Ireland’s Garlic Farm – Drummond House Garlic
Drummond House Garlic is Ireland’s only producer of commercial heritage garlic. ‘The home of Irish garlic’ is a lush 100-acre farm located in the village of Baltray, Co. Louth. Owned by Peter and Marita Collier, the farm has been in the Collier family for over 100 years.
The farm was originally a mix of dairy, tillage and beef, but with the uncertain climate of farming the Colliers decided to look at different ways of farming to ensure a more profitable and successful future for both Drummond and future Collier generations.
Inspired by a trip to India, where they saw garlic at an altitude of 18,000 feet in the Himalayan mountain range they decided to explore the possibility of growing garlic, and so began a love affair with all things garlic. The Colliers started researching in 2012 and spent 18 months planning and sourcing organic, disease-free certified seed.
Marita says, “all the garlic in Ireland was at the time and still is imported, so with this in mind and our research done we went ahead and planted our first crop of two acres in 2013. We received invaluable support and advice from Colin Boswell from the Isle of Wight Garlic Farm who runs a very successful business. We were encouraged by his success.”
Following the success of the two acres, Marita and Peter invested in machinery, a full irrigation system and modified existing buildings on the farm to accommodate storage, drying and packaging facilities. Most importantly all seed purchased by Marita and Peter is fully certified and disease-free supplied by Colin Boswell who became their mentor.
In September 2015 they expanded and planted four acres of garlic: “I was totally amazed and blown away in 2015 by the interest in all our garlic varieties,” said Marita. “We didn’t know what to expect from the Irish market as we were the first people to grow garlic on a very large scale and sell it commercially and directly to the restaurant trade. Our local businesses were a huge support and thankfully the demand was astonishing.”
They have since doubled the size of the crop for 2016. “It has been an amazing journey to date and our first harvest of garlic scapes was the most unbelievable success story of 2014,” said Marita. “Scapes are the flower stalks of hardneck garlic plants and are only available for 2-3 weeks every year around the end of May and beginning of June, so they are a seasonal delicacy to be enjoyed. They are often used as one would use wild garlic leaves – in pestos and salads – they can also be deep fried.”
The garlic farm at Drummond House now grows and sells over ten varieties of garlic. The most popular varieties are Elephant Garlic, a mild tasting large bulb which is actually a variant of the garden leek. It produces garlic-like bulbs and has a flavour that is milder than ‘normal’ garlic. The Spanish Morado Garlic variety is large and strong in flavour, its bulbs are a mix of purple and brown. This hardneck garlic can have anything between ten and twelve cloves each.
Another popular variety is Solent Wight and it is a French softneck garlic that’s known for its strong flavour and longevity. The bulbs are large with plump, densely packed cloves that are full of flavour. Other varieties available include Valledo, Carcassonne Wight, Red Czech, Mikulov, Messidor, Bohemian Rose plus many more, including a smoked garlic.
For most of the varieties, sowing takes place in September. The first harvesting taking place late in the summer, August or September. The garlic is ready for selling in October and November after approximately eight weeks of drying. Most varieties will last up to four months if stored correctly, not in the fridge but in an aerated container out of direct sunlight. Once the regular garlic goes on sale that is all Drummond House has to sell. The scapes and green/wet garlic season will have well finished until the new crop the following year.
Marita has seen her garlic take centre stage in signature chef dishes, becoming more than a flavouring and more of the centre point of the dish. Marita says: “Our garlic scapes took centre stage at Donal Skehan’s wedding in June 2015. They were served as part of the main course. Our local restaurant Eastern Seaboard held a “scape festival” in June and the scapes were served with clams and a white wine sauce, deep fried in tempura batter and just chargrilled with sea salt and balsamic vinegar. Our garlic has been smoked and roasted by restaurants and used in soups and salads. Our Elephant Garlic Crisps have been a huge success created by our local restaurants.”
Drummond House Elephant Garlic is available from July and the scapes will be harvested in June. The full range of dried garlic will be available from September. Pre-orders can be placed via www.DrummondHouseGarlic.com.