On The Land

29 November, 2023

Hand-grown, organic, Russian garlic ideally suited to Tablelands

A unique crop which has been found to flourish on an Atherton Tablelands farm, had a surprising beginning after being discovered quite by accident.

By Brigitte Daley

Serena with 'friend' in front of part of her organic, Russian garlic crop.
Serena with 'friend' in front of part of her organic, Russian garlic crop.

Kalunga Produce owner Serena Vine said she enjoyed growing Russian garlic at Kalunga on the Atherton Tablelands.

Along with her parents, Serena purchased a family farm 16 years ago, which comprised of an old vineyard with fertile, flat ground and access to an abundance of water from Flaggy Creek which borders the property.

“As I love gardening and working on the land, I wanted to grow more than just a veggie garden for ourselves but something that would create an income as well,” Serena said.

“I had the land and water, I just needed to work out what would grow well here, the right crop that could tolerate the harsh winters.

“It wasn’t easy but I eventually tried garlic.

“I bought  140kg of New Zealand Purple from New South Wales, the old farmer liked my enthusiasm and threw in 10kg of Russian garlic for free to see how it would go.

“I was excited with my new venture, but even though we get very cold winters, always having at least a few frosts and sometimes some quite severe ones as well, it wasn’t cold enough for the New Zealand Purple and it was a failed crop.

“But the Russian garlic thrived, so I realised this was going to be my variety to focus on, and once I did more research I realised this was a much better option for growing in North Queensland.

“So I replanted the 35kg or so from that crop and did this over and over again for the next five years to build up seed stock until I had a bit spare to sell to start covering some costs, while still increasing my crop size.

“In May this year I planted 360kg on my own, all by hand, I did all the paddock preparation myself.

“It is hard work but is also very rewarding to know I can do it without help.

“Harvest is usually in early December and the crop is looking really good this year.

“I have friends that come and help with harvest as that is more than a one person job.

“It must be dug/pulled from the ground then hung to dry and cure for six to seven weeks.

“From this crop I hope to harvest just over a tonne, but will have to save seed stock from this crop for next year’s crop.

“I mostly sell to locals that have heard about me from word of mouth or who are repeat customers that come back year after year.”

Serena said she has reached the maximum size that she can do on her own in the operation, as in order to expand she would need to employ help and build more drying sheds and infrastructure.

For the present time she is focusing on the quality and not quantity of her premium, hand-grown, organic, Russian garlic.

“I spend a lot of time out in the paddock with my garlic,” she said.

“This year I fertilised it all by hand using organic, liquid fertilisers like seaweed.”

Serena is hoping to implement a system which will streamline this management procedure next year.

Studies have shown that a multitude of health benefits can be experienced through the regular consumption of garlic.

These include helping to reduce high blood pressure and the risk of heart disease, reducing cholesterol levels and helping to prevent certain types of cancer.

Garlic assists in the control of Type 2 Diabetes, improves the health of the body’s digestive system, boosts the immune system and also detoxifies  the body.

Hailed as a wonder health food since ancient times, it is high in antioxidants and because of this may also help to prevent Alzheimer’s disease and Dementia.

It also has antibiotic properties and has been shown to improve athletic performance.

Customers’ favourite uses include roasting, sautéing, grating raw into salads and adding to stir-fries, pasta and guacamole.

“In recent years people are starting to realise that buying local organic foods is a much better option and the Tablelands has so much to offer,” Serena said.

“Australian garlic is much more flavoursome and beneficial health-wise than imported garlic and it makes sense to buy local.

For further information, contact Serena Vine at Kalunga Produce on 0438 941 262.

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