Warren Ham in an innocuous way: in a plate of Rogan Josh at an Indian restaurant in London, Ontario. The garlic and ginger combination—like a pair of evenly matched tennis pros battling it out even as they complement each other—it was a new taste for the young student. He asked the owner how it was made. Later, he came across an article about Ted Maczka. The first taste of garlic and the story about Ted tantalized him. The rest is history. Ham has been growing garlic for thirty years. His August’s Harvest garlic can be found in major grocery chains across the province. Ham was instrumental, along with Ron Deichert, in starting the Stratford Garlic Festival.
The Stratford festival is one of several garlic festivals in the province. The festivals feature Ontario farmers showcasing several varieties of garlic, including rare and heirloom types, plus great food and garlic-related products. Their offerings—from film screenings, informative talks and contests to beer and wine, musical performances, braiding workshops and cooking demonstrations—vary from festival to festival.
Learn more about Ted’s story and how Warren Ham started his August’s Harvest garlic by joining the 8th Annual Toronto Garlic Festival on Sunday, September 16, 2018, 9am to 5pm at Artscape Wychwood Barns – 601 Christie Street at St Clair Ave West, Toronto. Admission is only $5!