You’ve weathered the spring frosts, babied your seedlings and transplants, battled the weeds and the bugs and the heat, and with any luck, by late summer the bounty is rolling in from your garden. Which means it’s time to start thinking about your fall plantings! In addition to starting fall crops from seed, late summer is the best time to decide on what garlic varieties to plant this fall, and preorder your seed garlic. Seed garlic is a hot commodity that often sells out before it even arrives in store, so start planning early! Here’s a guide to the types of garlic we carry and how to grow them.
Hardneck vs. Softneck Garlic
Garlic falls into two main categories, hardneck and softneck. Choosing the right one for your garden depends on what climate you’re growing in, and how you want to use your garlic.
Hardneck garlic, as the name suggests, forms its cloves around a stiff main stem. These garlics are known for being extremely cold hardy, and generally thrive best in cool climates. In the spring, they will send up flower stalks known as “scapes,” which need to be removed. If allowed to flower, the plant will put all its energy into the bloom rather than the bulb, and the resulting bulbs will be scrawny. Removing scapes from hardneck garlic is no chore though, because they’re delicious!
Harvest scapes once the stalk has curled once, and before the flower begins to open. Don’t wait too long or the stem will harden. They have a garlicky flavor, a little sweeter and milder than garlic cloves, and you can use them in recipes much like you would use regular garlic. Or, try them chopped up in stir fries like a vegetable, or made into pesto. Some folks love them so much that they just grill or roast them and eat them!
Softneck garlic, on the other hand, grows pliable stems that are great for braiding, and the stem doesn’t extend through the center of the bulb. Unlike hardneck garlics, they almost never bolt (that is, flower), so you won’t get a spring harvest of scapes. But, softneck garlic tends to produce better in warm climates than its hardneck counterparts, so if you live in the Southern US, a softneck variety is usually the way to go.
Hardneck Garlic Varieties
A beautiful purple-stripe type with smooth, mild, flavor and a hint of sweetness. A consistent producer of good-sized bulbs with red streaked wrappers, but has smaller cloves than most hardnecks at 25-30 cloves per 1/2 lb.
A porcelain hardneck variety with a distinctive, moderately spicy flavor that will stand out in any fresh salsa. Plump cloves and good storage quality. Very easy to grow and peel.
A staff favorite here at Sow True! This lovely hardneck garlic has a bold, full-bodied true "garlic" flavor. Consistent producer of large bulbs with fat cloves and red-streaked inner wrappers. A rocambole type, with smaller cloves than most hardnecks.
Softneck Garlic Varieties
A large artichoke-type with a full, garlicky flavor but less spicy bite than many softnecks.
An artichoke-type garlic known for fine, complex flavor, very large bulbs and beautiful splashes of purple color on the wrapper. An heirloom from the Colville Indian Reservation in Inchelium, Washington that is included in the Slow Food “Ark of Taste,” a collection of culturally important food crops from around the world.
A wonderful old Italian heirloom that has been stewarded by our grower in New York state for decades. We first offered this for sale in 2017 and are happy to offer it again for the upcoming season. Lovely, spicy flavor gives just the right amount of kick without being over-the-top. The quintessential Italian braiding garlic!