GARLIC: Just Aus Garlic's Owen Stewart stands in this year's garlic crop at Brooklands.
GARLIC: Just Aus Garlic's Owen Stewart stands in this year's garlic crop at Brooklands. Jessica McGrath

Hobby farmer takes on old Korean method for garlic

PRODUCING black garlic is not for the impatient.

Just Aus Garlic's Owen Stewart said it takes up to seven months for the whole process.

"The fresh garlic is put in an oven environment and slow cooked for 40 days,” he said.

The Brooklands hobby farmer and his wife Bettina have been growing garlic for more than 12 years.

"I found it was the only thing rabbits and wallabies wouldn't eat,” Mr Stewart

After a few years, he branched out into black garlic after meeting someone who produced it at a garlic conference in Victoria.

"It took a little while to get the process right,” he said.

He took a few bulbs from the fellow producer and started growing the black garlic for friends and family, and then the Nanango Markets.

"It just got bigger and bigger every year,” he said.

He has now had to limit the demand so the farming remains a hobby.

They will regularly sell the black garlic at the Nanango Country Markets and markets on the north-side of Brisbane and the Sunshine Coast.

"We don't grow quantity rather than quality, for me it's all about the soil,” Mr Stewart said.

Black soil is too heavy and the red soil taints the paper on the outside of the garlic.

They have found sandy loam soil to be the right balance for the garlic crops in the way it retains moisture.

"It is critical the plants have the right moisture,” he said.

Every year they will select their best garlic bulbs to be planted the following season.

"It's one of the few crops you have to plant every year, otherwise you lose the seed,” Mr Stewart said.

He built a commercial kitchen on their property to assist with producing the garlic.

They then slow cook the garlic for 40 days, which is an old Korean method.

"It's slow cooked, no chemicals, no additives, no nothing,” Mr Stewart said.

"It's the contained environment and the process of the heat and all of that creates the effect that caramelises the sugars.”

They will often produce close to 15,000 cloves every year.

"It's not cheap, it takes a lot of handling and time,” Mr Stewart said.

There is often interest from restaurants, but their main consumers are individuals.

Black Garlic is best served at room temperature with a tasty cheese platter, in a salad, soups, in an omelette or even as a steak topper.

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