Where NAIT's Culinary Arts program gets its garlic (plus, a hummus recipe)
Les Fehr’s hobby stinks, and provokes its share of vampire jokes.
The NAIT Tech Centre Supervisor at Souch campus spends his work days supervising trades technicians. But his off hours are spent mostly in his massive, 250-by-60-foot (76-by-18-metre) garden on a friend’s property in New Sarepta, about 20 minutes from his home in Mill Woods.
About a quarter of it is taken up by garlic.
Fehr’s passion for garlic goes well beyond the few bulbs one might grow for personal use. Last fall, he planted some 2,000 cloves of 11 different varieties, which will help keep NAIT’s culinary program garlic for most of the year, exposing students to the value of locally sourced produce. “There’s no comparison to the garlic you buy in the store,” he says. “Once you’ve tried mine, you taste the difference.”
Fehr and his wife put garlic in everything, he claims. He even eats a raw clove every night for medicinal purposes. Early in the season, he eats the coveted scapes, or flower stalks, fried with olive oil and butter.
Perry Michetti (Cooking '90), associate dean of the School of Hospitality and Culinary Arts, says the flavour of Fehr’s garlic is exceptional. “When I met Les, it was like I’d been waiting my whole life for him,” he says. “It was a garlic affair from the start.”
Michetti, who grows a small amount of garlic in his own garden, says it’s hard to find good garlic in Edmonton. “Good garlic is hard, it’s sticky, it’s probably 5 times the strength of what you’d buy in the store.”
He plans on ordering about 200 heads of Fehr’s garlic for the culinary program this year. It will be featured in special menus at Ernest’s restaurant and be used for teaching students.
"We want to show students that, yes, you can grow great garlic in Edmonton."
“We want to show students that, yes, you can grow garlic in Edmonton and it’s one of the best climates to grow it in. And the taste is so much better – don’t use the pre-peeled or pre-crushed stuff.”
As for the smell of garlic, he says he doesn’t notice it, nor does his wife, except when they’re dehydrating it to make the 100 or so bottles of garlic powder they produce each year to sell or give to family.
“It must keep the vampires away, because I’ve never seen any,” he adds with a laugh.
Interested in Fehr’s garlic? Feel free to email him.
Growing great garlic
Les Fehr, with the help of about 6 family members, plants his garlic in the fall because it likes to grow in cold soil. The garlic shoots come up in spring, a good month before anything else in the garden. The plant likes a fair bit of water when it first starts growing, then dryer conditions in late June and July.
Fehr also recommends staying on top of the weeds, which will take nutrients and water away from the developing bulbs.
Recipe: Roasted Garlic Hummus
4 large garlic cloves, unpeeled
20 ml (1 tbsp + 1 tsp) extra virgin olive oil
560-ml (19-ounce) can chickpeas, drained
60 ml (1/4 cup) freshly squeezed lemon juice
45 ml (3 tbsps) sesame tahini
45 ml (3 tbsps) water
5 ml (1 tsp) coarse salt
1 ml (1/4 tsp) cayenne pepper
60 ml (1/4 cup) fresh chives, minced
- Preheat oven to 200 C (400 F). Place garlic cloves on a small piece of foil and lightly drizzle with 5 ml (1 tsp) olive oil. Seal foil to form a pouch and roast garlic in oven until soft, about 20 minutes. Remove the garlic from the oven and allow it to cool slightly. Peel and transfer to the bowl of a food processor. Add the chickpeas and process until finely chopped and blended.
- Add lemon juice, sesame tahini, water, salt, cayenne pepper and 15 ml (1 tbsp) olive oil and process until the texture is light and fluffy but not entirely smooth, about 2 minutes. Stir in chives and transfer to a serving bowl. Serve with assorted crudités.