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What Ails You

photos by Jill Greenberg

Tom Szulist of Singer Farm espouses the curative powers of fresh, organic garlic

Tom Szulist is contributing to making the world a better place in both large and small ways. From Singer Farm Natural’s solar panels to their garlic talks, Szulist and Singer Farm are practicing sustainable agriculture and educating others how to plant for themselves.

The health benefits of garlic, Szulist says, are greatest when it’s eaten raw—as in his recipe for ciabatta with raw garlic, melted butter, and Parmesan cheese.

However, Szulist’s occupation wasn’t always such a benefit to the environment: For nearly 30 years he worked as a stockbroker. Feeling that his career was “predicated on greed,” Szulist looked elsewhere for a more fulfilling line of work. Luckily, when he met his wife Vivianne Singer six years ago, he discovered that her family owned a 500-acre fruit farm. Szulist always had a passion for growing garlic and became involved with the farm without hesitation. Tom and Vivianne created Singer Farm Naturals, which is a retail outlet for Singer Farm’s fresh produce, as well as products such as dried cherries (the chocolate-covered dried cherries are beyond delicious) and cherry concentrate (try it with Greek yogurt). Singer Farm Naturals makes a statement about their commitment to the environment, from Szulist’s garlic planting and preparing demonstrations to the 1840s farmhouse shop that the Szulists have kept alive and renovated. (It won the 2011 SIPA Building Excellence Award.) Everything is organic; even the farmhouse is insulated with hay bale.

What Tom Szulist has to say about garlic may surprise you. He recommends that when cooking with garlic, it should be added as a fresh, uncooked garnish. Even when creating a dish such as baked garlic, Szulist encourages those attending his garlic talk to incorporate minced garlic that is fresh. Szulist wants you to ask yourself, “How can I use fresh garlic to complement what I’m already baking?”

Cooked garlic does have some health benefits but the full effect comes from fresh garlic, which contains a chemical called allicin. The transformation of garlic when it is cooked can be seen: It changes from translucent and live to white and stabilized, which means the allicin is no longer present. In every clove of garlic there is a chemical called alliin. When the garlic is minced, crushed, or sliced very thinly the alliin combines with the enzyme alliinase, creating allicin. Allicin contains all the flavors, aromas, and health benefits. Allicin is only half as potent three hours after it’s formation. When consumed during its full effect, allicin works like an antibiotic that rids you of viruses and other damaging organisms.

During Szulist’s garlic talk, he selects a handful of types of garlic from the nearly 60 varieties that Singer Farm grows. Szulist prepares samples by toasting ciabatta bread, covering the bread in fresh garlic using a German garlic slicer that Singer Farm Naturals sells (it’s made by Leifheit), sprinkling fresh Parmesan cheese, and drizzling melted butter on top. The different taste of each type of garlic really emerges when eaten fresh and Szulist describes the flavors. Experience these samples and learn how to plant garlic at Szulist’s garlic talk, held every Sunday at Singer Farm Naturals during October. Szulist will also be at Artisan Kitchen & Bath (200 Amherst Street) on October 11, presenting a garlic talk sponsored by the Lexington Co-operative Market ($10/$8 for co-op owners; e-mail to sign up).

Singer Farm Naturals is located at 6730 Lake Road in Appleton, in Niagara County, on the shores of Lake Ontario. Get more information at

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