It’s only been a year-and-a-half since Peter and Michelle Forster swapped their suburban home on the Central Coast for an idyllic one-acre property in the heart of the Hunter. But the former painter and decorator and clothing sample machinist certainly haven’t wasted any time since making the tree change, establishing a boutique farm and setting up a burgeoning new business selling various home-grown garlic products.
The Forsters have just finished planting around 10,000 cloves of giant garlic – otherwise known as elephant or Russian garlic - on a half-acre plot at Bellbird. This will be their second growing season, having purchased the property in January last year and harvested their first crop in November.
It may seem like a pretty big job for a couple of newly converted farmers, but Peter said when they made the decision to move to the Hunter, they decided to commit 100 per cent to their new life on the land.
This commitment included importing what is now one of the biggest garlic fermentation chambers in Australia to enable them to transform their giant garlic into richly flavoured and incredibly nutritious black garlic.
Over a period of 29 days, the strictly controlled temperature and humidity of the fermentation chamber gradually transform their giant garlic bulbs into a softer, more delicate version with a strong molasses-like flavour and twice the antioxidants of regular garlic.
"We were originally only going to sell fresh and smoked garlic, but after we tasted black garlic at a market we were hooked."
“We then started to research it further and found out more about its powerful health benefits. I’d say only around 1 in 20 people have actually heard of black garlic, but once they try it, they nearly
always purchase it, and the business is really starting to expand now.”
Aside from black garlic, the Forsters also sell turmeric infused cold smoked garlic and the latest addition to their product line – a powdered black garlic rub and seasoning made with a unique blend of black, smoked and natural garlic husks, as well as garlic scapes, a variety of herbs and spices and a hint of chilli.
The gluten-free product allows them to put 100 per cent of the garlic plant to use, minimising waste on their farm.
You can check out the whole range of Bellbird Garlic product at this month’s Handmade in the Hunter markets, which will be held at Kevin Sobels Wines on June 8, 9 and 22.