University of Vermont Extension
Department of Plant and Soil Science
Leonard Perry, Extension Professor
University of Vermont
you already grow garlic, you likely just know it from the cloves found
grocery stores, containers there of crushed garlic, or perhaps braids
at farm stands. Even if you grow garlic
already, you may not realize there are 11 types with various named
of each. These vary more than you might
think in flavor. The different types are
each best suited to growing in particular climates. All the types
though are suited for the most
common use of cooking, as well as the medicinal and other uses you may
(Allium sativum) is commonly divided
into two main varieties or subspecies, the hardneck (ophioscorodon)
and softneck (sativum). These are based on the fact that
develop a stiff stalk from the cloves in the ground, topped by mini
cloves called "bulbils". This
process is often called "bolting".
Since garlic varieties are actually sterile clones, they develop these
bulbs instead of flowers. Softneck types
generally don't produce this "flower" stalk. Sometimes these
designations don't hold in
reality, the stalks developing or not with different seasons, climates,
cultivars (cultivated varieties).
hardneck garlics were the original selections that evolved from wild
garlic. Compared to the softneck types, they often
have fewer but larger cloves, are more colorful, and come in a wide
flavors. They grow well in northern
climates, so are often the types seen. Even
though they produce a stalk, this should be removed so all the plant
goes back into producing the cloves. Cut or snap off when sunny
so the wound will
heal quickly. You can
cut up and use the stalk, if harvested when young and
tender, for cooking.
the other hand, the softneck types were selected originally from the
hardnecks. They are sometimes known as
"braiding" garlic, since these are the ones easily tied into
braids. They have smaller cloves than
the hardnecks, and produce up to twice as many per plant. Cloves
often have a spicy flavor, and may be
hard to peel. Since they mature faster
than hardnecks, are adaptable to many climates, and don't have flower
remove, they are the preferred types grown commercially and that you
see in grocery stores.
are 11 general groupings, or "types", among the hardneck and softneck,
which in turn have their own specific selections or "cultivars".
For the hardneck types you may see Asiatic,
Creole, Glazed Purple Stripe, Marbled Purple Stripe, Middle Eastern,
Purple Stripe, Rocambole, and Turban.
The Asiatic, Creole, and Turban are weakly bolting. For the
Softneck types you may see Artichoke
and Silverskin cultivars.
softneck cultivars such as 'California Early' and 'Red Toch' are the
seen in stores. They are ready to
harvest earlier in the season, and adapt to many growing conditions and
types. Cloves tend to be large with a
hardneck cultivars such as 'Asian Tempest' and 'Pyongyang' (this and
some other cultivars
originally came from Korea)
have good flavor and store well. They
may be recognized by their "flower" that resembles a long, dark and
wrinkled bean pod. The aerial cloves
within it actually can grow new plants when planted. This
hardneck doesn't need the stalk removed
order to produce new cloves.
hardneck cultivars such as 'Creole Red' and 'Burgundy' are, as their
name might suggest,
better suited to warm climates. Cloves are a moderate size, have good
store well, and often are beautiful shades of reds and purples.
Purple Stripe hardneck cultivars such as 'Vekak' and 'Red Rezan' mostly
us from Eastern Europe and Russia. The few, squat cloves are
well-named having a
metallic appearance, purple streaked silver.
Flavors may not be as strong as in other types.
Purple Stripe hardneck cultivars such as 'Metechi' and 'Siberian' too
originally mostly from Eastern Europe and Russia. They
tend to adapt both to northern and southern conditions, the few and
cloves being marbled with purple. They
store well, cloves peel easily, and they have a strong flavor.
Eastern hardneck cultivars such as 'Jomah' and 'Syrian' come from the
Eastern countries, and are not commonly found as they are best suited
climates rather than North America.
hardneck cultivars such as 'German White' and 'Polish Hardneck', on the
hand, are commonly seen across the northern latitudes. Cloves
tend to be hot and pungent when eaten
raw, starchy after baking. The skins are
thick and tightly cover the few, large cloves.
Outer skin layers are white, with some purple stripes on inner
layers. They store well.
Stripe hardneck cultivars such as 'Shatili' and 'Shvelisi' or 'Chesnok
come, as the names indicate, from the Caucasus
area and the Republic of Georgia. They can be vividly purple
striped, or more
silvery, depending on the weather.
Cloves often have a rich, not too strong, flavor and they store
relatively well. They were the ancestors
of other garlic types.
hardneck cultivars such as 'Russian Red' and 'Spanish Roja' are some of
most popular and flavorful garlics for home
growing. Cloves have rich, sweet, and
complex flavors and tend to be brownish.
The stalks or scapes are unique in forming a double loop on top.
Unfortunately, this type of garlic stores
well for only a short time.
softneck cultivars such as 'Idaho Silver' and 'Silver White' are the
usually see braided, having a pliable stem. They are
the longest storing cultivars usually, and often fairly strong.
Cloves tend to be white, small, teardrop
shaped, and often are late to sprout.
hardneck cultivars such as 'Chinese Purple' and 'Shandong' come from a
variety of areas, from
Eastern Europe to the Far East to Mexico. They are not as common
as some other types,
have brownish to purplish cloves, and often sprout early and store
poorly. The capsule on the top of the stalk is shaped
like a turban, hence the name. Cloves
tend to taste hot when raw, mild when cooked, and some call them the
"summer apple" of the garlic world.
for some of these varieties at local farm stands and farmers
markets. Check local garden stores for some of the
better cultivars for your area and try growing some
yourself. Garlic is about a 9-month crop, planting
cloves in the north in October for harvesting mid-summer the following