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A Century of Garlic

More than two decades ago, Penny Murphy, owner of Ma’s Organic in Benton Township in southwest Michigan made a commitment to a 90-year-old woman, the aunt of an acquaintance who had immigrated to America from the Ukraine 75 years earlier.

               “She wanted me to continue growing the Ukraine rose garlic she’d brought with her,” Penny told me when I visited her farm six years ago for an article about garlic.

               Last week I received an email from Penny saying that though her crop was about two weeks late, she had harvested and was curing this year’s garlic. It all comes from the six bulbs of Ukrainian rose garlic she’d been given all those years ago and that it would be ready to buy around August 10th. This is always a big deal for her customers who are garlic aficionados. Once Penny puts out the word that her garlic is available—she typically raises over 1000 heads—it sells out quickly. I know the when I stopped by a few years ago to pick some up, there were lots of cars in front of her old farmhouse there to buy it.

Garlic has been around for a long time—the Chinese domesticated it about seven thousand years ago and now grow 80% of the world’s garlic. That’s often the garlic we find in grocery stores. Penny told me that once people tried the Ukrainian Rose variety they never wanted to go back because of its rich flavor.

Penny also gave me a recipe for the garlic paste she makes. Since it’s been six years since I last ran it, I thought I’d share it again.

Ma’s Garlic Paste

1 Ukrainian rose garlic bulb

1 tablespoon olive oil

Dash lemon juice


Preheat oven to 350° F degrees.

Nip off the top of the garlic bulb (the part attached to the stem). Wrap in foil, cook in oven for one hour. Let cool down, bringing it to a warm – not cool – temperature. Twist the garlic head at the root end, squeezing out the warm garlic into a blender or a food processor. Add olive oil, lemon juice and salt. Mix until smooth. Store in refrigerator until needed.

Ma’s Organics is at 476 North Benton Center Road, Benton Harbor. Call 944-0240;

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