There are more than a few types of garlic you can get from a farmer market and use in recipes.
If you plan to grow garlic in your property, it would be for the best if you knew the variety of garlic you want.
You might also find some wild garlic growing somewhere in the woods and not know what exact variety of garlic it is.
We’re here to give you a rundown of the most common types of garlic available in grocery stores, farmer market, or in the most inconspicuous thickets around your property.
How Many Types of Garlic Are There?
Garlic is divided into two main subspecies: the softneck (Allium sativum sativum) and the hardneck (Allium stivum ophioscorodon).
There are at least two major varieties under the softneck subspecies and nine under the hardneck subspecies, totaling 11 major varieties.
Each variety has various name selections and cultivars, which vary in flavor more than you might think.
If we total all the named cultivars, they would count up to the hundreds.
Different Types of Garlic
Both subspecies grow cloves in the ground, but the flavors vary in suitable growing conditions and climates.
One thing that is commonly true about garlic is that all types seemly pair well with all common cooking applications.
Additionally, all garlic varieties share the same medicinal properties.
Let’s look at all the varieties under the hardneck and softneck subspecies.
The hardneck variety develops stiff stalks that grow tiny aerial cloves called bulbils in a process called bolting.
The stiff stalks that are sometimes tender coil down to look like long, curly beans called garlic scapes.
Hadrneck variety garlic has been originally developed from wild garlics.
Hardneck garlic is characterized by fewer large cloves that come in a wider range of colors and strong flavors.
In addition to larger cloves, the hardnecks are also quite easy to peel.
A common practice with hardnecks dictates that stalks should be trimmed under sunny conditions to focus all growth energy into the garlic bulbs.
If you want to grow garlic, rocambole garlic can give you the most flavor. The cloves on rocambole garlic are a little bit brownish, but they have a rich, sweet flavor.
Rocambole garlic stalks uniquely form loops near the top. The only downside to this garlic variety is its very short shelf life.
Popular cultivars of the rocambole variety include Russian red and Spanish roja.
Porcelain garlic bulbs grow pretty well across the northern latitudes.
Several outer layers of the skin are white, while some inner layers have a purple stripe.
The cloves taste hot and pungent if you eat it raw, and they are quite starchy after baking.
Porcelain garlic stores well in proper storage conditions.
Other known cultivars under the porcelain variety include the Polish hardneck and the German white.
Purple stripe garlic has been around the Caucasus for thousands of years. They are considered the ancestors of other garlic varieties.
The purple stripe variety has a rich, mild flavor, and the skin has vibrant purple stripes.
Depending on the weather conditions, they can be quite silvery instead of that vivid purple hue.
Purple stripe varieties include shvelisi, chesnok red, and shatili.
As the name suggests, Asiatic hardnecks come from regions in Asia.
You can identify Asiatic garlic by looking for flowers that resemble long and wrinkled bean pods. These bean pods grow aerial cloves that can be planted to grow new garlic plants.
Unlike other hardnecks, Asiatic garlic doesn’t require stalk-trimming to produce new cloves.
Asiatic cultivars include the Asian tempest and the Pyongyang, which originally came from Korea.
Creole garlic likes warm climates and produces red and purple garlic bulbs.
They are not as large as other hardnecks, but they pack enough flavor and store pretty well.
Creole hardneck cultivars include the burgundy and the Creole red.
Glazed Purple Stripe
Glazed purple stripe garlic has fewer cloves coming in varying sizes.
Some cloves within the bulb do not grow as large as others, and the cloves do not share the same level of flavor as other hardneck varieties.
This type of garlic has a strong, metallic appearance, usually silver with streaks of purple.
Popular cultivars from Russia and Eastern Europe include the red rezan and the vekak.
Marbled Purple Stripe
Also from Eastern Europe and Russia, marbled purple stripe varieties grow well both in northern or southern conditions.
The cloves on marbled purple stripe garlic are also few, but they have a strong flavor.
Cultivars include the Siberian and the metechi.
Its name also suggests it is mostly from the Middle East.
You seldom find this type of garlic in North America because it only grows in climates similar to those in the Middle East.
You can purchase cultivars such as jomah and Syrian from specialty import stores.
If you see brownish or purplish garlic with small turban-shaped capsules at the top of the stalks, you have stumbled upon the turban variety.
If you have this garlic, use them immediately because it does not store as well as other varieties.
Turban cultivars come from Eastern Europe, Asia, and Mexico. They include the shandong and the Chinese purple.
On the other hand, the softneck subspecies initially came from hardneck varieties.
Garlic varieties from the soft necked subspecies do not grow the flower stalk that is very obvious in hard necked varieties.
Instead, they grow soft stalks that are easy to braid, hence their “braiding garlic” nickname.
With smaller, hard-to-peel cloves, softnecks often give out a spice flavor.
Softnecks mature faster than hadrnecks, and they produce more cloves per plant.
Because of these properties, softnecks are more commercially grown than hardnecks. They are what you commonly find in grocery stores.
Silverskin cloves tend to sprout later than artichoke cloves. The cloves are usually white and shaped like teardrops.
Silverskin garlic are the cultivar with the most extended shelf-life.
This variety is also the one you see braided in and hanging in the farmer market because of its very pliable stems.
Silverskin cultivars include Idaho silver and silver white.
Artichoke garlic is the most common variety of garlic you can find in grocery stores.
Its cloves are larger than silverskin garlic, but they look flat compared to the cloves of other types.
You can harvest artichoke garlic earlier in the season. They grow fast because of their capability to adapt to different growing conditions and soil types.
Some cultivars include red toch and California early.
Which Garlic is Best?
If you are after flavor, look for the hardneck garlic in the farmer market, such as the rocambole or the purple stripe varieties.
On the other hand, if you want to keep a lot for long-term storage, choose the silverskin garlic.
If you want to grow garlic, try planting several varieties so that you can choose which ones you like best.
Remember that the hardneck variety holds all the most flavorful cultivars, while the softneck variety has the well-storing types.
If you are experimenting in a small garden plot, you can compare your freshly harvested softneck garlic with some that are readily available in grocery stores.