Nick Diamantopoulos is the chief executive of Australian Garlic Producers and twenty years ago, he had a dream. He envisioned that Australians would never have to buy imported garlic again.
Fed up with the poor quality of Chinese garlic in particular, Diamantopoulos embarked on a project to stock Australian supermarket shelves with home-grown bulbs.
“The only problem was the Australian garlic season started around Christmas and finished later in summer,” Diamantopoulos told Good Food.
For an all-Australian supply, the garlic lover needed to bring the start of the season forward and push the end of harvest back.
“I had to find garlic varieties that could grow around the different climates of Australia, from the tropics in the north to the cold climate of the south,” he says.
The former industrial chemist’s quest to find the perfect garlic bulb took him from Melbourne’s eastern suburbs to Syria, and to the peaks of the Andes.
Eventually, Diamantopoulos realised his dream.
The first Australian-grown garlic of the season was harvested in September on a farm near Robinvale on the Murray River. The bulbs come from a tropical variety sourced from Senegal.
The last garlic will be pulled from the earth in March, much of it set to be cured at Diamantopoulos’ processing facility near Mildura in north-west Victoria.
“Once cured, garlic will keep,” he says. “If stored correctly, it will still be in excellent condition in six months’ time.”
The bulbs will be trucked to retailers such as Coles and Woolworths over winter, completing Diamantopoulos’ decades-long ambition to fill supermarket shelves with Australian garlic. He says Australia is now the only country with a continuous supply of fresh, local bulbs.
“My Greek mother makes the best skordalia [garlic and potato dip] in the world,” he says.
“She says the garlic is now good enough to make it year-round. The taste has been worth all the effort.”