Have you ever heard of black garlic before? In this episode, Dr. Trish Murray talks with local farmer Hank Letarte from White Gates Farm about his newest product called “black garlic.” He uncovers the numerous health benefits from this fermented bulb, especially with diseases such as diabetes. As Hank explains the five different types of sugar in hardneck garlic, he also talks about the benefits of fermenting. He also touches on the farming market and how it will be affected by other countries and industries in the future.
Listen to the podcast here:
What Is Black Garlic? Interview with Hank Letarte from White Gates Farm
This episode is with Hank Letarte from White Gates Farm and we’re talking about black garlic. Welcome, Hank.
Doctor, how are you?
I’m doing great. Let me read Hank’s bio. Hank possesses a unique portfolio of past professions starting as a paperboy and an altar boy moving into tree work, haying and apple picking as a teenager and young man in college. A stint in the Merchant Marines was followed by three years on the Alaskan pipeline where he amassed the fortune just large enough to purchase a dump truck and a backhoe and moved to New Hampshire where he used his expertise gained on the pipeline to dig and fill using heavy equipment. His college degree was in turf so as the Lakes Region of New Hampshire grew, it was a natural progression to move into the landscaping industry. The business thrived throughout the early 1980’s as he met and married his wife, Heather, and started his family.
Soon after marrying, Hank and Heather purchased a 113-acre tract of land that held promises of fields hidden under pines as well as a defunct sandpit. The sandpit also became a source of income in that time period, as he went on to clear several acres, build a home, and continue his landscaping business. As the lakeside building boom dwindled to a trickle in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s, a change was made. Hank and Heather moved their business to the Tamworth home, where it continued for a few short years before they decided to take down that shingle. Hank always had an interest in farming and his drive and determination along with that of his family has created White Gates Farm, also Our Town Biodiesel shared with his son Forrest, and newly created Organic Matters, a certified composting facility. These fledgling businesses hold promise and as Hank enters the years where most are considering retirement, he shows no sign of slowing down. We’re here to talk about black garlic. What is it?
It’s garlic in a different form. We start with original garlic, which would be the hardening variety. Let me start a little bit of schooling garlic and garlic has two varieties, softneck and hardneck. It’s like a vehicle, there’s a pickup truck or a car. It’s either one or the other. As far as the northern part of the country is concerned, we can do a much better job of learning the hardneck garlic, which has in my idea better qualities. It has some stronger taste. It has a few more abilities and you can make black garlic with hardneck garlic. There are several different varieties maybe as many as a dozen hardnecks. Each one of those have their own qualities. We use a variety called Rocambole and music to make black garlic.
What is black garlic? It’s caramelized or fermented garlic. The process of fermenting this garlic is quite simple. There’s a machine called a black garlic fermenter, something that you can purchase. They’re pricey, but what they do is provide a controlled environment for garlic itself. You take the hardneck garlic and put it in this machine and it will control the moisture and the temperature, that being a fairly low temperature. It is somewhere between 100 and 120 degrees for about eight to twelve days. This is not a hurry up and get down to quick process. Once you put this machine and it is locked, it’s there for until the garlic is ready and then it basically shuts itself off. Blacken garlic does not represent the original garlic that we know. Black garlic is black.
The color is literally black.
It is literally black. When we take a clove off, you start with the bulb. It probably has anything between four and twelve cloves surroundings the stem. The stem on the hardneck garlic is very hard and that’s why they are called hardneck. Those cloves become soft and pliable, almost like a gummy bear. There’s no garlic smell once this is blackened and the neat property about it is that it doesn’t taste like garlic. It tastes like I’ve heard all sorts of things, but it tastes like a fig. It might taste like a date. It’s chewy. I can tell you this, children think it’s candy and they love it.
I’ve had something. I was amazed by the flavor and I was amazed by the sweetness.
Let’s talk about that, the sweetness. There are five different types of sugar in hardneck garlic. One of the things that I’d like to find out is maybe I’m going to have to team up with a food scientist, but I don’t know which of the varieties has what amounts of sugar in those five different types of which makes the best black garlic. We have liked our product, the Rocambole and many of the black garlic makers use that as well. I think we’re onto something, but we don’t know why it does it and it would be nice to know. Black garlic has some properties and we don’t know why we eat black garlic.
What are the benefits of fermenting?
Let’s talk about garlic in and of itself before we even go into the black garlic properties. Garlic is one of the easiest crops to grow. It’s a bulb. Being a bulb, it overwinters and I’m explaining the latter part of the late fall. We’re talking late October, early November depending on the New England weather this year, we got caught with an earlier winter than usual. You put that in and it tends to set up the clove because we’re planting individual cloves now. We break the bulb into the separate clove, five, six or twelve and they will set up roots. Even on a warm unusual fall, they might send out a little bit of green up above the mulch. We like to mulch our garlic with straw, leaves or something. It will go to sleep and it will stay there all winter, sprout in the spring and the first thing it wants to do is procreate. It will send out leaves and then it will send out a flower. The hardneck variety tends to be a lot of round probably about quarter of an inch in diameter and wants to put a flower up. That is called the garlic scape.
Many times they say to clip that, right?
When you clip it all, the nutrients and all the power goes back down into the bulb. You can sauté those or you can fry them. It’s like fiddleheads in the spring in New England. You only get them and they’re only here for a while, so grab them when you see them.
When you can, that goes garlic scapes. I love doing that and some olive oil or coconut oil.
They are and flower and all. You can sauté the whole thing. Anyway that’s the garlic. Once that bulb grows, you can harvest that probably somewhere around August. Usually, we’re about late August and we want to dry that looking at a hardneck or softneck bulb. They’re white. They’re divided into cloves. They smell strong. They’ve got all of these different scents and there are five sugars, I think I’d say. What happens with this garlic is we dry our garlic for a couple of months, at least for five weeks.
The fermenting process doesn’t happen until after you harvest it and then after you dry it, right?
Correct. Once it’s dried and then it will last for a long time. Softneck varieties can last up to eight, nine months. Hardnecks don’t last quite as long and what happens is they begin to lose some moisture as they are stored. Some people ask me, “What’s the best place to store garlic?” Depending on the volume you have, but a cool place that’s dark is the best place to store garlic. It doesn’t have to be in the refrigerator. I know that’s cool and dark, but down the cellar in the corner over there where everybody knows.
That’s where the garlic is.
When we go to ferment this what we have is a time issue because we want to get that garlic in there so that it’s not going to be drying out because we have four or five months to make the black garlic. Even though you can hold it, it wouldn’t be fermented or caramelized properly if it begins to dry out because there’s moisture that’s extracted. If it’s too dry, then it becomes a hard, brittle, little gummy bear instead.
It doesn’t stay with a gooey texture like you’re saying like a gummy bear.
That’s walking you through until we get this. The black garlic fermentation stage, we take it out for ten days and it’s ready to be eaten. That stores very well for a long period of time. It doesn’t have to be in a dark or cool environment. It can be in a warm environment not cool. What are the benefits of black garlic? Garlic, the plant doesn’t have any pests. Garlic, the plant doesn’t get many diseases. I don’t know of any. I’m an agronomist, so I study soils, but I took a lot of courses including plant pathology and soil science, and we don’t see any problems with the garlic. As a matter of fact, garlic is so powerful that if you take garlic, crush it up, ten to one ratio of garlic juice and water, put it through your sprayer and spray on most plants. That will repel a lot of bugs. I’m saying all, but it works well a lot. Considering that no bugs go to garlic, it would make sense that if you rub garlic on another plant, it would go that the same. Garlic has some strong properties. We want to talk about healthier. We’re going to talk about garlic already being healthy because nothing attacks it. We all know that a few people say, “Eat garlic and live longer.” It’s what they call penicillin.
Garlic is known to have an antimicrobial effect and a benefit. It’s anti-yeast, antibacterial, anti-fungus. Nothing attacks it. It’s good to fight other bugs too.
Nothing is going to attack you. Garlic has cysteine. That is a compound and allylcysteine is an enhanced version of cysteine. Allylcysteine is in black garlic in volumes. My good friend, Dr. Matt Dunn, who’s head of the ER up in Memorial Hospital in Conway is a great fan of the farm. He and his wife, Dr. Kristen, are also good customers of ours and they buy a lot of garlic. He loves our garlic. He was telling me that allylcysteine is a compound that has not been able to be duplicated in a synthesized form. There might be a reason you don’t hear about it because there’s no money in it for other people. If they could synthesize it, I think they would.
We’re going to talk about I know of a couple of things. There’s the great place you can learn about black garlic through Netflix and there’s a series called Rotten in the Netflix. It’s all about different food in the food industry or the commercial food industry. The one that you’d like to look at is called garlic breath. Garlic breath will tell you a lot about garlic and a lot of black garlic. Also, if you just do a self-search with Google, it’s called Eight Wonderful Ways to Stay Healthy with the Black Garlic and it will tell you a lot about it. What does allylcysteine do? I’m going to give you a hands-on first experience that happened to me, but I learned that it lowers cholesterol and it lowers blood pressure. We know it does this according to some documents. It also activates the pancreas and people with diabetes can be helped by eating black garlic. I’m not talking about volumes of it. My wife’s brother-in-law happens to be a fireman. He happens to have diabetes and used to do shots of insulin.Considering that no bugs go to garlic, it makes sense that if you rub garlic on another plant, it would do the same. Click To Tweet
That means insulin-dependent diabetic. Usually, that’s longer along the disease process. There are two different types of diabetes. There’s Type 1 diabetes where they always have to inject insulin because they developed it and the pancreas doesn’t create any insulin. They lost all the cells. The Type 2 is someone who typically develops diabetes as an adult and usually has put on weight and the fat cells produce insulin resistance and then they have problems with metabolizing sugar properly. First of all, they are told to diet and exercise. If that doesn’t work, then they go on oral medicine. Sometimes people are on as many as three oral medicines, but eventually if diabetes keeps progressing, they would eventually, the oral medicines don’t work and they end up having to go on injected insulin. It depends. Everybody’s situation is different. Diabetes is definitely the idea that the person does not metabolize glucose well, doesn’t produce the insulin, is not functioning optimally or they’re not producing any insulin at all.
It’s level 2, that’s where he is. He started on the program I think simply because he likes the taste. I couldn’t get him to go jogging with me or anything like that, but he said, “I’ll try this.” We have been giving him some for a couple of months and he came back and said that his doctor has told him that he is very surprised and he is sub diabetic by two points, two-tenths of a percent.
There’s a number in the labs that you follow in a person who has diabetes called the hemoglobin A1c. What that means is that we all have red blood cells. We all know that we have blood cells and we have red blood cells. If your red blood cells are low, you have anemia. Also, we get glycosylated red blood cells meaning sugar attaches to red blood cells and red blood cells live. They have a life expectancy of 120 days. When you do the hemoglobin A1c that determines what percentage of the red blood cells in the sample have sugar attached to them. If the percentage is greater than seven in a diabetic, that’s too high. We want to manage their treatment by keeping the percentage of red blood cells in the sample that has sugar attached to it low or lower, definitely a diabetic with less than seven. In a person without diabetes optimally, it’s less than 5.5. You notice they’re giving it a little excess range but you don’t want to have it be less than seven. What you said is that it sounds like his hemoglobin A1c may have dropped by as much as 2.5% or something to that.
I thought he said that he was at 5.8 and six would have been terrific. The doctor was so surprised that he doesn’t want to see him for another six months and said, “You are basically sub diabetic as we speak.”
What that means is that definitely less than seven in a diabetic. If they get less than six, then they’re considered to be like you say if you will be using that terminology sub diabetic in doing optimally treated if you will. If he was like 5.8 and even less than six, then that’s getting into a “normal” range.
I have another guy. We haven’t been doing black garlic that long since some early last fall. I’m not waving a flag and we’re not selling it by the bucketful, but I have to believe.
What happened with his cholesterol, for example?
We didn’t get that report. I did not go that far. I don’t know if it was high or whatever.
Maybe we should set up a little study.
I would love too.
We’ll have to get some black garlic and sell it and have people on it for let’s say three to six months and then recheck their numbers. You can check cholesterol and diabetes.
The only thing that happened was he kept running out of it and he goes, “I love it.” It doesn’t hurt to take it. We got high blood pressure, cholesterol. We got activate pancreas as well and I believe that because I have a story. The other thing that we heard is that it likes to attack tumors. Black garlic has the ability to attack tumors. I have to do more study in order to have a story about that, but on the internet it has been told. This compound allylcysteine is known to be very powerful. I’m sure that if the drug companies could find a way, they would synthesize this. According to Dr. Matt Dunn, he said they would be in love with the fact that now they have something. It’s natural of course but who’s going to believe it? A bunch of kooky farmers.
I promote this concept all the time and the idea. I talked about the rainbow concept, where you’re going to eat every color of the rainbow, and black is part of that. The other thing, there are phytonutrients in all plants and that’s why any diet whether it’s Paleolithic, ketogenic, low carb or whatever diet you pick, the bottom line is it should be plant-based first. The reason for that is we need vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients. The phytonutrients come from phyto the plant and the nutrients and things like the allylcysteine, resveratrol and lycopene. All these different phytonutrients are actually how the plants stay healthy. If the allylcysteine is what keeps the garlic healthy and it protects the garlic and the plant, then it’s going to protect us and that’s why we want to make sure we are adjusted.
As a farmer, if you’re not eating fish, you’re eating dirt. You should look to see what’s in the dirt. I mean it all starts with that and I think this is where the organic and the all-natural growing represents all these micronutrients that we talk about.
I remember, dried new garlic was good for you. I can’t remember my age maybe late teens, early twenties. I started and I didn’t mind to take a small piece of garlic and chew it up and eat. You start to smell like garlic and you don’t have a lot of friends either. The question I have is that you eat a lot of black garlic, the fermented kind that’s sweet and that it doesn’t have that poignant flavor. It’s sweeter and gel like the gummy bear. Do you start to smell like garlic?
Not at all. The smell is gone. Basically, what you do is you’re converting those. Where does the smell of garlic come from? I can’t answer that. I’m sure the food scientists could help us with that, but it goes away in the ten days, twelve days that the garlic is being caramelized. There’s a sugar conversion in there. Let’s put it this way. In the first couple of days, I was very excited to start this fall. We had a machine down the basement where we store all of the different food, utensils and things for our dinners. I said, “I’ll just put it in here. I guarantee my house will never have a werewolf.” It’s unbelievable, how strong the garlic smell was.
As it’s doing the fermenting process?
The first two days was wow and you’re not supposed to unplug it for ten days. My wife was not happy. Obviously, it gives off that garlic smell and it does. It extracts it or I guess off gases.
When you ferment anything, you ferment dairy for yogurt or you ferment coconut milk for yogurt or you cook ferment of SCOBY for kombucha or soy for kimchi or whatever you’re doing. If you take vegetables and you ferment them, you’re adding sugar and the bacteria are ingesting the sugar and transforming the sugar into another form. That creates the probiotics of the bacteria that you’re looking for that are beneficial to us. Whatever we talk about fermenting, you’re usually talking about doing a fermenting process to create probiotics and you’re talking about the change of sugar from one to another. It’s a conversion.
That’s probably where the smell goes.
It’s possibly the sugars and again we’d have to look at this and we need to google it. The sugar is shifting in some way we can say, from one sugar to sugar to another.
Back to your question about people who are concerned, no, you do not end up smelling.
I’ve noticed that when I ate it, it tastes sweet on the way in but on the way down, there’s a little bit of a different taste.
It’s earthy, woody, everybody has a similar but not exact. “I nailed that. That tastes.” I’m very comfortable. It’s like wine or something like that. There’s a not a bite to it but there’s a taste to it. I would say earthy, but other people use different terms. However, my granddaughter at five years old, all I ever hear is grandpa, “Can I have another one?” If these candy kids are liking it, you know you’re doing pretty well.
You’ve been doing this for how long now?
Probably seven months.
What’s your market for the black garlic?Garlic is healthy because nothing attacks it. Eat garlic and live longer. Click To Tweet
What’s happened is we have gone through what we were holding over and I have been introducing it. White Gates Farm is moving into becoming a garlic farm although we still grow vegetables, we still raise all the meats, chickens, pigs and beef. We are moving into a garlic farm to do value-added products from our own farm products. We’ll be doing spicy garlic mix and pickled garlic, etc. and blackened garlic. Now that I’ve learned as much as I have and have a couple of stories about the benefits of black garlic, I want to move into production to this shortage of garlic and black garlic in America. If you do the Netflix show, you’ll see that 80% of the garlic is imported from China. There are not some good reports about the Chinese growing systems using human waste for fertilizers. Some of the blackened garlic that comes from China sadly is even used over coal fires were basically coal and black garlic with arsenic and lead.
It’s very cheap at Walmart. You can actually get blackened garlic at Walmart and it says from China. I just tell people, “I’m not anti-Chinese products etc., but you have to be careful about looking back and seeing some of the products that come from that country.” They brought in sheetrock that fell down the floor and it developed mold. They brought in kids’ toys with lead paint. They brought in dog food that killed dogs in the last couple of years. You have to be questioning, “How can it be so cheap?” because it’s not cheap for us to make. Number one, garlic itself. Garlic seed is worth anywhere from $14 to $22. In the fall, we sell enough for pound, so then when you go to ferment it, you’re going to shrink about 50% of that. It goes from 2.1 pounds in the machine to about 1.1 pounds.
Because you’re taking a lot of moisture out of the garlic and therefore, that’s going to get weightless.
When you start to look at this and weigh it up and say, “What’s the value of black garlic?” It runs anywhere between $60 and as much as $80 per pound. However, a pound of black garlic is a lot. A pound of gummy bears is a lot of gummy bears when you’re only going to eat one or two. This isn’t something to eat and pour out in a bowl for the party and everybody going to have. Its medicine but it’s cheaper than medicine when you look at it from that perspective. It’s that much healthier for you.
Are restaurants buying it? What makes it $60 to $80 a pound?
You’re starting with the $22 per pound product. You’re cutting in half because you’re losing half during the production. There’s $44 right there. Not all of it comes out perfect. Some of the bulbs didn’t have the moisture. You think they’re alright, but then when you look at that and you apply some labor and then packaging, it takes to one to get to that.
Supply and demand, there’s not a lot of supply. Where’s the demand coming from?
The demand was blackened garlic. In America, fine chefs are using it on steak toppings. You can make some incredible taste with it. I have a friend of mine who’s making black garlic powder. You run this black garlic through the machine two more times. If this is the machine sometimes as much as 25 days and then you have to process this so you dehydrate it and you have to process this. His black garlic powder is I’m just going to say extremely expensive. However, if you put black garlic powder in something like chili, I’ve had it, and it’s like, “Where did this food come from?” Where I am going with it now is I’m learning to make it correctly. I think we’re pretty comfortable with our product.
The taste is excellent.
Now that we know how to walk, I think we’re going to try a little bit and then run, but we’ll be selling it local. We’ll be providing it to people. This is what I encourage everybody by giving enough instead you can sell it, and then say, “I’m going to try that.” If you’d like to talk to Leon Mando, my brother-in-law, that’s the best way to talk to anybody as somebody who’s had true effects. It’s not me selling, it’s him telling.
Hank, if folks wanted to get in touch with you to find out more about black garlic or find out maybe how they can get some from you, how would they do that?
They can look on the website, which is WhiteGates-Farm.com. There’s also the cell phone, which is always on me. When I’m busy on the tractor, just leave a message. That number is (603) 662-7538. We have those ways to connect with me. You can also visit the farm at 2153 Cleveland Hill Road. We have the farm tour and we are ready to show you our garlic and some of the garlic rose and exactly what we do to make garlic work. Our compost is our format. As I say if you’re not eating fish, you’re eating dirt.
You market your compost.
We do. I’m not into compost selling business but I’m in the farming business. I make compost that makes my farm run great and I make too much. We have a lot of compost. There’s compost for sale, but I’m not making it to profit our product. Maybe if you have too much you can make a dollar with it. I had a lot of clients who buy it because they see what it does to my farm. We’re developing a couple of big fields for this fall. We’re planning on putting in almost an acre and a half of garlic. That would be around 7,000 to 90,000 pounds of garlic that would be planted.
You’ll be selling it locally, but you’ll be selling it beyond.
We’re going online. We have contacts now with meets in Boston and in New York. We’re not some big shipping company but we have restaurants that like what we do. We’ve heard the demand on garlic. We’ve heard of them that they will not use Chinese garlic, they want to use locally. Having been growing garlic for the last couple of years, we’re upping the game a little bit. We usually put in about 7,000 to 9,000 plants but it will be doing somewhere in the vicinity of about 80,000 plants now.
As far as the discussion of China, one of the biggest things that China has done over the last couple of decades or more is they’ve tried to become if you will the number one in numerous industries. What they’ve done in order to get there is given up the idea of restrictions or protections against the waste products from things. The level of pollution in China is pretty bad and it’s going to hurt the rest of the world. As you know from state to state line like in the United States, we don’t always have control. Like New Jersey doesn’t have control of New York or this or that and then the United States doesn’t have control over China, Canada, Mexico or any of these other countries.
The bottom line is that when it comes to farming in China, when it comes to plants and things and when it comes to humans in China, they’re polluting themselves which is too bad. There was a show all on 60 minutes about certain rare metals that they are whining on. It takes an enormous amount of pollution to have these rare metals but the rare metals are in our cellphones, they’re in all the high technology. It’s dangerous for us as the United States not to be mining these things because they’re now in control of monopoly if you will almost of having them. However, they’ve gotten there by destroying themselves partially with the pollution because it gives off so much to their air which is going to affect any garlic they’re growing as well as any plants they’re growing other than garlic and so forth. People should be aware of the fact that I work with people on toxicity, heavy metals and how to detoxify on a regular basis because toxins can cause a variety of illness. More to say for you that we want to support someone who’s growing organic well, growing with good compost and clean healthy garlic, that’s for sure.
As a farmer, I know the costs and farmers don’t get rich. They love to do what they do and if they can afford it to do it pay all the bills, they’re an exceptionally successful farmer. It’s a chosen lifestyle. A financial game was that object and it would be farming.
It will be a lot more fun of work.
A lot of young people they want to be farmers and find out, “How much is toothpaste now? I have no money.” Clearly, when I look at a product and I know the costs of what it takes to raise either our chicken or black garlic, it doesn’t matter. When you see these costs, you say, “I call.” There’s no way you can do what I do and come out at the same seller and the same price at the end. If we know what those costs are and somebody is one-third, it has to be one-third as good or maybe even bad for you. It’s concerning when you see those prices.
Hank, thank you so much for coming. I appreciate it. I will have to do a little more of the research on the allylcysteine from the health perspective. Sometimes I interview folks like you and other times, I give a talk for about twenty minutes on something I’ve researched. I’ll have to do that and then you and I would have to chat some more about getting your black garlic out to some of my clients.
I’d love to do that. Thank you so much.
Take care, everybody. I hope this podcast has helped empower you on your journey to restore and optimize your health. If you would like more information, my clinic is called Discover Health Functional Medicine Center and our website is DiscoverHealthFMC.com. On our website is a great deal of more information educationally as well as information about our services and also an opportunity to schedule a 30-minute free consultation with one of my team. During this 30-minute free consultation, you can get to know us and we can get to know you. You can learn about our services and see if it would be a fit for you to improve your journey toward restoring and optimizing your health. Another option is to go to our Facebook page, that’s Discover Health Functional Medicine Center and also to join our Facebook group. Our Facebook group is filled and creating a community of people just like you that you can talk with and interact with about your questions. You can also ask us your most burning questions. Let’s work together on our journeys to restore and optimize health.
- White Gates Farm
- Discover Health Functional Medicine Center – Facebook page
- Facebook group – Discover Health FMC Group
About Hank Letarte
Hank possesses a unique portfolio of past professions, starting as a paperboy and altar boy, moving into tree work, haying, and apple picking as a teenager and young man in college. A stint in the Merchant Marines was followed by three years on the Alaskan pipeline, where he amassed a fortune just large enough to purchase a dump truck and backhoe and moveo New Hampshire, where he used his expertise gained on the pipeline to dig and fill using heavy equipment.
His college degree was in turf, so as the Lakes Region of NH grew, it was a natural progression to move into the landscaping industry. The business thrived throughout the early 1980’s, as he met and married his wife, Heather and started his family. Soon after marrying, Hank and Heather purchased a 113-acre tract of land that held promises of fields hidden under pines, as well as a defunct sandpit.