The season for seasoning: Grafton garlic festival highlights a different fall harvest

  • After helping run the garlic food sale and library fundraiser, Jennika Bergamini, 11, of Grafton, N.H., sees how far mozzarella sticks, made with garlic scapes in the breading, can be stretched, at the annual Grafton Gargantuan Garlic Gathering held in Grafton, N.H., on Saturday, Oct. 9, 2021. (Rick Russell photograph) Rick Russell photograph

  • Mozzarella sticks, deep fried with garlic scapes in the breading, in Grafton, N.H., on Saturday, Oct. 9, 2021. (Rick Russell photograph)

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    Lynn Paul of Grafton, N.H., ladles up soup made with garlic, broccoli, cheese and wild mushrooms, (including, according to the label, black trumpets — "a little spicy!!") at the Gargantuan Garlic Gathering in Grafton, N.H., on Saturday, Oct. 9, 2021. (Rick Russell photograph) Rick Russell photographs

  • A box of fresh German Brown garlic for sale at the Gargantuan Garlic Gathering in Grafton, N.H., on Saturday Oct. 9, 2021. (Rick Russell photograph)

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 10/9/2021 9:40:44 PM
Modified: 10/9/2021 9:40:44 PM

Garlic for growing. Garlic for cooking. Music garlic and German brown garlic. Garlic bread and garlic cheese spread. Pickled garlic. Garlic applesauce.

The comforting, sweet smell of roasted garlic hung in the air among the haystacks and vendors Saturday as a bustling team of volunteers staffed the most popular feature of the Gargantuan Garlic Gathering: a string of folding tables covered in all things garlic. The Friends of Grafton Library were making the case that the bulbous flowering plant can be as festive a centerpiece as apples at an autumn celebration.

“We wanted to have a harvest festival, but we wanted it to be a little bit different,” said Mary Gasiorowski, a Grafton resident and one of the library volunteers who founded the annual fundraiser.

Other garlicky foods on offer included two varieties of garlic soup — the classic with a creamy, garlicky simplicity and the more adventurous, and slightly spicy “garlic, broccoli, cheese soup with wild mushrooms” — and mozzarella sticks coated in garlicky bread crumbs and dropped in a bubbling miniature fryer, served with a garlic marinara sauce.

The mozzarella sticks made their debut this year, and became a widespread favorite with the 40 to 50 attendees milling about.

The event began about six years ago when Elaina Bergamini, also a volunteer at the Grafton Public Library, got the idea after her friend posted a picture of her garlic harvest on Facebook.

“I always expect to be shot down” by the other volunteers, she said. “And they’re always all about it!”

Jennika, Bergamini’s 11-year-old daughter, was collecting money at the library volunteers’ garlic goods table. She gave customers change, and periodically asked for advice on exactly how much change she owed them.

The funds will go toward Grafton’s new library, Bergamini said. The current library is 660 square feet and charming, with patterned white tin ceiling and walls, wainscoting and hardwood floors. But it has limited parking, and no running water, Bergamini explained. Without a bathroom, the library cannot host events for children. Based on past years, she expected the garlic festival would raise about $2,000 to go toward a new library that will one day be built on the lot that currently hosts the festival, and is just down the street from the current library.

The festival has grown well beyond garlic, as vendors selling everything from wreaths made out of dried flowers to apple-cider doughnuts have joined. Grafton’s Ladies Benevolent Society hosted a miniature yard sale and raffled off a brown crocheted blanket for its scholarship fund, and Mascoma Valley Preservation displayed a model of the meetinghouse it is renovating. 

Garlic, though, remained the central attraction, with plenty to learn about the popular seasoning.

The volunteers cultivate the garlic in six beds near the library. Although native to central Asia, garlic takes well to the New England climate, and volunteers said it is an easy crop to grow. Bergamini advises following the simple “rule of six:” 6 feet down, 6 inches apart, and 6 inches of mulch. Saturday, they also planted garlic for next year’s harvest.

Sharon Duffy, who works part time at the Grafton Public Library, has been growing garlic for about 20 years and donates some to the festival each year. She said the mouth isn’t the only place you can stick garlic.

“Garlic is great for earaches,” she said. “Simply peel the paper off and put it in your ear.”

(There’s little scientific study confirming this treatment, but many people use it as a home remedy.)

Her husband, Mike Duffy, is the true garlic aficionado of their household.

“He swears it’s good for everything,” Duffy said.

Claire Potter is a Report for America corps member. She can be reached at or 603-727-3242.

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