Garlic Varieties — 10 Popular Types

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Garlic is one of the easiest plants to grow and, when cultivated properly, can yield returns for year after year. However, there are many different varieties available, and it can sometimes be confusing to figure out which one will suit not only your garden but your palate the best. Learning about the different varieties, including their ideal growing zones and what they taste like, can help you choose the perfect plant for you.

Softneck, Hardneck, and Elephant Subcategories

There are two main subcategories: hardneck and softneck garlics. Hardnecks sports a woody stem that grows from the middle of the bulb. They produce large, mild, but complex-tasting cloves that are easy to peel. However, hardnecks are harder to store and can sometimes be more challenging to find.

Softnecks, on the other hand, are quite common and can be stored for several months. These plants are hardy, but they produce smaller bulbs that contain between about four and eight cloves each.

Some people also consider elephant garlic when choosing varieties. However, it is not a true garlic but is instead a member of the onion family. It has a very mild flavor, closer to that of a leek. This allium plant grows large bulbs, but each bulb only contains between three and four cloves.

Growing Tips

Each type of garlic grows best under a particular set of circumstances, and it’s always important to research the variety you’ve chosen to provide an ideal growing experience. However, hardnecks and softnecks do each have a few general planting and growing rules.

When it comes to hardiness zones, hardneck types grow best in zones seven or lower. Zones eight and up are best for softneck varieties. Softnecks can be planted in either the spring or fall. If they are planted in the spring, they can be harvested about three months later. Otherwise, they will grow throughout the winter, resulting in larger, more plentiful cloves and bulbs the following year.

Hardnecks should generally be planted in the fall. The plant will go dormant during winter and can be harvested in the fall of the next year. They will also produce scapes just before harvesting time. These tendrils can either be harvested and eaten or left to produce bulbils containing seeds.

Both hardneck and softneck types should be planted in well-draining soil and should receive about an inch and a half of water per week. Because they’re so small, these plants can be planted outdoors or inside in pots. However, garlic grows best when it’s given between six and ten hours of full sun each day, so place the plants somewhere that’s exposed to the light.

Garlic should also be fertilized every three weeks or so with a fertilizer that’s high in nitrogen.

Garlic Types

Artichoke

Number of Cloves: Up to 25

Appearance: White or off-white with a flattened bulb

Flavor Profile: Mild and fresh

Varieties: California Early, Red Toch, Italian Purple, Italian Late, Galiano, Applegate

Artichoke garlic is perhaps the most popular softneck variety because it’s relatively easy to grow. It’s very adaptable and will tolerate a wide range of soil conditions. It’s also very easy to store and will last for between eight and ten months. They also produce many cloves. However, these cloves can be hard to peel.

These cloves have a thick outer peel that is generally white or off-white but may also have faint purple markings.

Silverskin

Number of Cloves: 12 to 40

Appearance: Papery silver-white bulbs with irregular shapes

Flavor Profile: Rich and ranging from mild to hot

Varieties: Kettle River Giant, Polish White, Idaho Silver, Chet’s Italian Red

Silverskin softnecks also tend to be versatile and adaptable when it comes to growing conditions. They produce many cloves, sometimes up to 40 per bulb. However, somewhere around 20 cloves is more common. The cloves are irregularly shaped, giving the teardrop-shaped bulbs a bumpy outer appearance.

The peels of silverskin are, as the name suggests, a silvery-white color and have a papery texture. The cloves can be hard to peel, but their thick skins mean that they can be stored for up to a year.

Rocambole

Number of Cloves: Eight to 12

Appearance: Off-white skins with purple stripes or spots

Flavor Profile: Earthy, spicy, and rich

Varieties: Russian Red, Phillips, German Mountain

The most common hardneck variety is rocambole. It has an incredibly rich, complex flavor, and the large cloves are easy to peel. Unfortunately, the loose peels also mean that rocambole does not store well and can only be kept for about five months.

Rocambole garlic usually produces between eight and 12 cloves per bulb, and the cloves and bulbs have a red or tan cast to them. The scapes of this variety curl over twice, giving the plant an unusual appearance. This particular plant thrives in colder climates and requires a cold winter freeze in order to grow successfully.

Turban

Number of Cloves: Six to 14

Appearance: Round white bulbs with purple tones

Flavor Profile: Vegetal and earthy, ranging from mild to spicy

Varieties: Tzan, Shantung, Chinese Purple

Turban garlic varieties are unique in that they don’t have a strong flavor. Instead, they have a more earthy, vegetable-like taste that works well in a variety of dishes. The cloves themselves are even in size and have a slight tan color. The bulbs have an almost smooth texture and are somewhat flattened.

Unfortunately, this hardneck doesn’t store as well as other types and should be either used quickly or dried and ground into a powder.

Porcelain

Number of Cloves: Two to six

Appearance: Off-white with pale purple markings

Flavor Profile: Spicy, sweet, and floral or vegetal

Varieties: Georgian Crystal, Polish Hardneck, Romanian Red, German White

Porcelain garlic is often popular with gardeners and chefs because, unlike many other hardneck varieties, it can be stored for up to eight months. The flavor can be quite spicy but often has sweet, floral, or vegetal undertones.

They usually produces large, rounded cloves. The bulb has a thick peel that’s generally off-white and may have purple or silvery markings.

Marbled Purple Stripe

Number of Cloves: Four to eight

Appearance: Off-white with bright purple or red markings

Flavor Profile: Rich, complex, and mild

Varieties: Bogatyr, Siberian, Metechi

This beautiful garlic is prized because of its strong flavor and mild spice. The bulbs are large and round and will last for six or seven months when stored properly. The cloves themselves are as colorful as their outer peels and range from cream to red to purple.

These hardnecks are is easy to grow and will generally adapt well to a range of soil and weather conditions.

Purple Stripe

Number of Cloves: Eight to 16

Appearance: Bright purple bulbs with tan or brown cloves

Flavor Profile: Sweet and mild

Varieties: Shatili, Chesnock Red

Often used in baking or sweeter dishes, this hardneck variety produces thin red or brown cloves. The bulbs, which are a deep purple color, also store well and can be kept for nearly a year. The plants are easy to grow and can adapt well to different fertilizer, water, and soil conditions.

Glazed Purple Stripe

Number of Cloves: Six to 12

Appearance: White with pale purple stripes

Flavor Profile: Mild

Varieties: Red Rezan, Vekak

Glazed purple stripe varieties have a mild flavor, similar to that of the purple stripe garlic. However, these cloves have a truly glazed appearance, which makes them sparkle once they’ve been peeled.

The medium-sized bulbs of this hardneck are even in shape and contain between about six and 12 cloves. They can be stored for around six months.

Asiatic

Number of Cloves: Four to eight

Appearance: Dark purple cloves in white or pale purple skin

Flavor Profile: Sweet to spicy

Varieties: Asian Tempest, Pyongyang

These hardneck varieties come from, as the name suggests, areas mostly in Korea, and they are often used in Korean dishes. Depending on the type, the cloves’ flavor can range from sweet to quite spicy and garlicky.

Asiatic garlic stores relatively well and can be kept for about six months. Some farmers have that store it under perfect conditions can store it for even longer.

Creole

Number of Cloves: Eight to 12

Appearance: White bulbs with faint purple stripes

Flavor Profile: Sweet and nutty

Varieties: Creole Red, Burgundy

These tall hardneck plants are often favored by gardeners living in warmer climates, as they do not tolerate the cold well. The bulbs are medium in size and produce about a dozen cloves, which are often dark purple or tan.

Creole garlic has a complex flavor that starts spicy but fades to nutty and sweet. This makes it popular in various dishes, including, as the name suggests, cuisine from the southern part of the United States. The earthy flavor also blends well with other vegetables.

Growing garlic is relatively simple, but selecting which variety to grow can be challenging. However, once you’ve gotten to know the different types, you can choose a few that suit your taste and climate. Filling your garden with sweet, spicy, or earthy varieties can make cooking anything more interesting and more fun.

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About the author: Carley Miller is a horticultural expert at TheGreenPinky. She previously owned a landscaping business for 25 years and worked at a local garden center for 10 years.

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Temeka

Great article on common garlic varieties. Any rare garlic varieties that you recommend?

Has anyone heard of Creole Red before?

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