Black garlic is gaining popularity and a place on more retailers" shelves.
The darker, richer flavored garlic is a specialty item, relatively new to the industry, according to Jim Provost, president of I Love Produce LLC, West Grove, Pa.
"It"s fermented at a high heat, which turns it black and gives it a licorice, balsamic flavor and takes some of the heat out," he said.
"It gives it more of a sweeter taste."
According to information from I Love Produce, the garlic is fermented for 30 days at a high temperature and then aged for 20 days at room temperature. This process allows the sugars and the amino acids to produce melanoidin, the dark-colored substance that produces the black color of the garlic.
Provost says the garlic was first introduced as a health product in 2005 in China and then appeared on some cooking shows and in gourmet restaurants, when it started to be requested by high-end chefs.
Since then, Mehmet Oz did a story on his TV program, "The Dr. Oz Show," about foods that make people look younger and listed black garlic as one of those foods.
"His report says it is a superfood that will keep you looking young. You can imagine how many people want to buy that," Provost said. "Suddenly, distributors were wanting it."
This year, I Love Produce will offer the black garlic in a consumer package for retail for the first time, though they"ve offered the product before for foodservice.
Another company that offers black garlic is Los Angeles-based World Variety Produce, which markets under the Melissa"s brand.
"It"s totally different than regular garlic," Robert Schueller, director of public relations, said.
The company helped introduce the specialty product in 2008 and 2009, when it became popular on the East Coast, according to Schueller, who says Melissa"s is known for its specialty garlic products more than traditional garlic.
"It"s kind of been a flash-in-the-pan concept, and it has really become trendy," he said.
Spice World Inc., Orlando, Fla., also is introducing black garlic this year.
The company will have the specialty product in one-bulb, two-bulb and peeled options, according to Louis Hymel, director of purchasing and marketing.
The company has received a lot of interest in this item for several reasons, Hymel says.
"The black garlic is very diverse for gourmet cooking, along with several proclaimed health benefits," he said.
Black garlic marketed by Los Alamitos, Calif.-based Frieda"s Inc. won gold medal honors in the "Outstanding Cooking Sauce or Flavor Enhancer" category of the Sofi Awards sponsored by the National Association for the Specialty Food Trade. Chefs, journalists and others in the food industry made the selection.
Frieda"s representatives accepted the award June 18 at a ceremony in Washington, D.C.
Frieda"s began distributing black garlic to supermarkets and foodservice in 2009.