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Gilory Garlic in San Francisco?

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Does anyone know of grocery stores where one can get Gilroy grown garlic? I've noticed that the garlic at Safeway, Trader Joe's, etc... are from China. In my opinion, I prefer the fuller flavor of Gilory garlic. Any better options than driving down to Gilory?

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  1. Costco use to carry it...but I haven't been looked for it for a long time.

    1. Costco stores have Christopher ranch garlic

      1. Fresh local garlic at most any farmers' market.

        1. most garlic 'from Gilroy' is now grown in China, the small print will tell you it was 'packed' in Gilroy. Christopher Ranch is still in Gilroy packing/smoking/pickling/selling garlic: but the actual garlic is from China.

          Farmers market is your best bet.

          It may be a bit early in the season yet, but I bought some from the Sierra foothills when visiting my inlaws that was gorgeous and they swore it was from this season!

          "Gilroy grown garlic" is now mostly a sentence from history.


          11 Replies
          1. re: Chardgirl

            There never really was much garlic actually grown in Gilroy. Gilroy was a processing center for garlic grown in the SJV (and now China), and it was the smell that associated Gilroy with garlic. Why blame China, when the land is more valuable for outlet malls than growing garlic?

            1. re: Xiao Yang

              Maybe because of China's history of dumping garlic on the US market?

              1. re: Melanie Wong

                According to this article, China's large-scale export of garlic only began within the last 10 years, while Gilroy's heyday in garlic production ended more than 25 years ago.


                1. re: Xiao Yang

                  The article says, "There are about 25,000 acres of garlic in the valley, down from a high of 40,000 in 1999." Wouldn't the decline from the highpoint coincide with the ramp up in Chinese exports? Also, the anti-dumping measures were taken in 1994 to try to fight Chinese practices.

                  1. re: Melanie Wong

                    The dumping was real but so was/is the housing boom. I think real estate development might also have something to do with the change in acres.

                    1. re: Melanie Wong

                      Well, maybe you don't consider Bill Cristopher a credible source, but here's what he said last year in the article I cited:

                      "Christopher says China went from a measly 50,000 pounds of garlic a decade ago to 2 million to 3 million pounds last year, and for the first time more fresh garlic was imported into the U.S. than was produced in California." Maybe the 1994 measures were a pre-emptive strike that had the opposite effect (sound familiar?)

                      If it makes anybidy feel beter, I was in TJ's today and they had jumbo garlic from..... Mexico.

                      1. re: Xiao Yang

                        Gary, I was citing the article you linked to in that quote. You stated that the heyday was 25 years ago, whereas the article you provided said that maximum acreage was in 1999 or 9 years ago. That's my point, just from reading your source.

                        I have no reason to doubt Bill Christopher and didn't. I was using his time table in my statement above. Acreage devoted to garlic declined after 1999. Bill says that garlic ramped up from small production a decade ago to the giant it is today. The shrinkage of Gilroy and the growth of of China production both occurred in the last decade.

                        And in case anyone's interested, here's the page from Christopher Ranch's website illustrating the difference between garlic from China and its own fresh product (scroll down).

                        1. re: Melanie Wong

                          Thanks for that link Melanie. I try to avoid Chinese garlic since they seem to sprout and dry out prematurely. Correct me if I'm wrong but I believe I've seen non-Chinese garlic at Safeway, I look for the bigger, heart shaped heads as shown in the picture.

                        2. re: Xiao Yang

                          Was the "jumbo" garlic at TJ's elephant garlic, large heads of standard garlic or what they call "emperor's" garlic?

                          TJ does not have it often but the emperor's garlic is amazing - excellent flavor and its one clove per head so its really easy to use. Its pretty common in Mexico but no-one up here seems to grow it. In the Bay Area, I've never seen it anyplace but TJ so I look for it every time I'm there.

                2. re: Chardgirl

                  Here's the photo of mature garlic grown near Fresno that I took at its local farmers market on May 17.
                  At that time, our markets on the north coast were selling garlic scapes and green garlic. But last weekend, i counted four stands (and there may be more) selling fresh heads of garlic at the Healdsburg farmers market. So I think the season is in full swing.

                  Christopher Ranch does still grow garlic and sells some Calif grown products. I have purchased fresh Calif garlic branded as Christopher Ranch. However, it also packs garlic from China for some products and at certain times of the year. As you say, best to check the label and small print if looking for a local product.

                  1. re: Melanie Wong

                    I also saw plenty of garlic at two different farmers' markets this week.

                3. You can get it at better local grocery stores. Rainbow Grocery in San Francisco has been carrying fresh garlic, with about a foot of nice green stem attached. I've been using the stems for vinaigrettes to good effect. I particularly like that Rainbow Grocery will list the farm's name and location for any produce produced locally, which helps me zero in on fresher more flavorful produce than I would otherwise.

                  The nice thing about grocery stores over farmer's markets is they have parking and are open all week long, which may be easier to fit into your schedule.

                  I'm sure Monterrey Market in Berkeley also carries fresh local garlic, and perhaps Whole Foods would as well.

                  If you're headed up to West Marin any time soon, the Prayer Flats farmstand on the way in to Bolinas from Highway 1 has had fresh garlic and green onions lately, and it's open 24/7. Star Route Farms in Bolinas also has a farmstand one day a week (Thursdays?) which is primarily geared toward locals, but again if you're up that direction could be a good resource.

                  Rainbow Grocery
                  1745 Folsom St, San Francisco, CA 94103

                  1. Not in San Francisco, but here's the photo of Miguel Farms' display at this morning's farmers market in Palo Alto.
                    Yep, genuine garlic from Gilroy and he'll be selling here through the end of August. Besides the braids, he had jumbo garlic for $2 per pound, regular size for 25ยข per head, and bundles of smaller heads for a buck. He also sells onions.

                    I asked him about other garlic farmers in Gilroy, and he said that there were a few of them left but not many. His neighbor contracts with Christopher Ranch for the farm's entire production. In contrast, Miguel Farms sells directly at farmers markets and to independent grocery stores in the Santa Cruz Mountain area (Felton, Boulder Creek, etc.).

                    1. Try 20th Ave/Geary or 23rd/Clement fruit markets. Chinese garlic looks too perfect, too uniform. I'm thinking the "real" garlic is "irregular" size and a lot more fragrant.

                      1. fyi - just went to rainbow and they currently have garlic from winters, ca. so at least relatively local.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: leefc

                          Winters is probably closer to San Francisco than Gilroy.

                        2. I think this speculation about Chinese garlic is overblown. I buy my garlic at Costco where three pounds of it comes already peeled in a big plastic jar. It says Gilroy, Christopher Ranch, and Grown in CA in very clear lettering.

                          Since I'm not doing vampire exocisms, I can't actually use all of this garlic before it goes bad, but I come close. The price and the convenience (and the fact that it is local garlic) makes this an easy buy for me. Costco keeps the garlic in the produce cold room.

                          3 Replies
                          1. re: Paul H

                            The "where to find our products" list on Christopher Ranch's Web site includes just about every supermarket chain.


                            1. re: Paul H

                              Christopher ranch fresh garlic ( in 3 pound purple bags) @ Costco is also labeled " Grown in USA" , and I am going to believe CRanch for now . But if they are using chinese garlic to process and be sold as their brand, they should just come out and say it.

                              1. re: JiyoHappy

                                As I said above, the label changes when the source changes. California garlic is not available year-round and at certain times of the year Chinese garlic is used for certain processed products.

                            2. Very little garlic is still grown in Gilroy, and certainly not on the scale that it once was. The reason? Not just the influx of cheaper Chinese garlic...what actually happened was the result of the massive monocropping of garlic for decades. As often happens when only one crop is grown in the same soil for years on end, a virulent pest (symphylum, which look like microscopic white worms) has become so established in the soil in Gilroy that garlic can no longer be grown there. I learned this while studying organic farming at UC Santa Cruz. You might be able to find gilroy-grown garlic at a few small farms, but the gilroy garlic industry, except for processing, is no more.

                              1. A related and more difficult problem is finding any of the more interesting varieties of garlic. Virtually all of the garlic grown/packed around Gilroy is California Early, one of the least interesting varieties. There are countless varieties of garlic, varying in taste, pungency and hotness. I have had little luck at the Oakland farmers market (Grand Lake) - once I scored some Spanish Roja. I think that the markets arount Petaluma and Santa Rosa may have some good sellers.

                                For an intro to the varieties etc, see http://www.thegarlicstore.com/ZenCart... or http://www.filareefarm.com/ or just google Chester Aaron.

                                2 Replies
                                1. re: Tom Simonson

                                  Yeah, I was really sorry when Small Potatoes left the Ferry Plaza market. He had about a half dozen varieties.

                                  On Sunday Rose Lane Farm was selling Chinese pink garlic and Polish garlic.

                                  That Polish garlic was one of the most assertive garlics I have ever had.

                                  1. re: Tom Simonson

                                    Nancy Skall grows 7 different varieties of garlic (including 2 delicious French varieties) at Middleton Gardens in Healdsburg and sells them at the Healdsburg, St. Helena and Santa Rosa farmers' markets. You can also buy at the farm at 2651 Westside Rd. in Healdsburg. I would call first: (707)433-4755