Garlic Ice Cream: Love It or Hate It, You Simply Gotta Try It

For 39 years, the Gilroy Garlic Festival has attracted visitors from all over the globe for great garlicky food, live entertainment, exciting cooking competitions, and good old-fashioned family fun. Guests can choose from a variety of gourmet garlic dishes…from calamari and scampi to pasta con pesto and pepper steak sandwiches, and of course the ever-popular garlic fries and garlic bread.

But every year, the most popular item is one the Festival gives away for free: garlic ice cream.

Yes, you read that right. Ice cream—with garlic.

It’s certainly unique. You might call it an acquired taste. And we’re pretty sure you won’t find it anywhere but right here in Gilroy, California, the Garlic Capital of the World.

At every Gilroy Garlic Festival, the longest lines are inevitably found at the OLAM booth, where cheerful volunteers pass out free samples of the distinctive garlic-vanilla soft-serve cones. Word has spread, and everyone who comes to Festival knows they can’t leave without at least trying it.

Ever wondered who came up with the idea for garlic ice cream in the first place? It all started at Gilroy Foods (now OLAM). The processing plant on Highway 152 makes dried garlic products like garlic powder, garlic salt, and granulated garlic—which all contribute to the distinctive Gilroy garlic smell noticed by motorists passing through town.

Back in the day, the company also had a dairy division (at the time Foremost McKesson). Just for fun, some of the employees borrowed an ice cream machine from the Dairy R&D group and started experimenting with a garlic-vanilla ice cream formula. They decided to try serving it at the Gilroy Garlic Festival. 

The garlic ice cream was a hit from day one, and it has always been provided free of charge to help promote the company, the community, and the Garlic Festival. 

The recipe has evolved over the years. Today, OLAM uses 1 cup of California-grown granulated garlic to 9 cartons of ice cream milk. They blend well, then soft freeze, and serve on miniature ice cream cones. Every year OLAM gives away over 50,000 free cones, going through nearly 400 gallons of ice cream over the three days of the Festival.

Even if you can’t make it for the Gilroy Garlic Festival (held this year July 28-30), though, you can get garlic ice cream all year long—at Garlic World, the Garlic Shoppe (both located on Highway 101) or at Garlic City Café in historic downtown Gilroy.



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