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Don Christopher, Who Turned Lowly Garlic Right into a Staple, Dies at 88


Mr. Christopher and his friends thought they might draw a number of thousand people to the festival; as a substitute, greater than 15,000 got here. Inside a number of years it was attracting greater than 100,000 attendees, who noshed on garlic bread and sipped garlic wine, made with crops donated by Christopher Ranch. They watched “Iron Chef” contestants and Food Network stars cook up garlic-centric dishes and posed for photos with Herbie, the festival’s mascot.

The festival’s success, which earned Gilroy the nickname Garlic Capital of the World, reflected the boom in sales nationwide. From 1975 to 1994, America’s annual garlic production greater than tripled, to 493 million kilos from 140 million.

“We’ve made garlic fun,” Mr. Christopher told Linda and Fred Griffith for his or her 1998 book, “Garlic Garlic Garlic: Greater than 200 Exceptional Recipes for the World’s Most Indispensable Ingredient.” “You’ve got garlic festivals in all places. And all those health considerations. It’s all the time within the news.”

Donald Clair Christopher was born on Aug. 4, 1934, right into a family of farmers in San Jose, Calif. His paternal grandfather, Ole Christopher, was a Danish immigrant who settled south of the town to boost plums, which he dried into prunes. It was good, regular work, and Don’s father, Art, joined him. His mother, Clara Ann (Hansen) Christopher, was a homemaker.

Along along with his grandson Ken, Mr. Christopher is survived by his wife, Karen Christopher; his brother, Art; his sons, Robert and Bill; his stepchildren, Erica Trinchero, Suzie Cornia, Vince Rizzi and Kevin Rizzi; eight other grandchildren; and 4 great-grandchildren.

Don desired to be a farmer like his father, but he found prunes dull. And he wanted his own land, but the bottom around San Jose was already suburbanizing. After he studied business administration for a number of years at San Jose State University, he and his brother headed south, to Gilroy, where in 1956 they bought Christopher Ranch’s first acreage. They planted lima beans, sugar beets and, as an afterthought, 10 acres of garlic.

The person who sold them the land, Mr. Christopher later remembered, told him, “Young man, I’m glad someone is coming in who desires to be a farmer.”

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