The Perfect Ingredient: South West Garlic

Mark Botwright who owns the South West Garlic Farm near Bridport switched from sheep farming to garlic growing after first receiving some bulbs as a present from his wife, Wendy, 20 years ago to grow in their vegetable garden.

Mark was so amazed with the results that he kept replanting the seed each year.

Mark and Wendy had 600 sheep on their farm in North Dorset but were struggling to make any money, so decided to sell up and move closer to the sea taking with them 1000 bulbs of garlic.

Over the years the numbers have increased and for this season have planted 97,000 bulbs.

In September 2015, they moved to a new farm, still in West Dorset. The farm has the perfect soil for growing garlic and keeping sheep and cattle again. The land measures 65 acres of which 8 acres are planted with garlic.

The success of the crop is dependent on the soil quality and weather, not many people realise that you need to have a frost so that the garlic splits into cloves otherwise the garlic is harvested as one large big “round”.

The season starts in May with the Garlic Scapes. Garlic Scapes are the flower heads on hard neck garlic varieties which are hand-picked. Garlic Scapes are similar in appearance and texture as asparagus with a hint of garlic. The season is very short and it is often the case that they cannot pick them quick enough.

The idea for producing British Black Garlic came about to fill a gap in production over the winter and to keep some cash coming in. Mark was looking for ways to make garlic products that weren’t your normal chutneys and pickle and found a 4,000-year-old Korean recipe on the internet.

Black Garlic is a unique, truly artisan ingredient, special in its own way like Alba Truffles or Beluga Caviar.
The cloves are a soft, dark brown, almost black in colour. The flavours are deep, almost caramelised with a wonderful sweet sour balance. There is a strong umami kick and hints of aged balsamic, black cardamom, leather, smoke, tamarind and liquorice.