Ail de la Drôme (Drôme garlic)
IGP Ail de la Drôme is an edible garlic intended for sale either fresh, semi-dried or dried. It is a white garlic (of the autumn variety), sometimes featuring violet-coloured markings, and is large in size. It is characterised by a slightly sweet, ‘fresh’ (as opposed to rancid), medium-strength taste, a short-lasting aftertaste, a pleasant feel and a soft texture in the mouth. Two local historical varieties of white garlic are used: ‘Messidrôme’ and ‘Thermidrôme’. The bulbs must be classified as category I or Extra, as defined by the ECE standardisation. The minimum diameter is fixed at 45 mm. ‘Ail de la Drôme’ may be marketed in bulk (in a tray or bag) or in retail packaging. Three types of presentation are authorised: loose in its container, in bunches, and, for dried and semi-dried garlic, in strings.
The geographical area is made up of 118 municipalities spread over 13 districts of the department of Drôme. Districts completely covered by the geographical area: Crest Sud, Grignan, Loriol, Marsanne, Montélimar I et II, Pierrelatte, Saint Paul Trois Châteaux and Portes lès Valence. Districts partly covered by the geographical area: Buis les Baronnies, Chabeuil, Crest Nord, Dieulefit and Nyons.
The geographical area is defined on the basis of the historical and current areas of garlic cultivation, established using general agricultural census data and climate data indicating geographical areas whose combined daily temperatures reach 1 000 °C more than 8 times out of 10 between 1 November and 15 April, guaranteeing that the garlic reaches optimum maturity and quality. The following stages in the cultivation process must be carried out in the geographical area of the IGP: seed production, growing, harvesting, drying, scrubbing and sorting of the garlic.
Proof of origin:
Land parcels in the geographical area of the IGP are identified by means of an inventory. The origin of certified seeds is guaranteed by invoices and ‘Service Officiel de Contrôle’ (Official Inspection Authority) labels. Cultivation operations, from planting to drying, are recorded on the crop information sheet. Using the computerised traceability system, it is possible to trace the packaged product offered to consumers back to the parcel from which it originated. Each lot is identified using the information on the crop information sheet (name of producer, parcel, year), making it possible to identify the origin of the product.
Method of production:
Parcels used for cultivation of the garlic must be located in the defined geographical area. The soil should be slightly stony and clayey (this is important for ensuring a good keeping quality), containing at least 10 % clay (this is checked by analysing the soil in which the crop is planted). Two local historical varieties of white garlic are used: ‘Messidrôme’ and ‘Thermidrôme’. However, there is a protocol on introducing new varieties, covering productivity, size, colour, bulb shape, number of layers of outer skin, keeping quality and adaptation to local soil and climate conditions. Varieties must belong to the ‘variety group III’, as defined in the botanical classification of former INRA researcher CM Messiaen, and correspond to the defined organoleptic profile. The authorised varieties all originate from seeds certified by the Service Officiel de Contrôle and produced in the geographical area of the IGP. The minimum density of seedlings is 900 kg/ha.
In order to interrupt the cycle of certain garlic diseases and parasites, previous cropping of the following crops is prohibited: maize, onion, shallot, leek. The rotation applied is for a maximum of two garlic crops every five years. Basic dressing and nitrogenous fertilizing are rationed according to the needs of the crop. Pre-emergence weeding is recommended. Subsequent post-emergence weeding is permitted if weeds have appeared, at the following triggering thresholds:
— dicotyledons: from 10 seedlings at the two-leaf stage per m2
— grasses: seedlings 10 cm or higher
Treatments are applied according to the level of pest and disease pressure, on the basis of the observations of producers and/or local technical services. Spraying against rust is compulsory and employed as a preventive measure. The use of germination inhibitors on crops is prohibited. Any plant-health treatments used must have a Marketing Authorisation and the authorised doses must be respected. Irrigation must be rationed and used as a back-up rather than systematically, and should be employed at the bulbing stage. The harvesting of the garlic may be carried out by hand or mechanically. If the latter method is used, the height of fall is limited to a maximum 50 cm. Harvesting begins following measurement of the bulb weight/leaf weight ratio or observation of the drying of the leaves, depending on the climate conditions.
The drying stage should begin within 24 hours of picking, and should take the form either of natural drying or forced ventilation. The drying of garlic that has had its root removed and which has been harvested mechanically must be carried out via forced ventilation. Garlic harvested by hand may be dried either naturally or by forced ventilation. Drying must be carried out within the area of the IGP. The garlic should be dried for a minimum 21 days after picking for dried garlic and for a minimum of the first three days after picking for semi-dried garlic.
The garlic is scrubbed, sorted and blanched. The roots are cut off flush with the bulb; this does not apply for garlic intended for sale in bunches. For garlic sold loose, the stalks are cut. For garlic sold in bunches, the stalks are cut to equal length.
— Garlic cultivation, which is most often traditional in nature, is passed on from generation to generation. Garlic has been known to be produced in the department of Drôme for a long time, as evidenced by the reference made to it in 1600 in the book ‘Le Théâtre d'Agriculture et Mesnage des Champs’ (The Theatre of Agriculture and the Tending of the Fields) by Olivier de Serres. In 1793, garlic could be found for sale at the market in Valence.
— Since the 1960s, researchers at INRA (the National Institute for Agricultural Research) have been studying garlic. Using artificial selection, they produced two clones of the ‘Blanc de la Drôme’ population, known as ‘Messidrôme’ and ‘Thermidrôme’.
— The cultivation of garlic in the department of Drôme has developed on the basis of these new varieties obtained by INRA, generating a significant source of income for many medium-sized farms.
— It is worth noting that currently more than 85 % of seeds certified by the Service Officiel de Contrôle sold in France originate from the Drôme production area.
— Starting in the 1980s, producers of edible garlic in the department of Drôme began to be more organised: in 1981, the ‘Association des producteurs d'Ail Drômois’ (Association of Drôme garlic producers) was established; in 1986, the first edition of the ‘Sauzet Garlic Fair’ was held; in 1993, the ‘National Inter-professional Garlic Association’ (ANIAIL) was established (at the initiative of Drôme garlic producers) to represent the interests of the garlic sector with the public authorities; in 1994, an Integrated Agricultural Development Programme (IADP) was signed; in 1996, the ‘Confrérie de l'Ail de la Drôme’ (Drôme Garlic Producers Guild) was established.
— As a result of studies on the physiology and development of garlic and the collating of meteorological data for the department, a zoning of conditions favourable to the cultivation of garlic has been drawn up. The sunny and windy climate of the area of the PGI is highly favourable to production, being particularly conducive to the drying of garlic. Soil type does not limit the cultivation of garlic, which adapts well to the different soil types found in the area of the IGP. In fact, the soil and climate conditions as a whole in the area contribute to the production of garlic of a high quality. ‘Ail de la Drôme’ requires very little cleaning, thanks to the favourable climate conditions in the area of the IGP, which promotes peeling. Producers' expertise is particularly felt in determining the optimum date for harvest and in the drying process.
— The Association of Drôme Garlic Producers is seeking to develop the production of ‘Ail de la Drôme’, based on a rich tradition of garlic cultivation, a strong reputation in Southeastern France, well-adapted land, and a local producers' organisation keen to see the tradition passed on to future generations.
Reference: The European Commission