Garlic is the latest crop on Kangaroo Island

There is a new kind of crop going in on Kangaroo Island with an aroma and healing qualities all of its own.

Shane Leahy of Kangaroo Island Fresh Garlic has just finished planting more garlic that he ever has before, expanding his crop by almost double to 200,000 plants on 2.5 hectares.

The former wool classer and buyer started his garlic operation three years ago on just half a hectare at his property on Pioneer Bend Road at Stokes Bay. 

“It’s all about diversification for me,” Mr Leahy said. “I’ve got 200 acres of agricultural land here and it not enough, so I needed to come up with something I can do with the land.”

He is exploring new markets and is value adding by crushing the garlic and dehydrating it to sell as either garlic granules or garlic salt.

He has invested heavily in a processing room complete with various equipment to husk, dry and weigh the garlic, as well as large 5m-by-2.5m freezer to store his frozen garlic.

He does sell the whole fresh strings of garlic and garlic heads at boutique food outlets supermarkets on the mainland, as well as Drakes on KI, and also has products at the KI stall at the Adelaide markets.

He also husks the fresh garlic and freezes the cloves into vacuum packed bags that he sells direct to chefs and restaurants, including at Ozone Hotel, Kingscote that is his biggest customer.

He sells his garlic salt at the Kangaroo Island farmers’ markets and also at most retail outlets around the Island.

“I’m also looking to expand into different products by adding herbs to make meat rubs and other garlic based flavourings,” he said.

He is also experimenting with fermenting black garlic, which is known as “super food” with all kinds of beneficial health qualities.

He has just finished planting his crop in raised windrows and it will grow for the next seven months until it is ready for harvest in December.

A new dam will mean he will be able to water the crop in its final two months of growing in October or November to allow the cloves to fatten up. 

While he has used some herbicide to knock down the weeds early in the growing cycle, his garlic is marketed as being pesticide free.

There have been smaller organic, hand-planted garlic operations on the Island, but this is the first commercial size growing operation, Mr Leahy said.