Garlic from Cooper, Ontario. Who would have thought?

We picked up several different varieties of garlic from Elly Blanchard of Railway Creek Farms, who had a stand at the Madoc Fair last month. Raymond labelled them all so we’d know which was which, and took this nice photo in our kitchen in Montreal before we started cooking with it. It’s excellent garlic, and at this point we have very little left. Time to visit Railway Creek Farms to replenish. (Photo by Raymond Brassard)

It’s the end of a long day here in Montreal, but the prospect of a weekend at the Manse perks a person up – despite the long nighttime drive that it’ll take to get there on Friday after work, and the fact that most of my weekend should by rights be spent raking leaves from the lawn. But anyway, let’s not think about that. Let’s talk (briefly) about garlic.

I gather the undisputed garlic queen of Hastings County is Elly Blanchard of Railway Creek Farms in Cooper, the tiny hamlet not far from Queensborough where one of the three United Churches on the Queensborough Pastoral Charge used to be back in the early 1960s when my family was first at the Manse. If I saw correctly the last time Raymond and I passed through Cooper, Railway Creek Farm is the place where Rex and Phyllis Rollins, a wonderful couple and stalwarts of the Cooper church (and later, after it closed, St. Andrew’s in Queensborough) used to live. I have happy memories of enjoying Sunday dinners at Rex and Phyllis’s handsome brick home.

Raymond and I met Elly at the Madoc Fair, where she had a stand selling more kinds of garlic than I knew existed. We bought a sampling, some milder and some stronger, and Raymond labelled them all so we’d know what was what. Elly really has the garlic thing figured out, and will tell you just what variety you should use for various dishes. It’s really impressive, and really cool.

I have included garlic in the list of things I would like to grow when we eventually have a garden at the Manse. But in the meantime (and that may be a longish meantime) it’s clear that our garlic is generally going to come from Railway Creek Farms.

It makes me smile to think about garlic coming from Cooper. Back when I was a kid in those parts, I think garlic was, if not unheard-of, pretty rare. My mum used to have rarely-used bottles of McCormick’s garlic salt and garlic powder in the cupboard along with the other “spices.” But real fresh garlic? Not so much. Not at the Manse, ever. And not, I think, anywhere else much in the general vicinity, including Cooper.

So I think it’s just dandy that garlic – real garlic – is now a big product in Cooper. It’s culinary poetic justice.

4 thoughts on “Garlic from Cooper, Ontario. Who would have thought?

  1. I’m so happy to see local garlic popping up all over Ontario. I’d never thought about it much–given our garlic-deprived childhoods (see the line above about garlic salt and imagine the pleasure of discovering the real thing) I assumed garlic had to come from somewhere exotic, I guess . But a few years ago, I was talking to a longtime family friend and retired farmer who said there used to be thousands of acres of garlic grown in Ontario, but that it had fallen to something like 50 in the face of cheap Chinese imports. I found that really shocking and depressing. Since then, though, two vendors at the market have been growing enough garlic to keep us going pretty much all year, and my favourite place to buy produce (Country Market in Lindsay, for anyone in the ‘hood) has also started to stock Ontario garlic. So yes: The “exotic” comes home, and the homegrown gets a chance! Now, tell me–does your local garlic seem extra-solid and extra-sticky?

    • Good to hear that there’s local garlic up Lindsay way too, Nancy. Interesting that you ask about the garlic’s stickiness – that is indeed something I’d noticed. And Raymond, who’s used it a lot more than I have, agrees. He also reports that it stays fresh and good for a long time – and is pretty strong (even the “milder” varieties), which, since we love garlic, is just fine.

      Sent from my iPhone

  2. I no longer bother raking leaves in the fall, living here amongst woods full of trees shedding leaves that keep blowing in. We just run the lawnmower one last time to mulch them, then rake in the spring to gather up all the branches that have accumulated during the winter along with whatever leaf debris is left. It makes fall so much more restful!

    As to garlic, I buy from the experts, Railway creek farm in Cooper, and leave my garden space for herbs (oregano, marjoram, rosemary etc.) lots of fresh parsley, tomatoes and of course flowers, all intermingled. Going into the gardens with my scissors and trug is a delight during the summer harvesting what is needed in the herb areas, and gathering flowers for the table. Garlic has to be planted in fall, so it’s off my fall list as well.

    And for great produce, check out Jack and Jill’s, a little shop on Hwy 62 north of Belleville, or stop in Perth at Foodsmiths (Wilson St.) on your way from Montreal if you are coming through before 9:00 pm. Great source of organic top quality fruit and veggies.

    • Your leaf-coping mechanism is identical to Raymond’s preferred course of action. Though I am sure you would get far more fallen and blown leaves than we would at the Manse, so I don’t know if we’re justified in following that route or not. Your garden sounds like a perfectly lovely place to be, and you are making as-yet-gardenless me very envious.

      Thank you for the suggestions on where to get good fruits and veg! I think we might have already stopped at the Highway 62 place. As for Foodsmiths in Perth, we go past it on every trip to and from the Manse (and will do so again in a little over an hour from now – alas, after 9 p.m.) but I had not realized it specialized in organic. We will most definitely check it out. Thank you for the tip!

      Sent from my iPhone

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