Made my way out of the Twin Cities Saturday morning, heading out a little less than an hour to the west, to the town of Hutchinson, for the tenth annual Minnesota Garlic Festival. I attended once before, five years ago, so it was nice to visit again, even on so muggy an August day. Held at the McCleoud County Fairground, the event was $5 a person with a dollar to park.
Organized by the Sustainable Farming Association of MN, the festival celebrates the environment, culinary enjoyment, strong rural cultures, and local farmers. To reflect this, the festival was billed as a zero waste event who, in July, harvested the 2015 garlic crop planted in October and given them time to cure. Garlic is one of my favorite, most often used ingredients, and I just ran out, so of course this was the perfect spot to restock my supplies. And there was a lot of choices.
It is incredible, too, how many varieties of garlic there are, really, with the festival’s website citing more than a hundred different types from all over the world, from purple striped to porcelain. Some are ideal for baking, some perfect for roasting, and some are spicier and some are more mild; I picked up some purple Italian and some Bogtyr, both strong varieties that keep their flavor through cooking.
I also sampled some garlic ice cream from Cranky’s, the makers of the doughnut ice cream I’d had at the Northeast Open Streets a few weeks back. Garlic ice cream may seem ill matched, but the pungent, sweet- savory flavor of the roasted garlic chunks in the creamy ice cream really worked well together. I’d go out of my way to have it again!
In addition to the garlic, there were plenty of other local wares on offer, from honey, maple syrup, cheese, baked goods, alpaca wool, and of course, local beer and wine. At the main stage, local chefs and agricultural advocates demonstrated their cooking skills, and exhorted festival-goers to “buy local, eat local, stay local!” Throughout the day, there were also folksy musical interludes by local dancers and music groups.
By this time, I was getting hungry, so I checked out the Great Scape Cafe, which was serving up plates created by a variety of the Twin City’s most popular restaurants, including the Common Roots Cafe, Tilia, Birchwood Cafe, and Brasa, among others. I had some delicious Scandinavian style aged cod from the Bachelor Farmer. All in all, not too bad a little jaunt into the countryside on a summer morning. My breath still may be a little pungent.