The navigation bar on the right shows a few of the cultivars on the garlic varieties pages sorted into their major groupings. They include many heirloom and heritage garlics. The hardneck varieties are Porcelain, Rocambole, Purple Stripe, Marbled Purple Stripe and Glazed Purple Stripe. The other garlics are three varieties of weakly bolting hardnecks and two varieties of softnecks.
|Garlic beds in early May
Garlic originated in the wild
in Central Asia and has more than 5000 years of history
as an important horticultural crop. Since under normal
circumstances garlic does not produce true seed, there
is no cross fertilization of cultivated varieties. It
is hard to say how many genetically different garlic
clones there actually are under cultivation today. Garlic
is extremely adaptable and after a few years in a particular
locality it will take on a shape, size, colour and flavour
characteristic of its new location. So it is difficult
to tell when differences between garlic plants are environmental
and when they are genetic.
Researchers are now working to restore the fertility
of garlic. Dr. Rina Kamenetsky is one of these researchers
and we are delighted to be able to feature her article True
Seeds in Garlic on our website.
Variety is a term that is used loosely. Sometimes it
is used colloquially to refer to each named cultivar
and sometimes it is used technically to refer to the
major groupings. Although the term is used both ways
on this website, on this page it is being used to attempt
botanically correct classification.
Hardneck and Softneck Garlic
True garlic (species: Allium sativum) has two subspecies, softneck
(sativum) and hardneck (ophioscorodon – ophios for short). Allium sativum
sativum has two varieties, Silverskin and
Artichoke. Softneck garlics can be planted mechanically
and so the garlics found in supermarkets are
almost all softnecks.
Our understanding of the structure of the garlic
family tree is evolving as mapping the genes
of the varieties and subvarieties continues.
Previously there were thought to be five major
groupings referred to as varieties. Hardnecks
were classified as Porcelain, Rocambole and
Purple Stripe (with the subvarieties Marbled
Purple Stripe and Glazed Purple Stripe), and
softnecks were classified as Artichokes (with
the subvarieties Creole, Asiatic and Turban).
Currently there are considered to be ten varieties,
eight ophios and two softnecks. The ophios (Allium
sativum ophioscorodon) include five true
hardneck varieties (Porcelain, Rocambole, Purple Stripe, Marbled Purple
Stripe and Glazed
Purple Stripe) and three weakly bolting
hardnecks that often produce softnecks (Creole,
Asiatic and Turban).
The true hardneck varieties do well in the
cooler Canadian climates. Hardneck refers to
the scape, or flower stalk, with its topset
of bulbils. Hardnecks take a little more care
to grow because they need to be hand planted
right side up, and to have their scapes snipped
off. They repay that effort with a wealth of
large bulbs and a dazzling choice of robust
and subtle, intriguing and delicious flavours.
has been gleaned from Bob Anderson’s overview of the garlic family tree. His
article gives more information on the varieties
of garlic and the ongoing research.
An Artichoke softneck garlic
A Purple Stripe hardneck garlic
Help Making Your Selection
If you find the selection of garlics bewildering allow
us to make some suggestions.
We consider the Porcelain variety to be the hardiest and recommend it for novices
in cold climates. Leningrad, Music, Northern Quebec, Romanian Red
and Susan Delafield are very popular with backyard
gardeners and commercial growers alike.
Next we would recommend Marbled Purple Stripes. They have more plantable cloves per bulb than Porcelains and do well under a wide variety of conditions. We particularly recommend Khabar and Wenger's Russian as well as the milder Linda Olesky. In wet summers the Marbleds need carefull attention to curing as they can hold moisture.
All the other
true hardneck varieties - Purple
Stripe, Glazed Purple Stripe and Rocambole are also good choices anywhere in Canada.
The standard Purple Stripes, Chesnok Red and Persian
Star, are popular with growers because you get more
plantable cloves per bulb; these garlics like hot summers to size up well. Glazed Purple
Stripes have fragile wrappers which makes the
timing of harvest critical.
more fussy about watering than the other varieties;
they like heat and do not tolerate overwatering well. If that is
not a problem where you are we recommend getting some
because of their outstanding flavour. The ones we found did best at Boundary Garlic were German Red,
French Rocambole and Spicy Korean Red. They are all rich in flavour.
If your climate is moderate
you may be able to grow the weakly bolting hardnecks
and softnecks more easily than we could in our zone
4. In addition to true hardnecks recommended
for hardiness you can choose from the other garlics
There is great diversity in the three varieties of weak bolting hardnecks and there are two varieties of softneck garlics.
If left on the plant to mature the topset or scape of a hardneck garlic will produce a number of bulbils which can be planted. This is a way of rapidly increasing your garlic planting stock. For details see our Garlic Bulbils page. We recommend you use this approach to refresh or expand your planting stock.