Gourmet Garlic Varieties

October 5, 2006

I’ve recently posted a couple of articles containing gourmet garlic growing tips for planting fall garlic and strategies for obtaining the best garlic seed stock.

I wanted to follow-up by sharing some of my favorite gourmet garlic varieties for growing in the home garden.

Classification of Garlic Varieties

I can’t overemphasize the big differences between the types of gourmet hardneck garlic varieties described here and what you’ll find for sale in the bins at your local grocery store. There’s simply no comparison, and if you enjoy garlic you just have to sample a few cloves of gourmet garlic for yourself.

Garlic is divided into two broad categories; hardneck garlic and softneck garlic. Each has very distinct characteristics. In the case of softneck garlic, these varieties are better keepers that can be stored for longer periods of time while maintaining their quality. Softneck garlic varieties also have flexible stems or stalks that allow these garlics to be used to create fancy garlic braids and wreaths.

Hardneck garlic varieties are better known for their wide range of delicious flavors and the gourmet qualities that they exhibit in the kitchen. They produce larger cloves that are easier to separate and peel, making them popular with gourmet chefs.

Hardneck garlic bulbs often consist of large cloves wrapped in a single layer rather than the multiple layers of smaller cloves found in most softneck varieties. Hardneck varieties don’t keep in storage quite as long, will produce edible garlic scapes during the summer, and are not suitable for braiding or creating garlic wreaths.

Popular Gourmet Garlic Varieties

The two broad categories are further subdivided into families of garlic classified as: Rocambole, Porcelain, Asiatic, Creole, Silverskin, Turban, and several Purple Stripe groupings.

I prefer the hardneck garlics and plant more of those types than of the softneck varieties. In addition to the robust flavors and larger cloves, the hardnecks also tend to offer a more attractive appearance with the subtle colors, patterns, sheen, and texture of the papery wrappers that cover the bulbs.

Most of the gourmet garlic varieties are heirlooms of European ancestry, and as their names suggest, many of them originated in regions that were part of the former Republics of the USSR.

Here’s a list of my favorite gourmet garlic varieties:

  • Music – There’s just something special about this garlic, from the garden to the kitchen it’s a great variety for the backyard gardener or the gourmet chef.
  • Inchelium Red – Very popular garlic variety that is prized for its delicious flavor, a softneck Artichoke garlic that produces large bulbs with smaller inner cloves.
  • Siberian – This variety of garlic won’t let you down, a reliable grower in cold climates that can be counted on to supply a good harvest of sizable garlic bulbs.
  • Chesnok Red – An attractive Purple Stripe garlic variety that’s great for cooking and will hold its flavor in your favorite recipes, also perfect for roasting and baking.
  • Georgian Crystal – Beautiful fat cloves that grow in a single layer, flavorful tasting but mild enough to be enjoyed raw in salsa, guacamole, and sauces.
  • Spanish Roja – Finicky grower that’s not recommended for mild winter climates but is acclaimed for a garlic flavor that receives recognition as one of the best tasting garlics of all.
  • Carpathian – Spicy, flavorful rocambole garlic variety, this heirloom hails from the Carpathian Mountain region of Poland.
  • Red Toch – Early maturing softneck garlic with an attractive tinge of red or pink color, this is a mild flavored gourmet garlic variety that can be eaten raw.




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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Nola Rhodes October 19, 2006 at 7:10 pm

Very informmative, Awesome, Very much appreciative. Sincere Thanks, Nola Rhodes

Kathy Greer August 25, 2009 at 12:37 pm

I wonder if you can help me identify a huge garlic that came up in my son’s flower garden. It had a long, thick stalk and long slender leaves. The top didn’t have the usual cluster of hard seeds about the size of a small ping pong ball the way mine do, but a baseball sized cluster of small sage-green nubbins at the end of many slender stalks. Each “seed” had a delicious mild, chive or oniony aroma. When we pulled out the garlic it was bigger than a baseball and pure white with just 4 or 5 big, yellow cloves. Is this an elephant garlic? Thanks for any info you might have on this mystereous beauty.

Kenny Point August 25, 2009 at 4:12 pm

Kathy, it sounds like it could be elephant garlic, but before you rush off and eat it, beware that it could also be a ornamental variety of Alliums, which are related to garlic and onions but grown for their attractive flowers rather than for food. I would google the term “Allium” and see if there are any photos to compare to what was growing in your son’s garden.

Dorian February 6, 2010 at 6:12 pm

“Carpathian – Spicy, flavorful rocambole garlic variety, this heirloom hails from the Carpathian Mountain region of Poland”
The Carpathians are in a different country I’m afraid. The Transylvania region of Romania, of course garlic is a matter of life or death (undeath?) there.

On a more serious note, does anyone from the UK frequent this site and can tell me where to get the variety music? I can’t find anywhere doing internet searches

Melanie September 1, 2011 at 12:00 am

Well I thought I was growing Egyptian walking onion. But after looking at my beds plants they looked more like garlic and I went on line and yes I believe I put in some hardneck. I was spreading the top seeds like I do for next years flower arrangements( I’m a florist and love the pig tails!)
After looking it up decided to harvest and wow! Strong and hot. Did I harvest too soon? Super hugh garlic flavor. Too strong. Help

Kenny Point September 3, 2011 at 9:25 am

Hi Melanie, some gourmet garlic varieties are just hotter and stronger flavored than you may be used to. Were you using it raw or cooked? Some people enjoy that huge and even biting garlic flavor depending on how they are using it. Cook it, use less, or try growing a milder variety next time. The garlic seed catalogs usually include a description with info on how strong the flavor is and preferred uses for the different types that they sell.

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