Meet the Professionals The Veg Plot

Dorset – the centre of the garlic world

Garlic cloves

This September, at a pub in Dorset, the first annual World Garlic Eating Competition takes place. We caught up with organisers Mark and Wendy Botwright to find out more about the event and its star ingredient.

We like garlic. But we couldn’t eat a whole one…

This September, garlic fans will be descending on a pub in Dorset attempting to eat a whole garlic and more besides. The tiny village of Chideock, near Bridport, is the unlikely venue for the first World Annual Garlic Eating Competition and Mark and Wendy Botwright of South West Garlic Farm are the event’s organisers. So, how did this very French sounding enterprise start up in England? “Dorset has the perfect climate for a garlic farm” explains Mark, “we started growing garlic as a hobby and increased the business as a way of diversifying on our sheep farm.”

Setting up the World Championships seemed a natural progression and the team hope to be greeting local and international competitors at the George Inn for the inaugural event. Mark, however, doesn’t fancy his own chances of success. “The highest number recorded is 34 cloves in a minute, my best is 7 in an afternoon, so don’t think I will win!”

He also doesn’t think a minute is long enough to be munching on garlic so is giving competitors a full five minutes to see how many raw cloves they can get through. Rules are strict with monitors making sure that all garlic is chewed before swallowing, with spitting resulting in instant disqualification.

If that sounds tough then at least competitors get to sample some of the best garlic available as all cloves will be supplied directly from some of the 300,000 bulbs grown on the Botwright’s farm. And seeing as we’re talking with the garlic experts we thought it only right that we tap them up for essential garlic growing information.

Firstly, we wanted to know the difference between soft- and hard-neck varieties. “Hard neck varieties keep longer and store better and produce scapes” says Mark “the soft neck variety doesn’t generally store as well and are usually grown in warmer climates.” Ah, scapes – the firm stems that shoot out in curves and loops bearing the flower head. We only discovered last year that these were not only edible but taste fantastic when pickled. Mark, however, likes to “steam them, chargrill them and roast them.”

He also has a more unusual garlic recipe on his website which should appeal to us, but we’re initially unconvinced – garlic vodka. Expressing our doubts he replies with enthusiasm “yes, it is fantastic! Everyone loves it and it is great for making a bloody Mary.”

Although we can’t get close to the size and quality of the experts’ bulbs we have found garlic remarkably easy to grow. However, one thing does puzzle us – occasionally we get bulbs that don’t split into cloves. We ask Mark if he has any idea why. “Yes, there is usually a 5% chance that they won’t. A big factor is that they are not planted deep enough, as is not having a frost to split the bulb.”

That’s the growing sorted but we do have one final, rather important question to ask: any tips for combating the problem of garlic breath? Mark’s instant reply is one you would expect from a true garlic enthusiast – “Make sure all your friends eat it as well!”

The World Garlic Eating Competition takes place on Saturday 14th of September 2013. To find out more visit

For more information on Mark and Wendy’s farm visit

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