Quyon garlic farm has appetite for success

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Kate Aley

Seeking an easily-managed crop with minimal waste and a long shelf life, Quyon farmers Anny Bourret and Christian Legere chose to grow garlic and the results have been delicious. The couple now produce seven kinds of garlic on their 50 acre farm, which they purchased 12 years ago and renamed Ranch de la Vallée.

"Garlic, you plant it while the kids are at school and you pick it up when the kids are home," explains Bourret. "What you don't sell or use, you replant. We started small with 100 bulbs to see how it would grow and we have been increasing since then."

This year, Ranch de la Vallée will put 9,000 bulbs in the ground. Available varieties feature ever-popular Music, huge but mild Elephant and creamy Siberian White, as well as Mennonite, Italian Purple, Russian Red and Rosewood, this last a very hard and hot-tasting variety. "When people want a real garlic taste they go with this one," said Bourret. "We wanted to grow unusual varieties and and we are always looking for types that are not so common."

Bourret is also diversifying her product line: she has recently concocted a phenomenal condiment made from cold-smoked garlic scapes (the curly flower stem) blended with sea salt. "I like to play with food and discover new tastes. The more and more I work with garlic and understand it, the more I like it," she said. "It's a beautiful product that stays fresh for a long time."

Bourret carefully assembles her braids of garlic, occasionally stacking different varieties for a selection of flavours into artistically clean, tight arrangements, the stalks bound with simple natural twine. Next this culinary inventor plans to investigate a garlic-based pesto and herbes salee.

Bourret and Legere are careful to grow their plants as naturally as possible, using black plastic mulch to handle weeds and only applying composted horse manure as fertilizer. The land on their 6th Concession farm used for the garlic beds had been fallow for at least 10 to 12 years so they are confident there is no residue from previous crops. Their kids - Annabelle, Benjamin and Auraly - love to help out at harvest, enjoying the task of pulling on the long green leaves to bring up the bulbs.

"We're trying to keep it simple," Bourret continued. "The kids are the priority. It's a lot of work but it's nice work: it's outside and I love it. I am my own boss with two employees: the sun and the rain; although they never listen to me and sometimes they don't turn up when I need them!"

Bourret also delights in introducing the joys of using fresh garlic to those who do not generally cook with it. "A lady I know said she only used pre-crushed garlic," Bourret recounts. "I gave her some fresh cloves and she was amazed. She told me, 'I was gaining on time but losing on taste'."

Ranch de la Vallée garlic products are available at Domaine Pontiac Village and various depanneurs within the Municipality, or through their website:

www.valleeranch.com