Types of Garlic
There’s a garlic variety for every climate and taste
When it comes to garlic, it’s all about the neck: hardnecks or softnecks. Hardnecks are the original garlic, which have a central flowering stalk that stiffens when it’s mature; softnecks don’t. Within these two groups are hundreds of garlic cultivars worldwide.
We’re spotlighting just a handful of garlic types that you might want to seek out for your garden.
Hardneck are extremely cold hardy, but they can be grown here. They don’t store as well as softnecks, so tend not to be grown as much for commercial use. However, they’re a gardener’s and cook’s delight.
Hardnecks send up delicious, curly scapes (flower stalks) that must be harvested regularly to produce larger bulbs. (The scapes are also great to cook with.) Purple Stripe, Rocambole and Porcelain are the three main hardneck varieties.
This violet-hued garlic is mild flavored. Chesnok Red is a variety that cooks favor for baking.
A spicy garlic with a reddish-brown skin. The Spanish Roja variety’s spiciness has a sweetness to it. This garlic variety is on the Slow Food USA’s Ark of Taste, which endeavors to bring awareness to “distinctive foods facing extinction” in order to revitalize them.
With a white thin skin, this garlic has a musky flavor. The Music variety is medium- hot and has a classic garlic taste.
Softneck varieties are the most widely grown and do well in places with moderate winters (like Ventura County). People popularly braid the soft stalks and put them on display as a decorative way to store the garlic. Silverskin and Artichoke are the two softneck variety groups.
This is the garlic you’re used to seeing in the grocery store because it’s ideal for storage, shipping and mechanical cultivation. It’s easy to grow and harvest, so is a good choice for novice gardeners. Of the Silverskin varieties, California Early has a mild flavor and California Late has a stronger flavor.
Produces larger cloves with a milder flavor. Described as tasting “softly robust,” Inchelium Red is the popular artichoke garlic variety grown by local organic farmers Max Becher of First Steps Farm in Ojai and Joy Joyce of Apricot Lane Farms in Moorpark. Because it’s cured after harvesting, it stores well for months, says Becher. When stored, the flavor does get stronger. This garlic variety is also on Slow Food USA’s Ark of Taste.
Before embarking on a gourmet garlic expedition, remember each variety yields experiences as unique as its name.