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Nov 24, 2007 03:51 PM

harder and harder to find good fresh garlic (and shallots)

Anyone else notice that garlic and shallots in the supermarket are getting nastier every year? At least here in NYC, I have a difficult time finding heads of garlic that aren't moldy, rotten, blemishes, sprouting, etc. Shallots are even worse.

I can still usually find decent garlic at the farmer's market, but I remember when I started cooking about dozen years ago, you could count on getting unblemished garlic at the supermarket. What's going on?

(The pre-peeled garlic in the plastic tubs usually looks fine, but I don't like the idea of using all that plastic just to save a few seconds of work.)

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  1. I live 45 minutes from the Garlic capitol (Gilroy) and I often see not so great garlic. I get spoiled with CSA garlic, and then get annoyed to find sprouting garlic at the grocery stores, not to mention the stale stuff they had a one grocery store. I think the grocery stores are just storing it longer - probably supply and demand. Nicer produce dept. seem to be better.

    1. Also, as an aside, a decent amount of fresh (dried bulb) garlic now is imported from China (for those of you who are avoiding their products).

      1. I couldn't agree with you more, schubert.

        I'm finding this generally about produce, no matter which of the supermarkets I go to in the area. I do most of my grocery shopping now at a little independent family market, and it's better there. But the selection of fruits and veggies is much narrower, and can be catch-as-catch-can, since they won't buy from their suppliers what doesn't look good.

        Nice lemons are getting harder to find, too, I've found over the last couple of years. But garlic and shallots--most definitely. I have the same frustrations, especially with shallots. And what I get, hardly seems to keep at all, even in a keeper in a cool, dark spot.

        5 Replies
        1. re: MaggieRSN

          I agree esp. with the lemons...I have not found a good looking lemon in forever!

          1. re: LaLa

            I find lots of good looking lemons, only to cut into them and find they are 50% peel. I think everything is going down tomato road--grown to sustain long shipping distances, not for flavor.

            1. re: coney with everything

              Foods are being bred for travel, rather than flavor.

              Strawberries. Tomatoes. Lemons. Probably more.

              It's gotten so that if something isn't seasonal and grown locally, it's not worth buying and certainly not worth eating.

              1. re: coney with everything

                That's why I give them a little squeeze. The big hard ones are all peel. The smaller ones that feel juicy and heavy are usually thin skinned

              2. re: LaLa

                Meyer lemons are the very best. We get them in FL., but I know there is a season for them and it's not quite yet. Big and full of juice! My friend has a tree, so lucky me gets a bunch!

            2. If this was three weeks ago jfood would have agreed but in the last few weeks the shallots and garlic and onions have t aken a remarkable turn for the better. In fact jfood thought it may be short lived and bought 10 pounds of onions to caramelize and keep in the fridge. Likewise he roasted a few heads of garlic last weekend and has made some great gravies over the holiday week. And he has not seen such lush shallots in a while. risotto on the menu for this week to take advantage of them.

              Hope others begin to see waht jfood has seen in FFD county CT.

              3 Replies
              1. re: jfood

                Because we see them in stores year-round, we don't think of onions as seasonal products, but they really do have a season, and we're in it right now. Onions at other times of year have been in storage, have been grown under marginal conditions, or have been imported, so of course they get moldy or sprout more quickly. Same for garlic.

                I think another factor in garlic is that a few years back they had some kind of mold or blight problems in Gilroy, which allowed imported garlic from China (cheap, but poor quality, at least after shipping) to take over the market -- apparently even Christopher Ranch is importing garlic, then processing it under its label -- look carefully for the country of origin!

                I agree that I have been trouble finding decent garlic outside a farmer's market for several years now.

                BTW, I love Meyer lemons, but they're not interchangeable with regular lemons for many uses, as they're a lot less acid and won't provide the necessary acid balance in some dishes.

                1. re: Ruth Lafler

                  Thanks, Ruth. I knew you'd shed some light. Hope to make it out to your neck of the woods again someday.

                  1. re: Ruth Lafler

                    Don't like the taste of the garlic from China. Here in the Salinas Valley, I've noticed shelf-talkers from Christopher Ranch in the supermarkets showing how to identify California garlic --- roots still on, heart-shaped bulb and some other characteristics.

                2. Add me to the list of those scratching their heads, sorting through sprouted garlic, partially-rotten shallots, withered lemons and bruised onions... and bananas that go from yellow to brown overnight.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: vvvindaloo

                    Here in Portland I've no problem getting great organic shallots & garlic at the farmers' markets. But my gf in DC keeps complaining about not being able to find any good stuff there, so I just mailed her some. Am I a foodie or what?!

                    1. re: vvvindaloo

                      to clarify my earlier post, it isn't that good versions of these items are difficult to *find* in NYC, it's simply that I am not accustomed to having to go out of my way to get them. Since when does the local grocer *not* have decent garlic?