WHY DOES ZABAR’S GARLIC COME FROM CHINA?

Upper West Sider Steven Weisz was shopping at Zabar’s the other day when he looked down at the bottom of a sign for garlic: it said “Product of China.”

He wrote to us: “Can you believe that from all the farms in New York, ZABARS is selling GARLIC from CHINA!!!!!???” (emphasis his)

No, we could not believe it. Until we opened the photo he sent above. Then we believed it, in a literal sense, but not in the sense of Can you freakin’ believe that??

New York grows some perfectly good garlic. There is even a Hudson Valley Garlic Festival in a few weeks.

But local garlic is expensive, said Zabar’s General Manager Scott Goldshine when we talked with him today. And Chinese garlic is just as good.

“The fact is that local U.S. garlic is almost double the price of Chinese garlic, and the Chines garlic is just as good,” he said. Customers, he said, won’t pay double just to get the U.S. version.

Weisz, however, couldn’t stomach buying the foreign product.

“By the way… I just bought my Garlic at the 77th Street Green Market,” he told us later. “Local NY Garlic.. not ‘out-sourced.'”

Update: A friend notes that as of the most recent statistics available from the state agriculture department (from 2007), only 306 acres of garlic grew in New York. So maybe we’re not the garlic capital of the world. Still, it’s odd that U.S. garlic producers still can’t beat Chinese prices given that that their shipping distances are much shorter.

What do you think? Let us know in the comments.

To read our column on why Zabar’s is essential to the Upper West Side, click here.

And to relive last year’s saga of the mislabeled “lobster” salad, click here.

FOOD, NEWS | 13 comments | permalink
    1. Roger says:

      Shame on you Scott! Would you buy prosciutto or lox from China if it was cheaper? I don’t think so. It does not need to be local, but it should be USA!

    2. Lily says:

      It’s very foolish to eat produce from China, considering their severe pollution problems and agricultural practices.

    3. Steven Weisz says:

      We are what we consume. Saving money on food grown under questionable health & safety environments, will cost you more in medications & doctor bills.

    4. Liz says:

      I never shop at Zabar’s. I have never understood what people see in that store.
      I don’t like their product selection and I think many of their products are overpriced.

      But, come on now, garlic from China? Mama
      Mia!! That wouldn’t make much of a “spicy meatball”.

      Let’s outsource Zabar’s to China.

    5. kristina says:

      No thanks, Zabars. I think many of us on the UWS are willing to pay more for garlic grown in the USA.

    6. Cato says:

      They sell garlic from China because an hour after you eat it you want to buy more.

    7. Upper West Side Wally says:

      Shame on Zabar’s! Let’s all call them to complain! Grab your iPhone and… oopsie!

    8. frank says:

      Heck! I would just stop shopping Zabar’s and switch to Fairway Stores. They are all over the city and carry ONLY Local & California Garlic. They are fair priced as well!

    9. Morley says:

      Here is a great article on this very topic:

      http://www.greenprophet.com/2010/03/how-green-is-your-garlic/

      ..and here are the main points about Chinese Garlic;

      Charges against Chinese garlic included:

      Use of sewage to fertilize the soil in garlic farms;

      Presence of nematodes, fungus, and other agricultural pests in the bulbs, which contaminate soil where cloves taken from them are planted, as in home gardens. Importing countries therefore mandated…

      Fumigation with the toxic, ozone-depleting pesticide, methyl bromide, upon arrival at the importing country;

      The use of chlorine to bleach the bulbs an attractive white color;

      Use of chemicals to prevent the vegetable from sprouting during the months of travel from China to the importing country.

      American garlic farmers argued that their prices were high compared to the Chinese because they paid fair wages and gave workers benefits, while Chinese producers have a dependable source of cheap labor too ignorant to demand basic rights.

    10. christina says:

      Yes — good idea –boycotting zabar’s and hurting the American employees who have worked there, some for years. First of all, I never felt Zabar’s was too strong when it came to the produce dept. More like an afterthought. Second of all, I don’t see a lot of people complaining that the caviar is imported. So let’s not be hypocrites. If you really must have USA grown garlic, go to the farmer’s market.

    11. Rose says:

      The dollar store sells real good white crispy garlic packed in brine 6.7oz jars and it is so delicious to snack on. What I am wondering how is it packed to remain real white and crispy? What do they do to it. I see it does not contain too many additives. But that garlic is just delicious to snack on. Good for cholesterol and for the health. I like the one that is not packed in spices with chili, basil, parsley, etc. The one packed in spices is not that great. I just wonder how safe this garlic is to eat. I really love it and what do they add to make it stay real white and crispy. How safe is it? My grandfather used to plant a lot of purple garlic and that was always the best and so crispy, better than the regular white we buy at the store and spoils fast, but this white packed in brine really is good and crispy.