GILROY, Calif. — A Japanese-made garlic billed as odorless is upsetting some domestic growers who believe "garlic breath" is a traditional experience.
"Garlic without the smell is like going to bed with your shoes on," said Valentino Filice, a chef at the annual Gilroy Garlic Festival.
"Garlic loves company. You've got to find people who love it and eat it together. Then, who cares if you have bad breath? You'll all have bad breath together."
Appeal to U.S. Tastes
Sanko Chemical Corp. and Mitsui & Co. make and market Dr. Saiki's Odorless Garlic, which is supposed to appeal to Americans' obsession with good hygiene.
"The last thing in the world we would ever have thought of doing was to make an odorless garlic," said Don Christopher, owner of a Gilroy garlic ranch. "We say, 'Brush your teeth. Use mouthwash. Eat a lemon.' But get rid of the odor altogether? Never."
The odorless garlic looks the same, tastes the same and smells the same as ordinary garlic, but the trademark smell doesn't linger on the breath.
Jack Kazanchy, an attorney for Jewelrina Inc., a New Jersey firm that is making and selling Dr. Saiki's creation in the United States, said the company plans to test the product on the East Coast within the next two months.
Odorless garlic is made by taking fresh garlic bulbs and dipping them into a solution of acids. They soak for two or three days and then are dried. The acids supposedly kill enzymes that cause garlic breath but do not affect the taste or smell when the garlic is cooked or eaten.
As early as 1978, Produce News, a trade publication, reported that Japanese researchers were working on an odorless garlic created through genetic research.
An Australian promoter introduced his own odorless garlic earlier this year in the United States--Mr. Garlic, a line of sandwich spreads that do not cause bad breath.
Dr. Saiki's odorless garlic, however, has raised a stink with local growers, who together with growers in Fresno County produce most of garlic sold in the United States.
"The whole pleasure of eating garlic is a lingering knowledge you've had a garlicky meal," said L. John Harris, author of two garlic books and publisher of the newsletter Garlic Times.
"Garlic represents people throwing their social concerns to the wind and expressing their pure pleasure, without any fear of repercussions because of bad breath," Harris said.
Despite the uproar, Dr. Saiki's garlic remains somewhat of a mystery.
"We haven't been able to get hold of any of the garlic to verify its claims," said Ron Voss, an agronomist with the University of California cooperative extension in Davis.