Here, on the Isle of Wight, in the south of England, there’s a good reason to be celebrating garlic. There’s quite an industry of garlic production because this is one of the best parts of Northern Europe to grow it. The soil is rich and as Colin Boswell, owner of the island’s Garlic Farm and festival organiser, puts it:
“We have been blessed with a climate here which is particularly well suited for growing most types of garlic. When the sun does come through the clouds, it has a very high light intensity, so we’re a diamond set in the sea in the English Channel and light comes in, reflected off the sea, on all sides.”
The Garlic Festival on the Isle of Wight feels like a typical country fair. It has rides for the kids, sideshows, market stalls and entertainment. At one end a large stage has bands playing throughout the weekend and, as I walk around, I spot smaller stages for things like circus acts and clowns.
While you could find many of these activities at most rural festivals through the UK, there are a few special ones that stand out. Take, for instance, The Lamb National. In a pun-fuelled event based on the Grand National, a group of sheep wearing little toy riders race around a track to see who wool make the chop.
And, despite the carnival atmosphere, the focus of the festival is still clearly on the garlic. I find a tent where there are talks and cooking demonstrations all weekend about garlic. I catch a chef at one point showing a few simple recipes that you can do with different types of the ingredient; there’s also a fascinating lecture about a journey into Central Asia to find the original species of garlic. Who would’ve thought that the little thing that I just crush up and throw into a pan had so many interesting facets.
If you’re interested in reading more, check out Michael Turtle’s full story about the Isle of Wight’s Garlic Festival!
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