In conversation: Sarah Harper & Stu Smith of the Revelstoke Garlic Festival

Sarah Harper and Stu Smith are hosting the third Revelstoke Garlic Festival on their Track Street Grower farmer on Sunday, Sept. 18.

Sarah Harper and Stu Smith at the first garlic festival in 2014.

Revelstoke’s third annual Garlic Festival takes place this Sunday, and it’s the biggest one yet.

Started by Sarah Harper and Stu Smith on their organic farm on Track Street, the festival has grown from a small affair with a handful of vendors to a full-on event, with 16 vendors, a caterer, a line-up of live music and more.

I spoke to the owners of Tracks Street Growers about the festival last week. Here’s what they had to say:

Alex Cooper(AC): Why are you holding a garlic festival?

Sarah Harper (SH): Garlic’s our main crop. We love it, we love to share it.

Stu Smith (SS): It’s like a medicine for us. It was a natural progression for us.

AC: One thing I’m curious about is, what is it about garlic that inspires festivals?

SS: That’s a baffling question.

SH: Because it’s beautiful and it’s medicinal.

SS: It’s an integral part of really good cooking. Who doesn’t love garlic bread? It’s the stinking rose.

AC: How many types of garlic do you grow?

SS: This year we have about eight varieties but we’re dabbling in another five to see what we think of them. We’ll do smaller amounts of the experimental stuff, the newer stuff, and if we like it we’ll proceed to plant more of it. We have eight steadfast varieties.

AC: What kind are they?

SS: Music, lightning garlic, Korean purple, Argenta gold, Georgia fire.. that’s five.

SH: Siberian, Mysteria,

SS: There’s one big one we’re forgetting.

SS: Of course — a soft neck variety. An Italian soft neck.

SH: I do all sorts of braids with the soft neck and add dried flowers from the garden to them.

SS: Your garlic is broken into two main categories — soft and hard necks. Within those two main categories there’s a huge amount of variants.

AC: Do you have a favourite?

SS: I like the Argenta gold. It’s really big, it’s consistent year after year, it’s easy to peel and it’s really hot.

AC: What about you Sarah?

SH: I like the variety we call lightning garlic because we named it after ourselves, and it has really big cloves. There’s usually three to five cloves per bulb, and they’re enormous. You can eat it like an apple.

AC: You said you named it after yourselves. Is it a variety you developed?

SH: It’s one we’ve had here on our little farm for many years. It evolved into our signature garlic.

SS: It was a porcelain variety. There’s lots of garlics that are porcelain – Yugoslavian, magic… It came to us as a general name so we named it ourselves.

AC: You named it, but you haven’t done anything to it to give it your own flavour?

SH: No, but we have started this entire crop from scape seeds, so it’s gone back to its purest form of seed and we’ve raised it for four years into big bulbs. That’s a process that requires more discussion on how to grow garlics from scapes and how long it takes, but basically we grew this crop ourselves from it’s purest form.

AC: Will any of your blazing hot peppers be on display?

SS: We have fresh patch of bear spray we made up the other day. Some nectarine and ground cherry bear spray.

AC: How hot is it?

SH: It’s bear spray hot. (laughter)

AC: Will people be able to sample it?

SS: Absolutely. I couldn’t resist watching the face of people trying it.

AC: What’s it made out of?

SS: The base is nectarine and ground cherries. They’re a mini tomatiillo. They’re super sweet and kind of citrussy. It’s sweet, but as soon as the sweetness subsides you’re left with a pretty hot fire after that.

AC: What kind of peppers did you use?

SS: Carolina reapers and ghost peppers are the really hot ones in there. We’ve probably got out about five or six different kinds of habaneros in there as well.

SH: It will be a lot of fun.

SS: We’ll have milk on hand for people that get done too much.

AC: What will the festival consist of this year?

SH: We have 16 farm and craft vendors. We have fantastic food lined up with a caterer from Salmon Arm and a local organic chef who will be here selling her creations. We have a whole children’s area this year that will be crafts, story telling, face painting — that sort of stuff. Also a game of chicken bingo which you have to see to believe.

AC: I have no idea what that is.

SH: Chicken bingo is basically you have an area that’s mapped out with numbered areas and you put chickens in and everyone places a bet on where the chicken’s going to poop first. Wherever the chicken poops, you win the prize.

SS: It’s alike a chicken roulette, but that sounds suspect.

SH: The big thing about the festival this year is it’s a fundraiser for the Local Food Initiative.

AC: With 16 vendors, are you going to be able to fit everyone on your farm. Has it grown too big for you?

SH: I think we’re right at that sweet spot.

SS: If it grows bigger than where it is now, it will be too big for where we’re at.

SH: We need to plan for that.

AC: When you started it two years ago, did you see it taking off like this?

SH: Not specifically.

SS: There was hopefulness it would.

SH: I think we’ve mostly been in the moment with it and enjoying the process of creating it and sharing it. Each year we’re tickled by the fact it was a lot of fun and people really loved it.

The other thing this year we have quite an extensive lineup of really talented musicians coming here to play.

SS: We created a website for the whole festival. It’s kind of fun. If you asked me three years ago, I wouldn’t have seen that coming.

AC: Anything else the public should know?

SH: It’s a great idea to ride your bike instead of congesting the street with cars. We’re not far from town. And leave your dogs at home.

The Revelstoke Garlic Festival takes place at the Track Street Growers farm at 226 Track St. East on Sunday, Sept. 18 from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. To find out more, visit revelstokegarlicfestival.com.

 

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