Hardneck Garlic – (Allium sativum ophioscorodon)
Harneck garlic is one of two categories of garlic (the other is softneck) and is recommended for northern climates due to its need for a long dormant period, which ensures hardy bulbs and better flavor. The bulbs of hardneck garlic generally produce 4-12 cloves in beautiful, rosy hues. Hardneck garlic’s flavor ranges from potent to complex. The bulbs produce long, green stalks known as scapes during the spring and the scapes, which should be removed to promote vigorous bulb growth. Garlic scapes can be used in cooking and are perfect for game meat, vinaigrette and intense infused oils.
Each garlic category has separate varieties. The varieties of hardnecks are Purple Stripe (Marbled and Glazed Purple Strip), Porcelain and Rocambole.
Purple Stripe (Recommended types)
Persian Star- known for their beautiful white paper skins and purple tipped cloves (8-10). The cloves are mild with a gentle spicy flavor.
Chesnok Red -the cloves are sweet when roasted, mellow but full garlic flavor. The skins are white and thin with purplish undertones. The bulbs generate 8-10 cloves.
Marbled Purple Stripe
Central/Northern Siberian – the bulbs (white-skinned with pink to purple undertones) produce 5-9 cloves. Perfect when roasted, the cloves are creamy with mild garlic flavor. If eaten raw, the cloves are very spicy.
Metechi – the bulbs (white, thin wrappers with a purple undertones), produce 5-7 cloves. The cloves are very spicy. This type stores well.
Glazed Purple Stripe
Purple Glazer – the bulbs have paper-thin skins with purple undertones featuring with tan to silver streaks. The bulbs can produce 8-10 cloves. The sweet cloves are good for eating raw or the entire bulb can be roasted. The skins are easy to peel and the bulbs store well.
Vekak – The bulbs can generate 10-12 cloves and the wrappers are thin and white until but becomes purple toward the interior. It stores well. The cloves’ skin are brown or tan, and the bulbs can be roasted or eaten raw. It has a sweet but mild garlic flavor.
Romanian Red – the bulbs have paper wrappers which are light brown streaked with purple. Each bulb produces 4-5 cloves and they are very hot with a strong garlic flavor. They store well.
Georgian Crystal – the bulbs (vigorous and hardy) are generally quite large and produce 25-30 cloves. This type is one of the few hardnecks that can be grown successfully in southern states if given a little care. The wrappers (surprisingly durable) are white and tinged with streaks of light purple. The cloves have mild but rich flavor.
German Red – the bulbs which are brownish with purple streaks, produce 8-9 cloves. The cloves are rich and have a hot, spicy flavor that lingers. This type does not store well.
Amish – the bulbs which are brownish with purple streaks and produce 8-10 cloves. The cloves are a bit hot and spicy. This type does not store well.
Softneck Garlic – (Allium sativum sativum)
This category of garlic is generally found in supermarkets. It has a mild flavor and matures quicker than the hardnecks. This category is perfect for the southern garden and most types store well. However, the cloves can be very hard to peel in certain varieties. The cloves are used in mostly in prepared dishes, dressings and seasonings like garlic powder. The bulbs are also perfect for braiding.
Inchelium Red – the bulbs are typically large and can produce 10-12 cloves. The skins are white and durable. The cloves have a mild, rich and lingering flavor that is intense if eaten raw.
Sicilian Gold – the bulbs are typically large and can produce 10-12 cloves. The skins are white and durable. The cloves have a mild flavor and are delicious raw.
Nootka Rose – the bulbs have thick, creamy white skins and produces 15-20 cloves. The cloves are mahogany-colored with red streaks and have a very bold, garlic flavor.
Silver Rose – the bulbs have thick white skin with rosy streaking underneath. The bulbs produce 8 – 12 cloves. The cloves have a rich garlic flavor but it is not pungent. If the bulbs are stored long, they have a tendency to become spicier, especially if eaten raw.
I would be amiss if I didn’t mention Elephant Garlic – Allium ampeloprasum. It is actually part of the leek family and has no cultivator. The bulbs are extremely large and can weigh up to one pound. It produces 5 cloves once it matures but does not store well. It has a very mild, onion like flavor and is excellent roasted, used in sauces, vinaigrette and stir fry.