Garlic Capital of the World!

Garlic- there is nothing I love more than the strong savory taste of garlic in a meal. Pilar, my Spanish mother always knew how to add the right amount of garlic to a dish. When I first started cooking, I erred between too much, eww overpowering, or too little, barely flavored. In a way, I know my food friends based on if they do or don't like garlic. I don't care if it makes my breath smell bad or gives me BO, garlic is taste sensation for me, that is worth it. Returning to Las Pedroneras to see Pilar and Nicolas, I knew that I would have the chance to get my garlic fill.

But first, don't trust a travel agent if they tell you that you can get off your bus at a different site than your ticket says. I learned this the hard way after I tried to get off the bus close to Las Pedroneras as I traveled between Almeria and Madrid. Instead I had to travel all the way back to Madrid and then board the bus to Las Pedroneras. Luckily my exchange brother Julio kept me company at the Madrid bus station while I figured out how I was going to get back. After a total of 11 hours of bus ride, I arrived in Las Pedroneras in time to share a quick meal with Pilar and Nicolas, before going to bed.

GARLIC! was the theme of my visit to Las Pedroneras. Braided Garlic, a tour of the Garlic Cooperative, and Public Art about Garlic rounded out this experience. Las Pedroneras is one of the garlic capitals of the world, where they produce a lovely purple garlic that is fragrant but without the acidic hot bite that a white garlic might have. As you walk around Las Pedroneras, you can smell the garlic in the air, see its skins on the ground, and view boxes piled high with garlic.

First I'd asked Pilar to teach me how to create woven garlic braids. I spent one morning shelling and trimming garlic, essentially making it pretty. Then we soaked the garlic in a bit of water so that the stalks would become soft. Finally was began to braid the garlic stalks together, sort of like how one might braid hair, only we looped in other pieces of garlic. Her quick nimble hands braided the garlic in a much more beautiful manner than my knotted up creation. Pilar explained to me that this tradition was one that she'd learned from her grandparents. It is normal to see a braided garlic in a kitchen both for decoration and functional use. However she said that people did not buy braided garlic regularly for cooking.

Here is an example of a man from the Garlic Cooperative braiding garlic to sell at specialty shops.
That afternoon Pilar had arranged for us to take a tour of the town's Garlic Cooperative. Owned by the Community, this business exported garlic all over Spain and the rest of the world. Many of the residents had or do work at the Garlic Cooperative at some point.

When we arrived we had to wear special protective clothing and sign a waiver of safety. Here is a photo of us in our outfits.

The guide began to walk us around the plant. I had never seen so much garlic in my life.

After being picked, the garlic first dried in boxes. Then it was stored in a refrigerator until processing time.

Next the garlic was sorted by a machine, sort of like a coin drop, different garlic went into different slots depending on size.
Next the garlic was peeled, so that it looked more desirable, by a group of women workers.

Finally the garlic was stored in boxes to be shipped.
Since this was the garlic capital of Spain, much of the public art in town was based on the garlic. Check out this negative space sculpture of a garlic. Below is an image of Pilar and I, in front of a sculpture of a mother and daughter braiding garlic. Additionally that weekend the town was hosting the garlic fair. In plans for this town are a museum about garlic that will be located across from the Garlic Cooperative. Now if only the U.S. would start to import some of this delicious purple garlic....


High Meadow said…
love your journal thoughts and pictures Sarah! Thanks for sharing them.

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