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A Guide to Garlic Varieties

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Are you trying to decide which garlic varieties to plant? Here are a few suggestions.  With so many options available, how do you know which ones are best suited for cold climates, which last longest in storage, or which ones have the most flavor and heat to your favorite dishes? 

Hardneck Garlic

All of the varieties in this list are hardneck garlic.  Hardneck garlic differ from softneck garlic, in that they produce a tall, stiff flower stalk that rises from the center of the bulb. Hardnecks are more suited to northern climates than softneck types, the kind usually found in supermarkets and grown in mild climates.

Garlic Varieties

Bogatyr 

Bogatyr has a rich garlic flavor that has no heat. The first time I tasted it I thought, "now here is a true garlic flavor". Add this garlic to any dish that needs a nice garlic boost. I would recommend it for Italian dishes. Great for the person who likes garlic but doesn't enjoy 'spicy' or 'hot' foods. A mid- to late-season variety with a white outer skin and deep purple-striped inner wrappers, this garlic has a long storage life. Bulbs generally contain 4 to 6 cloves each and individual cloves are pointy with brown, purple-streaked wrappers. The flavor of Bogatyr is long-lasting and hot.

Brown Tempest
This is a favorite and reliable variety.   The skin of Brown Tempest Garlic has thin, faint purple stripes and faint purple splotches.  Inside, there will be an average of 6 to 9 short, plump cloves per bulb, with pinkish brown on the skin, with no stripes.  When raw, the garlic has a hot taste with a smooth aftertaste.

 It produces large bulbs with brownish outer wrappers and an average of 6 large cloves each. The flavor is hot when eaten raw, but gradually mellows.

Chesnok Red
This cold-hardy variety comes from the Republic of Georgia (not the state) and has a colorful skin with dark purple stripes.  Chesnok Red is a good storing garlic. We still have some good Chesnok Red bulbs in storage in May (we harvest in August). I've been very happy with the size and quality of the Chesnok Red bulbs so far. They are a deep purple and simply gorgeous!  It matures later than most varieties, yielding small- to medium-sized bulbs with 9 to 10 cloves each. Chesnok Red is a good choice for roasting, as it retains its garlicky flavor well.  Chesnok Red adds a sweet garlic flavor without heat to dishes. It has an distinct smell, more like a roasting sweet onion than a garlic.

Georgian Fire
Georgian Fire garlic is a certified, farm favorite with a stunning flavor and cloves! This garlic variety has the classic garlic porcelain sheen and flavor. The Georgian Fire variety is the beauty queen of the garlic world. Its cloves grow large and average about 6 to 8 per bulb. This garlic can be eaten raw as they have a pleasantly hot flavor. Roasting really brings out the flavor of Georgian Fire! Porcelain hardneck type.  Considered to be one of the more disease resistant varieties, this garlic gets its name from the Republic of Georgia and it belongs to a group known as porcelain garlic because of a satiny white outer wrapping around the bulbs. Inner wrappers may be brownish, purple, or a combination. Individual bulbs are large, with 5 to 8 large cloves each, and it’s often described as one of the best-tasting varieties, with a white-hot flavor.

German Red
Rocambole type. German Red is a full-bodied, strong and spicy garlic that reliably produces large, satiny white and purple heads. The easy-to-peel cloves are wrapped in fawn colored skins. A widely popular variety that sets the standard for true garlic flavor. Grows particularly well in colder regions .  This variety features red stripes on its white outer skin and produces large bulbs with approximately 8 cloves each. Rich and spicy in flavor, it’s a great choice for dehydrating or freezing, since it doesn’t store as well as other varieties.

German White
German White garlic is a large, porcelain type garlic bulb that contains 4-5 large easy-to-peel cloves. The white skin on the German White has delicate purple stripes. This variety is one of the best garlics in taste without all the spiciness.   Bulbs are satin white over pink clove wrappers.  Most bulbs will have only 4-6 cloves, saving time in the kitchen.  Flavor is rich and bold with just the right amount of spiciness. Stores fairly well for a hardneck, lasting until March or April in simple cool storage.  A popular type, German White, with its large white bulbs, used to be the most commonly seen variety at garlic festivals and farm stands. Despite its reputation as hardy and somewhat disease resistant, I’ve struggled to keep it going year after year, with many of the planted cloves failing to survive the winter or rotting.

Krasnadar Red
An heirloom variety from the Black Sea region of Russia.  Rocambole DNA.  A hardneck from Krasnodar Russia near the Black Sea. Medium to large bulbs. Cloves are tan with hint of red. Hotter taste than Krasnodar White. Eaten raw it has a medium tingle and heat with strong pungent flavor. Averages 6 to 9 cloves per bulb.

Metechi

Purple Stripe type. A powerful hardneck, Metechi delivers robust garlic flavor along with a sharp bite. Raw, it's fiery hot, finishing with a lasting spice. Cooking will tone down the heat, while still holding that big garlic taste. This variety has thick, white-wrapped bulbs that hold 4-6 bulky cloves clothed in blushed skin with purple accents. Exceptionally cold-hardy plants have broad, upright leaves.  Large hardneck garlic with a very strong flavor and exceptional clove productivity on blushed wrappers with purple streaks. ... 'Metechi' stores well, and produces a bonus of delicious gourmet garlic scapes in summer. Averages 4-6 cloves per bulb. Mid-season, purple stripe hardneck.

Music
Music garlic is a member of the porcelain garlics which are unique in that the scapes they produce in the spring coil in all kinds of ways resembling a bed of snakes. We do sell the scapes as they are harvested but these sell out quickly.   A very hardy variety that stores well, Music would be my choice if weI had to recommend a single variety to grow. Plants are large and produce large, mostly white bulbs with 4 to 6 easy-to-peel cloves per bulb at maturity. Flavor is long-lasting and hot.

Russian Red
Russian Red garlic has big bulbs that have a slightly purple skin that wraps the bulbs and cloves. This variety is a great garlic to grow for soil conditions that are slightly damp. Russian Red is one of the most flavorful heirloom garlics.  Strong Garlic Flavor with a Warm Sweet Aftertaste.  This is a reliable, early variety with outer wrappers of a brownish purple color. Its large bulbs hold 4 to 6 cloves each, some of which may be double (two cloves within a single wrapper skin).

Spanish Roja
Rocambole type. Probably the most popular hardneck type, because most garlic lovers find the flavor to be “true garlic”. A Northwest heirloom that was reported to have been brought into Northwest Oregon before 1900, it is often called Greek garlic by home gardeners throughout the region.  The flavor is hot, and great for adding spice to dishes, especially when used raw.  During the growing season, the Spanish Roja (like other Rocambole type), are shorter plants with broader leaves, as compared to the Porcelain type. 

Growing Garlic

Garlic grows in virtually every part of the world, in temperate regions, subtropical and tropical regions, and it will grow easily in your garden too. Garlic is grown not from seed (typically), but from individual garlic cloves. One clove, given the right conditions, will produce a bulb or head containing many cloves, so it is a productive plant for sure!   The garlic plant sends up a elongated, cylinder-shaped, solid, smooth stem, which can grow up 3 feet tall. The leaves, which are flattish, narrow, and about fifteen centimeters long, emerge from the bottom of the plant.  Garlic plants have narrow, skinny leaves and they need all the sun they can get, and they need as little competition as possible from weeds.

Garlic, a Plant Description 

The name "garlic" comes from garleac, an old Anglo-Saxon word meaning "spear leek." Garlic is believed to be descended from Allium longicuspis, a wild strain of Asian garlic but its origins are still in question. Garlic, and other members of the Alliaceae (Previously Amaryllidaceae) are native to central Asia and derive their characteristic flavor from the enzyme alliinase that acts on Sulphur compounds.  All plants in this family are herbaceous, cool-season, biennial vegetables that are grown as annuals.  Root systems are fibrous.  Bulbs form from enlarged leaf bases called scales.  Cold temperatures, combined with day length and soil temperature triggers bulb formation.  Garlic (Allium sativum) is a cool-season hardy perennial made up of multiple cloves.  Each clove is made up of one papery leaf and a second, thickened storage leaf which makes up most of the clove.  Garlic leaves are solid, folded and flattened.  This bulbous plant, grows vertical to an approximate height of 3 feet (1 meter).  Garlic scapes can extend the height of this plant.  Garlic rarely produces a hermaphrodite flower.  The name Chicago is derived from the local Indian word chicagoua for the native garlic plant (not onion) Allium tricoccum. 

 

Science has provided garlic growers and garlic connoisseurs, definitive information about the confusing subject of garlic groups and varieties. In 2003, Dr. Joachim Keller of the Institute the Leibniz Institute for Plant Genetics and Crop Plant Research in Gatersleben Germany, and Dr. Gayle Volk of the USDA in Colorado, used science to perform DNA analyses of garlics. They classified garlic into ten distinct groups including:

  • Five hardneck varieties called Porcelain, Purple Stripe, Marbled Purple Stripe, Glazed Purple Stripe, and Rocambole.

  • Three varieties of "weakly bolting" hardnecks that can produce softnecks - Creole, Asiatic and Turban.

  • Two distinct softneck varieties; Artichoke and Silverskin.

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