Discover the Flavors of Quebec Garlic: Une touche d’ail – The Largest Garlic Producer in Quebec

2023-09-03 15:00:00

Opening the vehicle door, a garlic aroma tickles our nostrils. No doubt: we are at our destination. These flavors, reminiscent of Tuscan trattorias, emanate from the premises of Une touche d’ail, where tons of bulbs are stored, cleaned, dried and packaged, when they do not end up being transformed into tasty products that have won several awards. .

Updated at 11:00 a.m.

On the shore of Lake Saint-François, near the American border, vacationing and agriculture coexist. It is this last aspect that interests us as we drive towards Saint-Anicet, motivated to discover the process by which we now manage to produce Quebec garlic all year round.

We will come back empty-handed: the secret is as well kept as that of the Caramilk. On the other hand, we will discover an unsuspected interest in this bulb from our region, whose flavors easily supplant those from elsewhere.

They are barely in their twenties. Nicolas Taillefer and Karine Fournier, however, run their business – which has become the largest garlic producer in Quebec in terms of area – at full steam and with a firm grip. A touch of garlic is in its seventh year of existence, but it is already inviting itself into the big leagues. This year, it will compete with products from China and Spain on the shelves of IGA supermarkets with one goal in mind: to ensure its presence there 12 months a year.

PHOTO MARTIN CHAMBERLAND, THE PRESS

Nicolas Taillefer and Karine Fournier, owners of Une touche d’ail

We want to contribute to food self-sufficiency in Quebec with local garlic available year-round.

Karine Fournier, co-owner of Une touche d’ail

A fruitful idea

At 15, Nicolas Taillefer planted his first cloves of garlic under the amused eye of his grandfather. These 1000 caïeux, introduced on the lands of the patriarch, made it possible to obtain a fruitful harvest. Curiosity gave way to pride: “When he saw a grocery truck passing by, he said to me: ‘One day, I’m going to fill it up!’ I never doubted for a moment that he was going to succeed. He’s always been valiant and then… he’s my grandson! “says Yves Saucier, his eyes sparkling.

PHOTO MARTIN CHAMBERLAND, THE PRESS

Une touche d’ail is the largest garlic producer in Quebec in terms of area, with 85 acres devoted to it.

At the age when others are entrusted with the mission of seducing their class neighbor, the young man had already settled the question and was taking the next step: starting his small business. His sweetheart, Karine Fournier, fell in love with a garlic enthusiast in the sports-studies program, was involved in the business from the start and is now co-owner. “I had an entrepreneurial spirit. At 10, I was already looking for an agricultural project, says the main interested party with modesty. I have had a garden since I was very young. It fascinates me! »

“But why the garlic? asked the grandfather. Good question, Mr. Saucier. “Because we mainly found imported garlic on the shelves,” replies the grandson. I wondered why we couldn’t offer local garlic in winter, when garlic from elsewhere can be preserved. We traveled, we went to see what was happening in Europe and we did tests. The results are conclusive.

PHOTO MARTIN CHAMBERLAND, THE PRESS

Une touche d’ail’s facilities can handle 200 tonnes of garlic per year.

Quality that comes from us

This year, the garlic is particularly plump, the owners tell us, inviting us to extract a bulb from the ground. It cannot be refused. Uprooted after offering an honorable resistance, the specimen is indeed of large caliber. “A good catch”, we welcome, before noting that our sample blends into the mass. “We are barely an hour from the grocery store warehouses. Our garlic is bigger, fresher, tastier and juicier than imported products. »

As soon as the manual harvesting of the flower of garlic ends, in mid-July, the troops continue with the collection of the garlic: intensive work that is done day and night, if necessary, to extract the garlic at the height of its flavor. In mid-August, the facilities are filled with this loot which will be processed until next summer. It will be washed, dried, stored and packaged. Bulbs that do not meet industry standards will be turned into a puree, sauce or pesto, which reduces food waste, argues Karine, who oversees this production.

PHOTO MARTIN CHAMBERLAND, THE PRESS

A Touch of Garlic has won several awards, including the Gala des Grands Prix Dux for the quality and taste of its products.

PHOTO MARTIN CHAMBERLAND, THE PRESS

The drying chambers

PHOTO MARTIN CHAMBERLAND, THE PRESS

“People don’t yet know how to prepare garlic flowers, but the interest is there,” observes Karine Fournier. This product should also be seen on grocery store shelves next summer. “As a side vegetable, it’s super good. Put it on the barbecue en papillote with oil, salt and pepper, or add it to a stir-fry. »

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In the storage chambers, humidity, temperature, airflow and static pressure are controlled. These factors, we understand in broad outline, allow the garlic to be preserved as if it had been cryogenized. Still it works. The garlic remains surprisingly firm and fresh and thus retains its aromas.

In 2020, four years after its debut, the company signed a contract with IGA. Two years later, its products were distributed throughout Quebec in season. To provide it throughout the year, the team at Une touche d’ail has tripled its production year after year and now seeks 85 acres of pesticide-free land, dedicated to the king of bulbs. “It’s a lot of investment, but we went for it and bet everything without being afraid,” says Nicolas Taillefer. And that’s how a teenage project became a success story. Take it for granted: “We won’t stop until there’s Quebec garlic in all the grocery stores!” »

Did you know ?

PHOTO MARTIN CHAMBERLAND, THE PRESS

We keep garlic on the counter and never in the fridge

Garlic is kept on the counter and never in the fridge, where it loses its flavor and longevity. A bulb should be firm to purchase. A paper wrapper, like the one in which Une touche d’ail presents its products, is enough to keep the garlic for three months at room temperature.

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#Garlic #Quebec #fields #king #bulbs

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