OUR STORY

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[Gilroy is] the only town I know where you can marinate a steak by hanging it on the clothesline

Will Rogers

Our Rich History in Gilroy, CA

Welcome to Garlic World! Our giant roadside fruit stand is truly iconic to Northern California day-trippers. As a family-owned country store, we are proud to supply our customers with top-of-the-line garlic products and more! Gilroy, California is the Garlic Capital of the World, and the products from Garlic World come straight from the source, right here in our community!

Family History

The Garlic World story begins in the 1890s with the arrival of southern Europeans in California’s Santa Clara Valley, 80 miles south of San Francisco. The fertile acres and temperate climate here, reminiscent of some of Italy’s prime agricultural regions, made the valley a destination for immigrants who knew how to work the soil. As in the old country, garlic grew in every kitchen garden.

Commercial cultivation of garlic in Gilroy began in 1929, with the arrival of Kiyoshi Hirasaki from Japan, who raised and marketed garlic alongside other vegetables. Within a decade Hirasaki converted all his land to garlic production, and by the 1940s ran the largest commercial garlic farm in the United States. Gilroy was on its way to earning its title as “the garlic capital of the world.”

The next chapter of Gilroy’s garlic legacy begins in 1956, when Don and Art Christopher, descendants of Swedish immigrants who came to the Valley at the end of the nineteenth century, left the family plum orchards behind, moved 10 miles south and started their own farm. They were all in for growing garlic. The rest is American culinary history. Over 50% of America’s garlic is now grown in the area around Gilroy and 90% of the country’s garlic harvest is processed here. The aroma of garlic that lingers over the town is a fragrant reminder.

It was probably not until 1979 that Gilroy emerged as a national phenomenon. That year local agricultural leaders joined radical gourmets to launch one of America’s legendary food events: the annual Gilroy Garlic Festival. A few years later, in 1986, Garlic World was born. The store’s founders, Don Christopher and Carolyn Tognetti, transformed a large, rustic fruit stand at the south end of Gilroy alongside Highway 101, a main artery between Los Angeles and San Francisco. Here the freeway narrows for a mile or so, cars can pull on and off the thoroughfare, and travelers can stop to load up with garlic specialties available nowhere else.

Garlic World for the past 18 years has been the pride of the Oteri family. Third-generation Santa Clara Valley residents and successful grocers, they and their staff hand-select every item in the store. Their long-standing connections to the Gilroy community and its garlic industry give them first choice for exceptional, locally-produced garlic products and other specialty foods. Some say our garlic braids are too beautiful to eat!

We look forward to meeting you on your next journey to the Gilroy area. In the meantime, you can select from about 100 items from our gourmet inventory here at garlicworld.com. Thank you for shopping with us, and buon appetito!

[Sources: Garlic Capital of the World by Pauline Adema; Smell It Like It Is by Kathryn McKenzie Nichols]