Garlic Goddesses In Two Garlic Capitals

No Garlic for the Queen

When Queen Elizabeth visited Italy in October 2000, Italian chefs were dismayed at a ban on garlic for the royal menu. They were also warned not to offer the Queen long pastas such as spaghetti, messy tomato sauces, and blackberries and raspberries, presumably because of the tendency of the seeds to stick between the teeth.

According to a report in The Times: "Before any overseas visit Buckingham Palace warns the hosts that the Queen does not like anything too spicy or exotic; there is also an absolute ban on serving her shellfish, lest the royal progress is interrupted by gastric indisposition.

"Italian chefs expressed dismay at the prohibitions, particularly the ban on garlic, which features in well-loved dishes such as spaghetti alle vongole, pesto, and almost anything devised in Naples. At Gusto, a fashionable Rome restaurant opposite the mausoleum of the Emperor Augustus on the Tiber River, Saverio Crescente, the manager, said garlic was not used in all Italan dishes but was essential to many. It is not only delicious but also very good for the digestion, he said.

"In the Middle Ages garlic was used as a medicine because of its antiseptic and antispasmodic qualities. It was also a charm, effective against evil spirits, bad luck and vampires. It is mentioned as early as Chaucer, who in The Canterbury Tales describes a pilgrim, fresh back from Rome, who loved garleek, onyons and lekes washed down with strong wyn, reed as blood."

Anyone flying across North America may detect a familiar, pungent aroma which delights some, but repels others. It's smoke rising from the Great Garlic Battle, being fought by two U.S. rural communities nearly 3000 miles apart.

  • On the west coast, Gilroy, California, 30 miles south of San Jose and the Silicon Valley, has been hosting "the world's best food festival" for 23 years, nowadays attracting more than 125,000 people on the last weekend in July.
  • Almost 3000 miles away, on the other side of the continent, Saugerties NY, in the Hudson Valley 100 miles north of New York City, holds "the #1 Food Festival in the U.S." on the last weekend in September.

Thoroughly confused, we sent an email to Saugerties' self-styled Goddess of Garlic. (Pat Reppert), seeking clarification. "If you're ever in the USA during September, please come to our Hudson Valley Garlic Festival," she replied. "It's now the second largest festival in the US - Gilroy is still the 'biggg boy' - but we have a greater variety of different types of garlic for sale at our event. Lots of hard-neck plus some soft necks. USA Today has just selected us as the #1 regional food fest in the United States. What a boost!"

Pat Reppert's website tells how Saugerties has become Gilroy's rival. In 1989 Pat held a Garlic Dinner Party in the gardens at Shale Hill Farm and Herb Gardens to educate people about the wonderful flavors of cold-hardy garlic (Allium sativum ophioscorodon), teach them how to grow it and also to advertise the small herb shop at Shale Hill Farm.

Within three years this small Garlic Dinner Party had grown to an event with 1600 people clamoring to buy only 200 available tickets, after the New York Times had printed a fullpage article about cold-hardy garlic and the festival at Shale Hill.

"I asked the Saugerties Kiwanis Club about sponsoring this event, which had outgrown the facilities at Shale Hill Farm and the limited energies of the emerging and aging Goddess of Garlic," says Pat. "The Kiwanis Club agreed to take on the responsibility of producing this run-away event if I would become a member and share in the planning and promotion of what would become the Hudson Valley Garlic Festival, attracting more than 40,000 people each year to the historic and picturesque village of Saugerties."

Since the Kiwanis Club is a not-for-profit service club with all volunteer help (including year round efforts of the Garlic Committee), all of the profits (approximately $90,000 each year) goes back into the community for worthwhile projects such as building an ice hockey rink for the youth of Saugerties and the Hudson Valley area, winter coats for needy youngsters, and supplementing the Food Pantry. Volunteers from churches and other not-for-profit groups who work during the festival hours are paid by giving donations to charities of their choice.

The shop at Shale Hill Farm has been transformed into a Herb and Garlic Learning Center. Pat conducts a full schedule of cooking classes and informational lectures on the health-giving aspects of garlic and other herbs, at Shale Hill Farm and many other venues around the United States.

Was 18th-century dictionary writer Dr. Samuel Johnson a garlic lover?

  • When a lady complained about his body odor: "Sir, you SMELL!"
  • Dr. Johnson corrected her grammar, "No, dear lady. YOU smell, I STINK!"

Crossing to California, we were astonished to find that Gilroy too boasts a Garlic Goddess, although she has no connection with the festival organisers. "My name is Heather and I live, work and breathe in Gilroy," she says on her home page ( "I am sometimes known as The Garlic Goddess."

"I make my living in our family GARLIC business ( big surprise?), Garlic Festival® Foods. I maintain our company website, run the retail portion of the company, Garlic Festival® Store & Gallery, our 3000 sq ft. emporium of all things garlic. I get to meet lots of people, visit interesting places and spend someone else's money. What more could a girl ask for in a job?"

The story behind the Gilroy festival goes back a long way. In the late 1880's Ole Christopher immigrated from Denmark to settle in California's fertile Santa Clara Valley. Over the years Ole worked his way up from hay baler to successful prune rancher. His sons, the Christopher brothers, expanded the operation into one of the largest in the Valley.

Today's Christopher Ranch was founded by a third generation Don Christopher (Ole's grandson) in 1956. Starting then with just 10 acres of garlic, the Ranch now employs more than 600 people year-around and has a seasonal harvesting crew of 1,200. Fourth generation Bill Christopher joins his father in overseeing 6,500 acres of row crops and directing a worldwide network of selling, packing and shipping an ever increasing number of products.

The Gilroy Garlic Festival was born at a Gilroy Rotary Club garlic luncheon which Don Christopher hosted in 1978. "The enthusiasm for the fabulous garlic cooking of Val Filice among the food editors, writer, garlic growers and local leaders in attendance was contagious, creating fertile ground for the idea of a town festival featuring garlic," says the Christopher Ranch website.

"It was the 'can do' enthusiasm of Dr. Rudy Melone, then president of Gavilan College and Don Christopher that helped launch the first Gilroy Garlic Festival in August 1979. Christopher Ranch, one of four financial contributors to the first festival, arranged for the first festival site and also provided equipment, manpower and, of course, all the garlic - hand peeled! The Ranch continues to participate in and contribute to the Gilroy Garlic Festival which welcomes over 100,000 people each year."

Gilroy Garlic Festival Association, Inc. ( says "Gilroy, California has been hosting the world's best food festival for 23 years. The first year, 20,000 people joined in the celebration. Today, more than 125,000 people come to enjoy gourmet food, fine wines, quality arts and crafts, and fabulous entertainment and fun for the entire family.

'Whether you are a first-time visitor or a 'seasoned' veteran, the Gilroy Garlic Festival is always a fun and fragrant experience. Over two million honored guests have made the pilgramage and know what a special experience it is. If you've never attended, the time is now. Always the last full weekend in July!

"The Gilroy Garlic Festival Association is a non-profit corporation. Its goal is to support the community projects, charitable groups and service organizations of Gilroy. In 2001 over 4,000 volunteers from 159 non-profit groups worked 41,424 hours to host the 23rd Annual Garlic Festival. $236,405 was distributed to non-profit organizations. From 1979 through 2001 the success of the annual Festival has enabled the Association to award over $5 millioin to these groups, not to mention the other charities which generated funds through booths operated at the three-day event."

The Gilroy Association rejects any suggestion that it's fighting its east coast counterparts. "We have the largest overall attendance of garlic lovers, but we have never said that we were better than any other festival," says Chris Filice, the Association's office manager. "We would never create a rivalry between us and other festivals... The rivalry is one-sided and not condoned by the Gilroy Garlic Festival."

If you happen to be in California in July or New York in September, be sure to visit one of these festivals, and adopt Pat Reppert's favorite slogan, displayed in large letters on her website: WEAR YOUR GARLIC BREATH PROUDLY!

FRESH GARLIC RECIPES - From Gilroy, Christopher Ranch displays a wide selection of recipes at using fresh garlic , including these favorites:

  • Daren's Seafood Sauté
  • Garlic Bundt Loaf
  • Christopher's Baked Garlic
  • Rosemary Feta Dip
  • Basque Style Eggplant Casserole
  • Baked Cloves & Potatoes
  • Garlic Lover's Steak Sandwich
  • Deviled Vampire Eyes
  • Gilroy Bruschetta
  • Garlic Artichoke Dip
  • Garlic Cooking Tips.

And the Saugerties Goddess (Pat Rappert) offers four of her favorite recipes, for these dishes:

  • Orzo with Tomatoes, Spinach and Feta Cheese.
  • Spicy Garlic Guacamole
  • Curry Glazed Chicken Breasts
  • Pot Roast with Roasted Garlic and Vegetables.

Copyright © 2002. Eric Shackle.


Saugerties is at the foot of the Catskill Mountains on the West bank of the Hudson River, 100 miles North of New York City. The name Saugerties takes its derivation from the Holland Dutch, Zager's Killetje: Zager (sawyer or sawmill), and Kill (creek or stream), with the suffix tje (modernized as ties) to indicate little. Thus the sawmill on the Zager's Killetje, or Little Kill, became Saugerties, leaving us with a direct link to our early Dutch heritage.

Lured by the great water power furnished by the falls in the Esopus, Henry Barclay built the first mill to become the cornerstone of our immensely successful paper industry. Coated papers named Catskill and Ashokan were produced in Saugerties and earned national fame. Throughout the 1800s and early 1900s our town ranked as one of the leading producers of paper in the country, with as much as eight tons of paper and books produced daily. In addition, $750,000 worth of bluestone was quarried here annually and shipped all over the world from our docks on the Hudson. This town was jumpin'!

Our early prosperous and thriving economy is still evident in the architecture of Saugerties Village, called one of the most attractive communities on the Hudson. If you enjoy urban walks, the village has an eight-block commercial section designated an Historic District by the National Register of Historic Places. It boasts old stone houses, beautiful churches, and over 80 mid to late 19th century brick buildings housing the best selection of antique shops and restaurants in the Hudson Valley.

There is a Carnegie Library, circa 1915, and a few blocks from the village is a 1/3 mile long "low tide" nature trail to the oldest lighthouse on the Hudson River...There are also boat launching areas on the Hudson River and at the public beach on the Esopus Creek. Wintertime sports include public skating and sledding in town, with several major ski resorts within a half hour drive up the mountains...

You see, Friendly Saugerties has it all! Culture, art, and history, topped off by a magnificent view stretching from the blue foothills of the Catskill Mountains across the Hudson to the green Berkshires of New England. Come visit, you'll stay awhile. Copyright © 1995 by Richard Frisbie Hope Farm Press ( -- From (copied by kind permission).