Andalucía is famed for its garlic cultivation. Cordoba province, which produces half all Andalusian garlic, is followed by Granada and Jaén. In Malaga, the area around Antequera is also traditionally associated with garlic. This northern part of the province has warm winters, low humidity and hot dry summers which is ideal for growing garlic.
For Andalusian farmers, spring starts with 'Spring' - a recently cultivated variety. Although every farmer knows it by the English name, it is also commonly known here as 'ajo chino' - Chinese garlic (not to be confused with the garlic imported from China). Many local farmers prefer this variety as it is the earliest.
Antequera farmer Jerónimo Giménez and his son are well prepared for this year. They are expecting a good crop of quality garlic.
“About 30 years ago, we were one of the first in Malaga province to start cultivating garlic. We have devoted about 30 hectares to it, surrounded by our onion and legumes fields. We plant the garlic variety 'spring' in autumn, so it is ready to harvest by mid-May. Harvesting lasts one month. The bulbs need to be dried for three weeks in the fields. So fresh 'spring' garlic is ready to be eaten by the beginning of June,” Jerónimo told SUR in English.
Later, at the end of June comes the turn of the purple garlic, 'morado', which was traditionally consumed only in the Mediterranean area, but has recently become very popular in all European countries.
Eighty per cent of Malaga garlic is exported over the world, including to Poland, Brazil, New Zealand, Korea, and the United Kingdom. So it is actually difficult to find Malaga grown garlic in our local supermarkets and fruit shops.
Garlic has been used medicinally since Ancient times. It was worshipped and considered a panacea against viruses and bacteria, thus an immune booster. In April, China detected the first human case of H3N8 - a bird flu strain, causing some to eat more garlic for a robust immune system.
During various epidemics such as typhus, cholera, dysentery and even influenza, garlic was utilised and was apparently quite efficient.
Meanwhile in Andalucía, besides frying and using it for gazpacho soup and aioli sauce, the Giménez family start their day with a glass of cold milk with garlic added to it.