Types of Garlic: Choosing The Best Garlic to Grow

Did you know there are many different types of garlic? While it may seem like your choices at the grocery store to buy garlic are only limited to a few varieties and brands, there actually are quite a lot of different garlic types to choose from when you are growing garlic in your garden.

If you’re curious like I was about the different kinds of garlic you can grow in your garden, hopefully, this will be helpful for you and you will find the perfect garlic for your garden!

types of garlic to grow in the garden

The Main Types of Garlic: Softneck Vs. Hardneck

The first thing to be aware of about the different types of garlic varieties is there are two main types of garlic. These two types of garlic are softneck garlic (Allium sativum) and hardneck garlic (Allium ampeloprasum).

It is very helpful to understand these two different types because it may influence which type of garlic you wish to grow in your herb and vegetable garden! Of course, yes, you can always choose to grow both varieties if you’d like! {And you should if you like a lot of cooking recipes that call for garlic!}

Softneck Garlic

softneck garlic type

Softneck Garlic is the type of garlic you will most commonly find at a grocery store. A softneck garlic bulb will typically produce anywhere from 8-30 cloves per bulb, which is why it is a popular choice amongst many.

It is suitable for nearly any type of cooking, and due to having a milder garlic flavor than its hardneck relative, many people even enjoy eating softneck garlic raw! This type of garlic stores well and typically will last longer than hardneck garlic before it starts sprouting on you.

Softneck garlic can easily be grown in most environments as long as the necessary growing conditions are met either naturally outdoors or indoors. There are two main classifications of softneck garlic: silverskin and artichoke.

One thing you will notice different between Softneck garlic and Hardneck garlic is that softneck garlic does not have a “skape” or “stem” that protrudes out of the bulb – only leaves.

Here are some of the common varieties of softneck garlic:

Finding these varieties of garlic specifically can sometimes be a challenge, but most garden bulb and vegetable gardening supply shops should have a decent variety to choose from.

Keep in mind also that some bulb companies and individual growers may have their own names for the garlic bulbs they may offer! This can add to the confusion if you are looking for a specific softneck variety of garlic to grow in your garden!

Hardneck Garlic

hardneck garlic types

Hardneck Garlic is more commonly grown in northern areas with very cold and long winters. This variety requires the long northern winter dormancy period. Hardneck garlic often has a rosy blush color to the cloves and is a bit more spicier and heartier than the softneck garlic varieties.

A typical hardneck garlic bulb will average about 4-12 cloves per bulb. Hardneck garlic varieties tend to be stronger in flavor – so if you’re the type of person who thinks the typical store-bought softneck garlic is never strong enough, hardneck garlic is the one you want!

Unlike softneck garlic, the hardneck garlic plant will have a very thick stem in the middle and eventually produce flowers. The stems, more commonly known as scapes, will turn stiff, almost wood-like, which is why this plant gets its name of “hardneck” in the first place!

Many gardeners will cut off the skapes before they turn into flowers and stiffen like wood – these can be eaten and enjoyed quite a bit in many different recipes as well, and can often be used the same way you would use and enjoy green onions.

Here are some popular hardneck garlic varieties:

  • Chesnok Red
  • German White
  • Killarney Red
  • Persian Star
  • Polish Hardneck
  • Porcelain
  • Purple Striped
  • Rocambole
  • Russian Red
  • Siberian Hardneck

Again, some of these may be easier to find than others, depending on where you live and the availability! Rocambole is typically the most common variety of hardneck garlic.

It’s also important to note that for both softneck and hardkeck garlic types, many plant growers and bulb companies often have their own special names they have for the variety of bulbs they offer. This can certainly add to the confusion!

What About Elephant Garlic?

No article about the different types of garlic would be complete without mentioning elephant garlic. Elephant garlic is the GINORMOUS cousin of all other garlic, well known for its large bulbs and mild flavor. However, you may be surprised that elephant garlic is technically not garlic at all!

elephant garlic
It may be huge and tasty and look like garlic – but you may be surprised elephant garlic is not actually garlic at all!

Elephant garlic is actually a member of the leek family, related more closely to onions than garlic. While they are all considered to fall under the Allium genus, elephant garlic is technically a whole different type of plant!

Still, elephant garlic is definitely worth mentioning because it IS delicious for cooking! Elephant garlic has a much milder flavor than most garlic varieties, so is a good choice for those who may not always enjoy or tolerate garlic well.

Due to its large size, elephant garlic generally will produce only about 4-6 cloves per bulb. The plus side of this? One clove will go a VERY long way!

Want to Ferment Your Garlic? Yes, There is Such a Thing as Black Garlic!

While researching all the different varieties of hardneck and softneck garlic, I stumbled across a few things of interest – one of these being black garlic!

I had never seen or heard of black garlic before, so naturally I was curious to learn more!

Black garlic is created by using any type of garlic you like – and then fermenting it over a period of time until the garlic has a fig-like texture and turns black in color.

black garlic
Black garlic is created by fermenting the garlic over a period of time to make it fig-like in texture

While I have never tried to ferment garlic yet, I’m sure this is something that will soon be on the to-try list soon!

And if you’re up for understanding the science behind how and why garlic turns black while fermenting and what chemical reactions occur to create its own unique flavor – then read up on the Maillard Reaction – super interesting stuff!

Which Type of Garlic Should I Grow?

You may be wondering now that we know about the different types of garlic which ones would be the best for you to grow in your garden. While it depends largely on personal preference and your climate for growing, most varieties of garlic are easy enough to grow that you can try many different types in your garden if you’d like!

The main thing to keep in mind is your climate and growing season – hardneck garlic varieties do require cold winters to do well, so if you are in a warmer climate you may be better off choosing the softneck garlic varieties.

You should also take into account how much garlic you use in any given season. If you plant a hardneck garlic which does not keep as long as softneck garlic and it starts sprouting before you can eat it, you may need to freeze it so it does not go to waste.

Of course, you can always choose to grow both types of garlic! If you love cooking with garlic, there’s no such thing as too much fresh garlic growing in your garden!

I hope you enjoy learning about the different types of garlic and that this will be helpful for you in deciding which varieties of garlic will work best for growing in your garden this upcoming season!

Have any questions on the different types of garlic or a favorite garlic variety you recommend? Comments are always welcomed in the comment section below!

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