The Different Types of Garlic
Ever wondered if there are different types of garlic? Where does it come from? How do they differ from one another? Here’s a breakdown of the main types of garlic you can expect to find in your local produce section.
Hardneck Garlic — This family of garlic is the one you’re most used to seeing in stores. Hardneck garlic has easy-to-peel skin that makes getting to its cloves easy, but they have a shelf life of only a few months due to their not-so-durable skin. This type of garlic can also produce a scape, another type of garlic that comes from the flowering stem of hardneck garlic varieties. Scapes can actually be used in cooking if you sautee or pickle them, but only if you harvest them from the hardneck bulb in time.
Common varieties of hardneck garlic include:
- Chesnok Red
- German White
- Polish Hardneck
- Persian Star
- Purple Stripe
Softneck Garlic — As you might have guessed from their name, softneck garlic looks noticeably different from hardneck garlic. Softneck has many cloves that are connected with a (you guessed it) soft neck that you can actually braid to make hanging in your kitchen or pantry easy and decorative! The skin on softneck garlic is deceptively hard to peel but this gives them a longer shelf life than hardneck garlic.
Softneck garlic has two main varieties:
Spring garlic — This type of garlic looks nothing like its garlic siblings (it closely resembles a scallion) and has a more mild taste. You can use this type of garlic as a substitute for many common seasoning herbs and vegetables, like onions and leeks.
Different tastes and looks — It might not surprise you that garlic varieties will look different, but did you know they can have different tastes, too? Garlic tastes best when it’s fresh, so knowing when a garlic variety is harvested will help you take home the best tasting bulb. For example, here are some common garlic varieties and their harvest times:
- Baja California White: bright white cloves; bold garlic flavor; harvested in June (Best time to buy: mid-June to November)
- California White: papery skin with creamy white cloves; spicy flavor; harvested in June (Best time to buy: July – February)
- Chinese White: light gold to white color with crescent cloves; creamy and pungent; harvested in June (Best time to buy: July – January)
- Argentina White: white/cream color; strong taste; harvested in December (Best time to buy: January – April)
- Mexican Purple: porcelain & purple color with large cloves; spicy when raw but more mild once cooked; harvested in March (Best time to buy: April – June)
The next time you go to stock up on garlic, we hope you get a little adventurous with your new knowledge of garlic varieties!