With his established writing career a transatlantic transferable skill, European Journalist and entrepreneur Bart Nagel arrived in Canada with the freedom to pursue his passions— creating a sustainable country lifestyle for his family and turning his love for garlic into a thriving full time business.
Sales have grown rapidly; with booths at local farmers markets and events, to product placement in high-end retail shops. The big news in bulbils —after a full run at the Christmas 2017 One of A Kind Show in Toronto, which Bart Nagel described as “a major game changer, 11 days with our products, garlic braids and samples,” Bulbs of Fire returns to both the Spring and Christmas One of a Kind 2018 shows.
This startup literally hatched first with sales of their colourful eggs; the array of colours is outstanding and proved popular at farmers’ markets. Then the Nagel’s brought garlic butter made from selections they grew at their hobby farm to the booth, it “sold out quickly.” Bulbs of Fire grows heirloom garlic, with a penchant for hot, spicy varieties, hence the company name and tagline “Garlic that bites back.”
Bart Nagel is passionate about garlic, eager to educate the garlic novice. The farm showcases smoked garlic, which comes from a French culinary tradition, and black garlic, both are featured in the Bulbs of Fire farm repertoire condiment line. Bart Nagel feels many cooks are afraid of strong garlic flavours and consequently, they keep it “tame and lame”, describing the French “as moderate in their approach to cooking with garlic.” Whereas Nagel prefers to; “draw on the southern Mediterranean flavours, from Spain and Portugal to create a culinary adventure.”
Bart, with his wife and business partner Simone Nagel, both came to the table with business backgrounds. The huge spike of interest shown for their preserves moved them into “unfamiliar territory; we could make more and showcase this side or put it back in the corner, we utilized the opportunity, moving into wholesale on a large scale with packaging, nutritional labels, that’s when we found the Henry Bernick Centre last year. We pitched our stuff at a speed dating event for entrepreneurs at The Creative Space; we met Don Bourne and Barb Shopland.”
Production has increased substantially, as demand for their product grows. “This is good for foodies and it has Christmas indulgence written all over it.” The present biweekly number of 800-1000 jars will scale up further as they prepare for the One of a Kind Show.
Bulbs of Fire set their sights on conquering the urban upscale market. During a Business to Retailer networking session for agri-food businesses, co-hosted by the County of Simcoe and Grey County in the spring of 2017, they met with representatives from Sanagan’s Meat Locker—a Kenzington Market institution, who carry all four types, the full flavour range; Black Garlic Jam, Smoked Garlic and Red Pepper Jelly, Smoked Garlic Jelly and Smoked Garlic Mustard.
Bart Nagel shares that seasonality is a challenge in the Penetanguishene area; the lack of people willing to cook becoming less and less, but he proudly drops names of businesses and fine food markets close to home and in the GTA that carry the Bulbs of Fire brand: Ciboulette et Cie, Homestead Artisan Bakery, Nicholyn Farms, Country Produce, McEwan’s and Summerhill Market.
A full list of retailers is on their website, as is their product line for online sales. A One of a Kind Show webstore and Etsy site are launching soon.
With his Midland roots and Toronto connections, Chef Matt Dean Pettit is a friend and supporter of the Nagel’s. Wearing his proverbial chef’s hat, Pettit was the guest chef at the 2017 Bulbs of Fire’s 4th annual garlic dinner. Pettit is known for his signature sustainable seafood and fish, but Bart Nagel assured me “Dueling Garlic Bruschetta Crostini’s would be on the menu.” This menu item provided the perfect opportunity for guests to experience firsthand the difference in garlic heat levels.
For garlic lovers and home cooks—Bulbs of Fire will be releasing a cookbook featuring recipes from their annual garlic dinners, plus chapters on “health benefits, garlic tools, different ways of prepping garlic and more. It captures Bart’s passion for garlic “which literally sprouted in the kitchen.”
Bulbs of Fire, one hot product!
Article Written by Penelope Morrow