It is a common misconception that garlic bulbs are always white. The tunics, as well as the cloves, often come with tinges of pink, red, purple or brown. Garlic cultivars are split into two main groups – hardneck and softneck.
Hardneck garlic is a group of cultivars selected from Allium sativum var. ophioscorodon originating from climates with colder winters. It has the following characteristics:
- Flower stalks appear readily
- Fewer, larger cloves covered with a looser tunic are produced
- It is considered to have stronger and more interesting flavour
- It is best gathered when the foliage has changed colour
- It stores only until mid-winter
Softneck garlic (Allium sativum) generally produces smaller, more tightly-packet cloves;
- Does not produce flower stalks unless stressed
- It is best harvested when the foliage starts going over
- It has better storage qualities than hardneck varieties
- If autumn planted it will keep until mid- to late-winter
- If planted in early spring softneck varieties it can be stored until mid-spring
‘Chesnok Wight’: Good cropper, early summer maturing cultivar, skin and cloves with deep purple veining, strong flavour.
‘Lautrec Wight’: Maturing in early summer, suitable for both autumn and early spring planting, does not perform well on heavier soils and cold areas. Considered to be one of the best flavoured cultivars.
‘Red Sicilian’: Early summer maturing, spicy flavour, good for roasting.
‘Early Wight’: Early maturing; can be harvested at end of May from autumn planting, best used soon after harvest as it is not good for storage.
‘Solent Wight’: Late summer maturing, very good for storage.
‘Germidour’: Late maturing, purple skinned cloves.
‘Purple Heritage Moldovan’ or ‘Purple Moldovan’: Late maturing, heirloom cultivar, producing large purple cloves.
Elephant garlic – Allium ampeloprasum – is often sold as garlic, but it actually more closely related to leeks. It produces a small number of very large cloves of mild flavour. It needs good, long, warm growing season to grow well. It is best planted in October.
The cloves sometimes do not divide, producing just slightly larger single-clove (solo) bulbs. Early planting often reduces the occurrence of solo bulbs. The single-clove bulb can be harvested or planted again the following season, when it will often produce segmented cloves.
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