The 10 Garlic Groups: Artichoke, Asiatic, Creole, Glazed Purple Stripe, Marbled Purple Stripe, Porcelain, Purple Stripe, Rocambole, Silverskin and Turban.
Garlic (Allium sativum) has two sub species, softneck (sativum) and hardneck (ophioscorodon). Softnecks are good keepers and allow easy braiding. The hardneck refers to the “scape” that later produces a flower, or bulbils.
Hardnecks: Species Allium sativum; Subspecies ophioscorodon. Hardnecks are favored by chefs for having exceptional flavor, and large easy to peel cloves. They do well in cold climates, and have medium storage quality. They are characterized by a strong woody stem growing in the center. This stem produces a flower or “scape”. Mid to late harvest. Hardnecks produce medium to hot heat. The Hardneck horticultural group: Asiatic, Creole, Glazed Purple Stripe, Marbled Purple Stripe, Purple Stripe, Rocambole, Porcelain and Turban.
Asiatic: Classified as a sub-group of the Artichoke group because they are weak bolters. Later studies place them closer to the Purple Stripe group. Extra large bulbils can be planted in the fall for garlic scallions, or mini bulbs. Some varietals have purple stripes on the bulb skins. They mature quickly, so harvest when one or two leaves turn brown. They have exceptional flavor and store longer than their Purple Stripe cousins. 4-10 cloves per bulb. 30-60 cloves per pound. Early harvest. Stores 5-6 months. [Hot]
The Asiatic group: Asian Tempest, Japanese, Korean Mountain, Korean Red and Pyong Vang (AKA Pyongyang).
Creole: Prized for their long shelf life and exceptional flavor. They have been classified with the Silverskin group, but are complex in taste and have a tendency to bolt. Originating in Spain, they thrive in warm winter climates and are widely grown in the south. Growing Creoles in cold winter climates is quite a challenge, but if stored properly, a spring planting could be very productive. Bulb wrappers tend to be a dull cream color, but inside you will find beautiful crimson colored cloves. Cloves tend to be smaller than many other hardnecks (a small price to pay for a yearlong hardneck keeper!) They have a sweet garlic flavor and are pleasant when eaten raw. 5-9 cloves per bulb. 35-45 cloves per pound. Mid harvest. Stores 9-10 months. [Medium]
The Creole group: Ajo Rojo, Burgundy and Keeper.
Glazed Purple Stripe: Originally believed to be a sub-group of the Purple Stripe group, however later studies show that all garlic groups are sub-groups of The Purple Stripes. However, as the name implies they still adorn some beautiful purple stripes. There are only about five true Glazed Purple Stripes available for garlic seed. A gastronomic treat; The Glazed Purple Stripes have been called the “best bakes”, because the flavor holds up well after cooking. Tolerant of cold winter climates. Bulb skins may have a hint of silver or gold, with elongated cloves. 9-12 cloves per bulb. 50-60 cloves per pound. Mid to late harvest. Stores 5 months. [Medium – Hot]
The Glazed Purple Stripe group: Purple Glazer and Velek (AKA Vekak).
Marbled Purple Stripe: The Marbled Purple Stripes were also originally believed to be a sub-variety of the Purple Stripe group. Named for their marbling behavior on bulb skins, they are actually dappled with hues of crimson or purple against creamy white. Extremely large cloves yield fewer cloves per bulb. Due to their large scapes, it is recommended to remove scapes for greater bulb size. However, it is hard to resist leaving the scapes on one or two plants in order to witness the extraordinary blooms (if you were to sacrifice one or two plants for the umbel to bloom, the Marbled Purple Stripes are a fine specimen). The Marbled Purple Stripes thrive in cold winter climates. They have also been recorded to perform well in warm climates (notably Siberian and Metechi). ). The flavor is rich and complex with a smooth finish, close to that of a Purple Stripe and not as sulfurous as a Porcelain. 5-9 cloves per bulb. 35-40 cloves per pound. Late harvest. Stores 6 months. [Medium]
The Marbled Purple Stripe group: Bogytar, Brown Tempest, Khbar, Kranagasger Red, Lavigna, Metechi and Siberian.
Porcelain: Named for their white skin wrappers, but depending on the environmental conditions, they may express hues of purple, pink or tan. Porcelain garlic is known for its high content of allicin. The Porcelain group has a high content of allicin, which attributes to their hot, sulfurous flavor. Allicin helps lower cholesterol, boost the immune system and increases circulation. Tear-dropped shaped bulbs with large, Brazil nut sized cloves. Plants are vibrant and sturdy in the garden: a strong bolting garlic, so scapes should be removed for optimum bulb development. The bulbils flowers are minuscule in comparison the other varietals, so it is not recommended to try to grow garlic from the bulbils of Porcelain varieties. In field tests, it may take up to three years for reasonable bulb growth. They have smooth, white, tight bulb wrappers with 4 to 6 cloves per bulb. Because of the tight bulb wrappers, they store longer than the Rocamboles. 3-9 cloves per bulb. 25-45 cloves per pound. Late harvest. Stores 5-6 months. [Hot]
The Porcelain group: Georgia Crystal, Georgia Fire, Kazahkstan, Leningrad, Premium Northern White, Romanian Red, Music and Zemo.
Purple Stripe: Purple Stripes are genetically related to all wild garlic. All garlic species originated with the Purple Stripe group. Featuring beautiful bulbs with pin-stripes of purple and crimson hues. A medium storing garlic with superior flavor, acclaimed to be the “best bakes”. The flavor is complex and zesty, without being unpleasantly sulfurous. The cloves are layered around the scape, with some larger bulbs having a second inner layer of small cloves. They can adapt to almost any region, from the harshest winter climates, to mild southern climates, though they will produce best with a cold winter season. 10-12 cloves per bulb. 50-60 cloves per pound. Late harvest. Stores 5-6 months. [Hot]
The Purple Stripe group: Chesnok Red, Deerfield Purple, Persian Star (AKA Samarkand) and Shatili.
Rocambole: Renowned to be the best tasting varietal of all garlic groups. These are the most widely known of the hardneck garlics.They are sweeter and less sulfurous than other garlic groups. If you enjoy recipes that call for raw garlic, the Rocamboles are for you! They thrive in cold winter climates with rich loamy soil. Rocamboles need a period of vernalization and therefore are not a good choice for warm southern climates. The National Center for Genetic Resources classifies garlic into only four groups, with the Rocamboles being one. This means that it is a quite impressive horticulture group and should be grown in all gardens north of the boarder. Clove skins of Rocamboles tend to be loose, attributing to their shorter than average shelf life, so indulge in them right after they cure. Bulb wrappers are not that colorful, often just a dull brownish tan. The bulbils can be planted in the fall for garlic greens in the spring. 7-11 cloves per bulb. 45-58 cloves per pound. Late harvest. Stores 5-6 months. [Medium]
The Rocambole group: German Red, Russian Red, Slovenian and Spanish Roja
Turban: Always the first varieties ready for harvest, Turbans are a welcoming flavor to any meal after last year’s garlic is all gone. Named for the shape of the umbel capsule that actually resembles a turban. Attractive bulbs that are pin-striped with burgundy or purple stripes on a velvety white skin. Bulb size is not that affected by leaving scapes on prior to harvest. 5-9 cloves per bulb. 40-65 cloves per pound. Early harvest. Stores 5-6 months. [Medium – Hot]
The Turban group: China Stripe, Chinese Purple, Morado Giant, Red Janice, Shantang Purple, Thai Fire, Thai Purple, Tuscan and Xian (AKA Xi’an).