Types of garlic: Species, classes, and cultivars

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Wondering which type of garlic to grow in your garden? Fortunately, there are quite a few different kinds to pick from!

There are two main types of garlic: hardneck garlic and softneck garlic. Then there are ten distinct classes within these two types, named either for the appearance of the bulb or for geographical origin. The eight types of hardneck garlic are porcelain, rocambole, purple stripe, glazed purple stripe, marble purple stripe garlic, Asiatic, turban, and Creole. The two classes of softneck garlic are artichoke and silverskin.

Read on to learn all about the different types of garlic!

Types of garlic

Main types of garlic

There are two types of garlic (subspecies), ten classes (groups), and hundreds of garlic varieties (cultivars). Each type or class has unique characteristics, such as flavor, aroma, and cooking properties.

The two main types of garlic are hardneck and softneck. Hardneck garlic is classified as Allium sativum ssp. ophioscorodon, while softneck garlic is botanically classified as Allium sativum ssp. sativum. Hardneck garlic produces tall flower stalks called “scapes,” while softneck garlic typically doesn’t produce flower stalks. Hardneck varieties tend to be favored for gourmet purposes, while softneck bulbs are more common at the supermarket.

Within these two types, individual garlic varieties are also classified into subcategory phenotypic classes. There are ten classes of garlic, eight of which are hardneck classes and two of which are softneck classes.

Here is a summary of the classes and types of garlic:

Hardneck garlic

  1. Rocambole garlic
  2. Porcelain garlic
  3. Purple stripe garlic
  4. Marbled purple stripe garlic
  5. Glazed purple stripe garlic
  6. Asiatic garlic
  7. Turban garlic
  8. Creole garlic

Softneck garlic

  1. Silverskin garlic
  2. Artichoke garlic

As the names suggest, garlic is classified by its morphological features. Garlic known as “hardneck” tends to grow tall flower stalks in the spring topped with scapes, while garlic known as “softneck” typically does not grow a central stalk or garlic scape. Features such as the flower stalk, arrangement of the cloves, and peel color all contribute to the phenotypes and class names.

Hardneck garlic is considered more flavorful and is easiest to grow in climates with cold, freezing winters. Softneck garlic grows better in regions with mild winters but does not have the same flavor intensity. Hardneck garlic tends to be favored by garlic lovers and chefs, while softneck garlic is more commonly available in supermarkets around North America.

Hardneck-type garlic classes

Hardneck garlic, botanically classified as Allium sativum ssp. ophioscorodon, is typically grown in regions with cold winters. Chefs and garlic connoisseurs favor hardneck garlic due to its more intense taste.

Hardneck garlic varieties have a stiff scape (flower stalk) that grows in the spring as the bulb matures belowground. Hardneck garlic bulbs typically contain 4-12 cloves arranged in a single ring around the base of the stalk.

There are eight classes of hardneck garlic. Of these eight classes, rocambole and porcelain garlic are most popular among home gardeners and small-scale market growers.

1. Rocambole garlic

Rocambole garlic is a hardneck garlic class known for its exceptionally rich flavor. This type of garlic is considered a top gourmet choice and sought-after by chefs and garlic lovers due to its intense savory flavor.

Rocambole garlic bulbs tend to have 6-11 cloves. The cloves have thin papery skins that are very easy to peel.

Here are some popular rocambole-type garlic cultivars:

  • Spanish roja garlic
  • Carpathian garlic
  • German red garlic
  • French rocambole garlic
  • Italian purple garlic
  • Salt Spring select garlic
  • Spicy Korean Red garlic
  • De vivo garlic

2. Porcelain garlic

Porcelain garlic is a hardneck garlic class known for its attractive large, round, white bulbs and classic garlic taste. Varieties of this category are generally easy to grow. This type of garlic is also very versatile in the kitchen and can be used raw or cooked.

Porcelain garlic bulbs typically contain 4-6 thick, long cloves. The peels are tighter than some other hardnecks and are only somewhat easy to peel.

Here are some popular porcelain-type garlic varieties:

  • Music Garlic
  • German white garlic
  • Northern white garlic
  • Montana Zemo garlic
  • Big boy garlic
  • Romanian red garlic
  • Armenian garlic
  • Italian red garlic
  • German extra hardy garlic
  • Majestic garlic
  • Georgian crystal garlic

3. Purple stripe garlic

Purple stripe garlic is a hardneck garlic class known for its attractively striped bulbs and sweet flavor when roasted. This type is preferred for baked appetizers and by those who prefer their garlic sweet rather than spicy.

Purple stripe garlic bulbs have 8-12 elongated crescent-shaped cloves. The skins are thin and easy to peel.

Here are some popular purple stripe-type garlic varieties:

  • Chesnok red garlic
  • Persian star garlic
  • Oshala purple garlic
  • Russian red garlic

4. Marbled purple stripe garlic

Marbled purple stripe garlic is a hardneck garlic class known for its large bulbs with marbled purple and white peels, as well as for their hot and spicy flavor. These flavorful beauties also tend to store for longer than other classes of hardneck garlic, and can generally be stored for up to six months.

Marbled purple stripe garlic bulbs usually have 4-7 rounded cloves each. Like purple stripe cloves, these cloves are also easy to peel.

Here are some popular marbled purple stripe-type garlic cultivars:

  • Bogatyr garlic
  • Nordic garlic
  • Metechi garlic
  • Brown rose garlic
  • Khabar garlic
  • Gaia’s Joy garlic
  • Russian giant garlic
  • Duganskij garlic
  • Gourmet red garlic

5. Glazed purple stripe garlic

Glazed purple stripe garlic is a hardneck garlic class known for the attractive glossy purple wrappers. The peels of the bulbs have an almost metallic sheen. These varieties usually have a balanced moderate flavor perfect for roasting and a long storage life in comparison to other hardnecks.

Glazed purple stripe garlic bulbs usually have 8-12 cloves. While these types have more cloves than marbled, the cloves are smaller. The skins are very thin and delicate, making them easy to peel (but not commonly available for shipping long distances).

Here are some common glazed purple stripe-type garlic varieties:

  • Purple glazer garlic
  • Oregon garlic
  • Red rezan garlic
  • Vekan garlic

6. Asiatic garlic

Asiatic garlic is a hardneck garlic class known for its diverse range of flavors. These varieties have thick cloves and glossy peels. Asiatic garlic bulbs have 6-9 plump cloves per bulb.

Here are some popular Asiatic-type garlic cultivars:

  • Maiski garlic
  • Asian tempest garlic
  • Japanese garlic
  • Keeper garlic
  • Pyong Vang Korean garlic

7. Turban garlic

Turban garlic is a hardneck garlic class known for its turban-shaped bulbil. Turban-type garlics are similar to Asiatics, although they tend to mature a bit earlier in the spring.

Here are some common turban-type garlic cultivars:

  • Red Janice garlic
  • Sonora garlic

8. Creole garlic

Creole garlic is a hardneck garlic class known for its attractive peel and tall cloves. While most hardnecks grow best up north, Creole tends to grow best in the southern states. Some growers consider Creole garlic to be softneck garlic rather than a hardneck class, as it only occasionally makes scapes (and can vary widely by geographical region).

Here are some popular Creole-type varieties:

  • Ajo rojo garlic
  • Burgundy garlic
  • Creole red garlic

“There is some confusion with respect to the classification of the Asiatic, Creole, and Turban garlic types. Genetic analyses of Pooler and Simon (1993) classify these garlic types as softnecks, despite the fact that they occasionally make scapes.

Asiatic garlic types have drooping scapes and six to nine plump, glossy skinned cloves per bulb with a few purple bulbils in an elongated, wrinkled bulbil capsule (Engeland, 1991, 1995).

Turban-type garlics are similar to Asiatics, with a turban-shaped bulbil capsule and a very early maturation date, often sprouting by the October planting date.

Creoles have vivid wrappers, tallish cloves with elongated tips and numerous tiny bulbils, and grow best in the southern United States. Creole scapes are generally short and weak (Engeland, 1991, 1995).”

Genetic Diversity Among U.S. Garlic Clones as Detected Using AFLP Methods, by Gayle M. Volk, Adam D. Henk, and Christopher M. Richards, Journal of the American Society for Horticultural Science, 2004.

Softneck-type garlic classes

Softneck garlic, botanically classified as Allium sativum ssp. sativum, is typically grown in regions with mild winters. There are two classes of softneck garlic: artichoke and silverskin.

Softneck garlic cultivars either do not produce a flower stalk (they are “non-bolting”), or if they do, the stalk will be very weak (hence the name “softneck”). A bulb of softneck garlic typically contains 12-20 cloves of garlic. The cloves are arranged in 3+ nested layers within a bulb.

1. Artichoke garlic

Artichoke garlic is a softneck garlic class known for the unique layered arrangement of the cloves in the bulbs that resembles an artichoke when sliced. These softnecks have a fine subtle flavor and are great for braiding. They’re also wonderful for storage and can typically be kept for 8-12 months.

Artichoke garlic bulbs typically have 8-14 cloves arranged in several layers. While the flavor is not as strong as hardnecks, artichoke cultivars do tend to have an excellent flavor for a softneck variety.

Here are some popular artichoke-type garlic varieties:

  • Italian softneck garlic
  • Inchelium red garlic
  • Gomecari garlic
  • Sicilian gold garlic
  • Island star garlic
  • California early garlic
  • Chet’s Italian red garlic
  • Lorz Italian garlic
  • Machashi garlic
  • Mchadidzhauri garlic
  • Red Toch garlic
  • Susanville garlic

2. Silverskin garlic

Silverskin garlic is a softneck garlic class known for its attractive silvery-white peel and long storage ability. While these take longer than most to grow, mature bulbs can store for 12+ months in good conditions!

Silverskin garlic bulbs tend to have 9-24 cloves, typically arranged in 3 layers.

Here are some popular silverskin-type cultivars:

  • Nootka rose garlic
  • Californian select garlic
  • Italian Locati garlic
  • Italian Sicilian garlic
  • Prim garlic
  • Belarus garlic
  • Pristinski garlic
  • Silverwhite garlic
Mary Jane Duford
Mary Jane Duford

Mary Jane Duford is a gardening expert and founder of Home for the Harvest. She's also a professional engineer, certified permaculture garden designer, and master gardener in training. Mary Jane has been featured by publications such as Real Simple, Mother Earth News, Homes & Gardens, Heirloom Gardener, and Family Handyman.

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