Allium Sativum for Fun

“There is no such thing as a little garlic.” – Arthur Baer

Darn Right!

I’ve been researching garlic all week. I had some vague idea that garlic could be divided into hard and softnecked types but I’d never gotten further than that. In my effort to positively identify the two varieties we’ve selected to grow, I’ve become slightly more confused, but I have uncovered a bit of fun vocabulary that I plan to use below. I will helpfully present them in italics.

Hardnecked varieties, also called ophioscorodons (ophios for short), tend to do better in cooler, northern climates. We’ve chosen two hardneck varieties for this reason. Ophios have a stiff stem and send up a green shoot in the spring called a scape. There are five subcategories of ophios: rocambole, purple stripe, marbled purple stripe, glazed purple stripe, and porcelain.

10lbs of our seed stock are a cultivar of rocambole garlic called Italian Purple. These tend to be very, very hot. Cory included a head in a roast chicken recipe and a few of the cloves didn’t cook thoroughly. I bit into one and promptly began to cry. They were a pain to separate, but contained an efficient 7 to 9 cloves per head.

Porcelains have a thick white wrapper and strong flavor. There are about 15 specific cultivars of porcelain garlic, one of which is German X-tra Hardy, our choice #2. It has absolutely huge (that’s not a vocab word, just emphasis) cloves, but only about 4 or 5 per head. Unfortunately from a business perspective, this means that more seed garlic will be required to get the desired yield. It was, however, much easier to separate than the Italian.

Italian on the Left, German in the Right

Softneck varieties, or sativums, have a flexible stem and grow well in warmer climates. They include artichoke and silverskin varities. The soft, pliable stems of silverskin garlic make them the routine choice for garlic braids and wreaths. Artichoke garlic is the most common supermarket variety and are what most people think of when they think of garlic. Unfortunately my life will never be quite that simple again.

2 responses to this post.

  1. Gee, I wonder what kind I have. I started with two different ones but over the years they’ve become all mixed together. So my life is still simple 😉


  2. Perhaps 10 or 20 years from now I’ll be able to identify them on sight, or maybe taste, but until then I’m carefully labeling!


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