Buying Gourmet Garlic Seed

September 24, 2006

The last entry discussed the huge advantages of growing gourmet garlic and provided techniques for planting fall garlic, today I’ll share a few tips for buying the best gourmet garlic seed.

Investing in Quality Gourmet Garlic Seed Stock

Yes, it is best to buy good quality garlic seed stock to begin growing your own crop of gourmet garlic. You can expect to pay $10 to $17 per pound for gourmet quality garlic seed from most suppliers. Consider it an investment that you won’t have to repeat because it’s easy to save your own seed for future plantings.

Of course you’ll need to repurchase garlic seed if you have a crop failure, want to try out new varieties, or if you can’t refrain from eating all of your delicious home grown gourmet garlic, but that’s all in your hands. Just be sure to start with seed grade bulbs, rather than supermarket cloves, to get your garlic growing.

How Much Garlic Seed Do You Need?

First decide how much garlic you need to purchase. Hardneck gourmet garlic bulbs are a lot different than the cloves you may be accustomed to.

The bulbs are larger and contain individual cloves that are larger, easier to peel, and preferred by gourmet chefs. Some varieties may only have four to six large cloves making up the entire bulb. Each clove will form a single seed at planting time and ultimately develop into a full bulb of garlic when the plant reaches maturity.

Garlic seed suppliers sell the seed by weight in quarter pound increments, with the number of cloves per pound varying depending on the variety. You can expect six to eight bulbs from the average pound of garlic seed. Some garlic seed suppliers will provide you with an estimate of the number of cloves that you can expect from each pound of garlic purchased.

You’ll have to decide how much garlic seed to order and plant based on garden size and how much garlic you need for kitchen use. If you’ve never grown garlic I would start small with half a pound of two or three different varieties just to get a taste for garlic growing, and if you’re anything like me you may find yourself hooked on garlic and see the garlic patch increasing in size each year.

Where to Purchase Gourmet Garlic Seed

Some garlic suppliers specialize in selling garlic and only garlic. They don’t sell tomato seeds, broccoli seeds, or any other type of vegetable seed; their focus is on growing and selling garlic. I recommend that you use one of these dedicated garlic suppliers to provide you with your garlic seed stock.

Do a search on the Internet for “garlic seed” or “garlic seed suppliers” and you’ll find many to choose from. I’ve been very happy with garlic seed purchased from Filaree Farm. A couple of other growers that have been around for a while include Gourmet Garlic Gardens and The Garlic Store.

Deciding on Gourmet Garlic varieties

This is where you’ll need to do a little research by browsing through the garlic grower’s websites. Most of them provide detailed descriptions of gourmet garlic varieties, the best culinary uses for particular selections, and in some cases even provide pictures of the garlic choices offered for sale.

If you don’t have the time or interest to research and just want a general recommendation then check out Siberian or Music, both of which are excellent varieties for the home gardener in cold weather growing regions.

One warning, the supply of garlic seed is limited and fluctuates depending on growing conditions, the size of the harvest, and the varieties and quantity of garlic that the growers decide to plant. Additionally, some varieties are grown in limited quantities due to less demand, so if you have your heart set on trying a particular garlic variety place your order early to avoid finding your favorites sold out.

Obtaining the Best and Largest Garlic Seed Bulbs

There’s one simple secret to buying and obtaining the best and largest garlic seed bulbs… Order Early! With most of the garlic seed growers and suppliers it’s a matter of first come first serve; or first come best served. The orders are filled in the order that they are received with the largest bulbs being reserved for earliest orders that are received by the garlic supplier.

Place your order late and you’ll receive smaller garlic seed bulbs. These smaller bulbs are perfectly fine to plant and will grow into tasty gourmet garlic, but the larger seed cloves generally produce larger garlic bulbs in the gaden. Where early orders may receive the monster sized bulbs over three inches in diameter, later buyers may receive garlic bulbs that are half that size.

Garlic growers harvest their seed crop during the summer and begin shipping to customers in early fall. When you place an order you’ll be asked to specify an approximate shipping date. It’s best to specify a delivery date that is close to the time that garlic should be planted in your region, if you’re unsure of the best date for planting your garlic seed ask the supplier for assistance.

Additional Tips for Buying Gourmet Garlic Seed:

  • Purchase organically grown garlic seed stock if available from your garlic supplier
  • Seed bulbs should arrive whole and not be separated until planting time
  • The garlic seed bulbs should be firm with their wrappers intact
  • Inspect the condition of your garlic seed as soon as it arrives from the shipper
  • Contact the supplier immediately if you’re dissatisfied with the quality of the garlic that is received
  • And most importantly, don’t forget to order your garlic seed early!

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  • Excelent tips, thank you !

  • John Cooper

    Last fall I was shopping at a discount grocery store, and the had Christopher Ranch garlic (from Gilroy) on sale, cheap. I think I only paid 60 cents for two bulbs, because it was already sprouting.

    I bought several boxes, separated the cloves, and planted them in a raised bed here in Western North Carolina. Yeah, I know you don’t recommend using store bought for seed, but I got lucky. They grew like crazy over the winter, and are “bulbing up” now. I know this because curiosity got the better of me and I dug down alongside one of the stalks to see what was going on down there (grin).

    The smell is like nothing you would ever find in the store. I’m hooked, a can’t wait to start cooking with it!

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  • Just the info I was looking for…thank you!

  • John

    just had to say that’s a lot of money for gourmet. We get ours from a place in Idaho that is around $6-7/pound, many varieties. Could helpfully post the contact info if anyone wants.
    Organic, and the best garlic we have ever truly tried. 🙂

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