Garlic Farmers: Look out for the Purple Garlic
Garlic, an ancient bulbous vegetable is one of the fastest moving horticultural crops in the local and international markets. It is one of the easiest vegetables to grow and requires very little space in the garden. Garlic grows from individual cloves broken off from a whole bulb. Each clove will multiply in the ground, forming a new bulb that consists of 5-10 cloves. With an acre of land, you will need an approximate of Ksh 40,000 to set up your garlic farm using 100g of seedlings at a cost of Ksh 400.
In Kenya, the garlic peak season is usually between May and September, where a kilogram of garlic will retail between Ksh 350 – Ksh 400. From an acre of land, if you harvest approximately 4000 kilograms of the crop, you could make between Ksh. 1.4M –Ksh 1.6M.
However, the purple garlic variety, which comes from the hardneck garlic family, maintains its market price all year long. During low season, a kilogram of white garlic (softneck garlic family) will retail between Ksh 150 – Ksh 200 while Purple garlic during low season will retail between Ksh 300 – Ksh 400.
The softneck and hardneck variety both thrive in similar climatic conditions. The crop requires a medium to a high altitude, with temperatures ranging from 15-25ºC in the first few months, and up to 30ºC towards maturity which is after six months.
Both varieties grow in well-drained soil and airy depths, with a pH of 5.5-6.8. Due to the various varieties of the purple glazed garlic, most of Rocamboles varieties like the Killarney Red, thrive in wet conditions and mature early.
Figure 1: Rocamboles variety
What is the difference?
Purple garlic features purple markings on the cloves, a woody stalk that cuts through the middle of the bulb, and slightly bigger size as compared to the popular paper-white garlic clove.
It has a fairly strong, juicy taste and sweet pungent smell which is milder, compared to the white clove garlic that has a powerful smell. The skin of a hardneck clove is easier to peel off but they have a shorter shelf life.
The varied flavor profiles of the purple garlic, gives it an edge to the paper-white garlic. Uses of garlic are not limited to cooking but can be used to bake, spread on a roast and even on a salad.
In the international markets, the demand for garlic is higher. Almost 45% of garlic is imported across the continent with China and Spain being the lead exporters. Finding access to these export markets as well as local markets like restaurants can be a game changer for farmers.