The Wide World of Garlic



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My husband is a garlic fanatic. No matter what I cook, he will always say there’s not enough garlic.  He even wants me to put garlic in things like Clam Chowder. His need for garlic in the most obscure things never ceases to amaze me.

Many of us think that there are only two varieties of garlic, elephant (oversized) and regular, the only types you can find at the grocery store. Would it surprise you to know that there are over 600 types of garlic in this world. I know I was when I found out.

We have been growing our own garlic for about 4 years, ordering it from specialty garlic farms, and we have still only tried about 15 varieties. You might also be shocked to find out that the city of Gilroy in California hosts a garlic festival every July and has been doing it for 35 years!

So I thought I would give you a quick overview of the types of garlic and how the ones in the grocery store don’t begin to measure up to the ones you can buy online.

There are actually two main types of garlic with lots of sub-varieties. The two main types are hard neck and soft neck.  The soft neck type is the one you find in the grocery store.  You know they’re soft neck because they don’t have a really hard stem going through the middle of them.  I avoid these like the plague.


Hard neck varieties you might find in specialty food stores, but I buy all of mine online and then use some of what I purchase to grow my own. They come in many different kinds, but all have a much better and stronger flavor than the soft neck.  You know how you go to a restaurant and they have a bread dipping oil that has almost a bite to it, or an Italian dish where you think they must have used a ton of garlic.  And if you love garlic you love these kind of dishes.  The restaurants often use hard neck garlic for their dishes.  It provides more flavor with less garlic

Within the hard neck garlic family, there are five main types. They are Porcelain (mostly white), Purple Stripe (the name tells it all), Marbled Purple Stripe (doesn’t look much different than the Purple Stripe) and Rocambole.  I tend to prefer the Rocambole because I have found them to have the strongest garlic flavor.  Each one has a slightly different flavor profile and varying levels of heat (not pepper heat, but garlic bite).  The only way to see what you like is to try out different types and just note where you buy them because garlic from different farms can taste slightly different depending on the soil, water and other gardening factors.

Now that I’ve given you an overview of the real garlic world, here are a few farms that sell their garlic online. You have to check out the farm and see what varieties they have.  They usually have descriptions of the flavor and the heat level.  I haven’t purchased from all of these sites, but they have a decent variety of garlic.  I hope you enjoy the world of garlic as much as we do! (this one is local to me so I have bought from here and their garlic is great)

2 thoughts on “The Wide World of Garlic

  1. Julie wood says:

    Very interesting stats on garlic. I like cooking with garlic and did not know that there is so many varieties. I only cook with soft neck garlic. I would like to try the Hard neck garlic once to see how it works in my dishes.

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