Type “uses for garlic” in Google and it’s easy to fall down a temperature-controlled rabbit hole of intriguing information. The life-affirming herb has been in use for some 5,000 years, so it’s had a good while to accumulate an almost unbelievable array of healing and fixative properties. Among many other ministrations, garlic is said to help babies grow bigger in utero, fortify adult hearts, significantly boost immunity, repair cracks in glass, de-ice roads, and keep at least five different species of harmful insects away from crops and bodies. (Repelling vampires is such a given it’s not even mentioned.)
But farmers don’t have time to scroll down these lists with their mouths hanging open. In real time, midsummer is the time to sow and cure what can be a surprisingly delicate plant, given its mighty post-harvest accomplishments. Knowing just when to lift the plants from the soil is key, but once the hard work is done, it’s time to celebrate the great goodness of garlic. More so than the onion — perhaps even more than salt — the herb’s pungent flavor has informed the characteristics of the world’s most important cuisines. And the Fourth Annual Garlic Fest at Highland Lake Cove retreat and learning center shows off the plant’s culinary high points via a garden tour, activities for kids, a five-course meal, and cooking demonstrations.
Cove founder Kerry Lindsey, a Zirconia native who grew up in a farming family, revels in the stages of harvest life. “Our folks grew much of what we ate,” says Lindsey. “Mom’s favorite saying when guests came to dinner was ‘everything on the table was picked today’ — which often included the chicken. When there was a lot of one thing — my favorite was the first flush of asparagus in the spring — they would invite folks over and call it an Asparagus Gala, often conveniently timed to get help for one of Dad’s building projects.”
Garlic Fest will feature a 40-clove, wood-oven-baked chicken as the main event. Other Cove happenings in July include a “make your own pie” pizza party on July 9 and a “So You Think You Can Cook” local-chef competitive showdown on July 16. (See Bold Life’s “Things to Do” section for more info on these events.)
“These gatherings are small, intimate, and a little informal. It’s a return to something more real,” notes Lindsey.
The Fourth Annual Garlic Fest happens on July 24. To make reservations and for more information, call 828-243-8918 or go to highlandlakecove.com.