Natural Foods Merchandiser

A rose by any other name

This month, when folks are looking to generate romantic interest, is a great one to feature garlic in the produce department. Sure, people are used to buying chocolate, champagne or roses for that special person. But why not encourage them to buy the stinking rose? Is there anything sexier than the smell of garlic cooking in the kitchen?

Let's get produce involved in the business of romance. Start by building a garlic pyramid display and surround it with ice trays of butter. Speaking of pyramids, folklore has it that in ancient Egypt, 15 pounds of garlic would buy a healthy male slave. Interestingly enough, when King Tut's tomb was excavated, they found bulbs of garlic scattered throughout the rooms.

Add other items that go well with garlic and butter. Oops, that's right. Nearly everything tastes great with garlic and butter. Narrow it down to some other sexy vegetables like asparagus, artichokes, mushrooms and creamer potatoes.

Now we're cooking. Which is exactly what you should be doing near this display. Fire up the hot plate with the butter and garlic, start cooking any of the veggies I mentioned, and you'll draw customers from all over the store. Something to remember when you are cooking garlic: If you sauté it too long at a high temperature, it will brown quickly and become bitter. Slow and easy is the way to go.

Now that you've drawn a crowd, give them a garlic lesson. Throw in some more folklore. For starters, garlic is said to …

  • Repel vampires
  • Cure a cold and warts
  • Stop fainting spells
  • Ward off the evil eye
  • Grow hair
  • Restore failing masculine powers. (Perhaps there's something to this. In Palestinian tradition, if the bridegroom wears a clove of garlic in his buttonhole, he is assured a successful wedding night.)

    This will keep the demo fun and also allow you to show off your produce chops when you teach your customers how to pick out the perfect bulbs, which should be heavy for their size—big, plump and firm, with tight skins.

    Before you start your demo:

  • Talk to your housewares department, and have them order some garlic presses and baking dishes to add to the display.
  • Put up some "did you know" cards with helpful tips like: "Did you know that one clove of garlic is 10 times stronger pushed through a garlic press than one clove minced fine with a sharp knife?"
  • Make a heart-shaped display surrounded by curly or Italian parsley for those worried about garlic breath.

    Finally, if your customers don't go for any of that romantic stuff, remind them of the old New York Yiddish saying, "A nickel will get you on the subway, but garlic will get you a seat."

    Mark Mulcahy has 25 years experience in the organic produce industry. He is the produce director for New Leaf Community Markets in Santa Cruz, Calif. Contact him at [email protected]

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