The Hudson Valley Garlic Festival returns to Cantine Field in Saugerties on Saturday and Sunday, September 28 and 29. And while most locals know what to expect for their $10 admission ticket – given that the Garlic Festival has been around since 1989 and is one of the most popular regional festivals – that doesn’t take away from the fun of it for anyone.
The variety of garlic-based products to sample at the Festival’s Food Alley is a testament to garlic’s versatility. There are edibles that one normally expects to find garlic in (salsa, hummus, pasta sauce); items that it’s not a surprise to find garlic in (garlic pickles, garlic sausage, garlic-stuffed olives); and products that seem a logical fit for garlic infusion but maybe one has never tried them before (garlic chutney, garlic cheeses).
Then, there’s that whole other category, the “garlicized” food that, unless you’ve been to the Garlic Festival before, you’ve probably never had with garlic in it: garlic caramels, garlic fudge, garlic popcorn and the one that always garners attention, garlic ice cream. There’s even something garlic to bring home to your pet: garlic dog biscuits.
The Garlic Marketplace will have an abundance of farmers and growers selling varieties of garlic that aren’t available at the supermarket. Most local grocery stores sell softneck garlic, so-named because of its soft, pliable stalk, suitable for braiding. And, while you will find plenty of softneck garlic at the Garlic Festival – along with braided stalks of it, and even instruction on how to braid your own – you’ll also find types of harder-to-find hardneck garlic, without that flexible stalk.
Hardneck garlic is the source of garlic scapes: those curling extensions of the stalk that appear about a month after the first leaves when it’s growing. Usually they get cut off and tossed out, since they’ll divert the plant’s growing strength away from the bulb; but the scapes are edible and can used like green onions as an ingredient in cooking or chopped for a salad, lending a delicate garlic flavor. Farmers at the Festival will be sure to have garlic scapes available, along with types of hardneck garlic like Rocambole, easy-to-peel and with full-bodied taste, and Purple Stripe, which one can admire for its looks until turning it into the best baked garlic.
With all types of garlic, the experts say to look for bulbs whose cloves are plump and firm and are covered with plenty of papery sheath. For those inspired by the bounty of bulbs to try growing some garlic at home themselves, the Cornell Cooperative Extension of Ulster County will have master gardeners available to answer all visitors’ questions about growing garlic; and David Stern, who in 1984 co-founded the Garlic Seed Foundation, an alliance of more than 1,600 garlic enthusiasts, will man a booth, along with the organization’s Bob Dunkel, who edits the nonprofit’s quarterly newsletter, The Garlic Press.
If one prefers to let the farmers do the work, but would like some new ideas as to what to do with the garlic purchased, the Festival has cooking demos by guest chefs and lecturers like Saugerties-based chef and restaurateur Ric Orlando of New World Home Cooking.
In addition to all the garlic activity, the Festival has live musical entertainment and dancers. One World Puppetry’s Garlic Giant and Garlic Fairy will walk the festival grounds, and Saugerties’ own Arm-of-the-Sea Theater will be there, too, with its blend of live music and larger-than-life puppet characters that appeal to adults as well as kids. The craft vendors will be out in force, with more than 80 vendors present, and the children’s area will have activities from craftmaking with the Saugerties Art Lab to a climbing wall for older kids.
And don’t forget to cast a vote for your favorite poster for next year’s Hudson Valley Garlic Festival. The Kiwanis Club of Saugerties, which puts on this entire garlic extravaganza every year, sponsors an annual poster contest in which artists submit designs in advance, and then the three finalists are displayed at the Garlic Festival’s information/press tent. The public chooses the winner from those three, based on creativity, originality and a style that would translate well into tee-shirt design, promo posters and printed materials for next year’s event. The winner receives $400, a poster and tee-shirt featuring his or her design and the pleasure of seeing his or her work in the upcoming year promoting the 2014 incarnation of the Festival.
Tickets for the Hudson Valley Garlic Festival are available at the gate and are good for one-day admission. Online ticket sales are over for this year, but advance tickets can still be purchased at several local merchants: Smith’s Hardware and M & T Bank, both on Main Street in Saugerties; Sawyer Savings Bank on Market Street in Saugerties; and all locations of Adams Fairacre Farms, in Poughkeepsie, Kingston, Newburgh and Wappinger. Cantine Field is a non-smoking facility and no pets are allowed on Festival grounds; they’ll just have to wait for you to come home with the garlic dog biscuits.
Hudson Valley Garlic Festival, Saturday, September 28, 10 a.m.-6 p.m., Sunday, September 29, 10 a.m.-5 p.m., $10, under 12 free, Cantine Field (Cantine Veterans’ Memorial Complex), Washington Avenue Extension, Saugerties; (845) 246-3090, www.hvgf.org.