MONTREAL — Demand for fresh garlic and ginger in Quebec and Ontario is so hot that sales have increased 200% in the past year at Montreal broker CDS, one of Canada’s leading garlic importers.

"With people becoming more health-conscious and going to ethnic restaurants, they’re learning they can add a great flavor twist to their food with garlic and ginger instead of salt and pepper," director of purchasing Alvaro Godinho said.

Growers in Ecuador are now growing the pungent bulbs and rhizomes exclusively for CDS, which will give the company a year-round supply in 2012, Godinho said.

CDS also is working with Indian growers to complement imports from Spain, Mexico, China and other Asian countries.

In the local deal, this summer’s Quebec garlic crop was fairly good this year, he said, but Ontario crops suffered from wind and rain.

"Garlic still isn’t grown massively in Quebec," he said. "We’d like to see more of it across Canada."

Godinho said he’s constantly looking for new sources of ginger and garlic.

"There’s always somebody growing it in a new place," he said. "People are starting to look for new origins and better quality, providing the price is right."

The demand for peeled, ready-to-use garlic, in formats from an 8-ounce to a 20-pound bag, also is soaring, he said, up 60% in the past year.

Prices, meanwhile, have stabilized after last year’s wild ride.

"There was a point when garlic prices would triple or quadruple overnight," he said. "But it’s like gas — no matter how expensive it gets, we need it."