A WEST Dorset farmer hopes a new event will cause a big stink – the first annual World Garlic Eating Competition.
Mark Botwright, who owns South West Garlic Farm in Bridport, switched from sheep farming to garlic growing after first receiving some bulbs as a present 15 years ago.
Now he is staging his first world championships at his local pub, the George Inn at Chideock in September.
Mark, who is married to Wendy with children Jack, 16, and Rosey (CORRECT), 13, said: “We’re looking for people locally, nationally, and globally to step forward and take up the challenge.”
Mark, 49, added: “Apparently, the record is 34 cloves in a minute.
“But we don’t think a minute is long enough so we’re giving contestants five minutes.
“As they eat one clove, they’re peeling the next one.
“I’ll be surprised if they eat more than 50 to 60 cloves in five minutes. Raw garlic has a super-intense peppery heat, so it’s a big challenge to eat that many raw cloves.”
Mark’s life took the twist 15 years ago, when he was given garlic bulbs to grow in the family garden by wife Wendy.
Now, for this season, they have planted 300,000 bulbs at their farm – enough to supply the whole of the south west.
Mark said: “We had 600 sheep on our farm in Hazelbury Bryan in north Dorset and were really struggling to make any money.
“Then Wendy gave me some garlic to grow for fun in the garden.”
He said that when they sold the farm and moved to Bridport about nine years ago, they took 2,000 bulbs with them before starting marketing their garlic just two and a half years ago.
“That grew to 5,000, then 30,000, then 75,000 and now 300,000.”
He added: “Most people thought I was crazy.
“A lot of farmers wouldn’t consider making a major change because it is an upheaval and can be very costly.
“Machinery for planting and harvesting garlic is produced in France and is incredibly expensive, so I just adapted machinery – such as the cabbage planter.”
Much of the garlic grown at Mark’s farm goes to restaurants.
Mark said that Britain’s change in eating habits in recent years is behind the boom.
They now have a 13-acre site where the garlic is grown and they dry and prepare the garlic in readiness for sale in polytunnels in their garden.
A further 25 acres is lined up for use this autumn, and they hope to move it all to a new site towards Exeter within two years.
The farm grows a number of garlic varieties with a range of strength.
WACKY GAMES THE World Garlic Eating Competition will bolster the pantheon of wacky games already held in Dorset.
The world nettle eating contest is held at the Bottle Inn at Marshwood every year.
Lyme Regis is also leading the way with outlandish events. This year the resort held its Lyme Lympics on the beach, including such madcap games as mermaid races, a waiters’ dash, motorised fossils mobility scooter race, toss the caber and tug of war.
The town also held its own Great Christmas Pudding race.
Weymouth also held its own Christmas Pudding and Santa race. In the past the town has also held swimming races across the harbour and bridman contests.