By Belle Crawford
For tourists, October in Asheville may bring to mind red and gold leaves along the Blue Ridge Parkway, but for locals, October is quickly becoming a time of aioli, garlic cookies and beer.
“WNC Garlic Fest is now in its 7th year and has grown into a large and very garlicky event,” says Chris Smith, executive director of the nonprofit The Utopian Seed Project (TUSP) and one of the festival’s organizers. “But in many ways, the heart of the event hasn’t changed from the first year when we had about 100 people in Sow True Seed’s parking lot on Church Street.”
This year, on Saturday, October 9, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., WNC Garlic Fest will bring its growing fanbase to the parking lot at Sow True Seed’s current location on Haywood Street for a lively event that smells like no other. “Garlic has at least a 5,000-year history alongside humans and has been found in the tombs of Tutankhamun and in Sumerian recipes from Mesopotamia,” says Smith. “It’s a ubiquitous cooking ingredient but also a powerful medicine. It’s easy to grow and there are dozens of different varieties.”
When asked why he thinks WNC Garlic Fest is so successful, Smith says, “There are few foods out there that inspire fanaticism, but garlic is one of them. Every year we are thrilled and excited at the outpouring of garlic lovers who flock to the event to experience garlic in all its glory.”
A highlight of the event has always been the WNC Garlic Trail, where local vendors offer a garlicky sample for the willing garlic adventurer. The trail will have everything from garlic ice cream by The Hop and farm-made garlic butter from Root Bottom Farm. “I don’t want to give too much away, but in the past we’ve had garlic kombucha, garlic beer, garlic lemonade, garlic chocolate, garlic hummus and other surprisingly delicious garlic pairings,” says Smith.
Festival proceeds support TUSP’s work to celebrate diversity in food and farming in WNC. “TUSP will be showcasing garlic varieties from their 2020/21 crop trial with tastings and black garlic cookies for sale,” he says.
The only change to this year’s festival will be implementing new public safety guidelines. “We’ll be monitoring and following CDC COVID-19 protocols, but as an outdoor event, we anticipate a safe experience,” says Smith.
WNC Garlic Fest participants are also invited to shop Sow True Seed’s garden and seed-focused retail store. Those who taste-test the many garlicky samples on the WNC Garlic Trail will also be offered breath mints for the ride home.
Sow True Seed is located at 243 Haywood Street, in downtown Asheville. For more information, visit SowTrueSeed.com and WNCGarlicFest.com. For information about The Utopian Seed Project, visit UtopianSeed.org.