Most people love chopping some garlic gloves to season their meals. The unique taste and intense aroma make it one of the easiest ways to give any food more personality. But do you know how garlic is grown? How many types of garlic are there? Or where it comes from?
If you don’t, you’re going to learn in this article. We’re going to give you a heads up of everything there’s to know about garlic so you can use or grow it with a clearer idea of what it offers.
Below, we go deep into all of this and a bit more. If you’re looking to start growing garlic at home – this guide should help you enormously. Don’t waste more time and read up!
Where Does Garlic Come From?
There’s no specific place we can confirm as the origin of garlic. However, there are many plants like garlic in Central Asia. Countries like Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan (previously part of the USSR) have some of the widest arrays of wild types of garlic that grow in the mountains.
For that reason, the most common types of garlic we know possibly have their roots in this area. Even then, you can find wild garlic practically all across Asia and part of Africa and Europe, including countries like Ukraine, China, India, and even Egypt. Some types even grow in warm places like California.
Considering garlic has been used as a seasoning for several thousands of years, there’s no way to know its specific origin. However, most of the garlic in the world comes from China, where 80% of all worldwide supply is grown.
Why Are There Many Garlic Types?
The original garlic (wild garlic) is a lot different from the one we consume. In fact, the wild species are hardly edible if you don’t know how to prepare them.
This gives you an idea of how much garlic has changed over time. Supposedly, it is because garlic is one of the easiest plants to change epigenetically. Developing new variations of garlic doesn’t take too much time.
But this is an over-explanation of why there are many types of garlic. Most of the changes happen because of environmental factors more than anything. It typically adapts to its growing area, changing everything from its color to its size and even the taste accordingly.
Is it Easy to Grow garlic?
Considering garlic grows in different places worldwide, is it safe to say it is easy to grow? Well, that’s not entirely true, but yes.
Compared to other plants, garlic stands out for its ability to grow in mild, warm, and cold climates without drawbacks.
In the wild, garlic grows mostly in mild places. It needs the right temperature and enough sun. This type of garlic also grows sexually, propagating its seeds and getting fertilized, so the proper environment is essential.
But in artificial environments or in homemade gardens, garlic grows almost with no limits. It grows asexually, so it needs to be planted a few weeks before the colder seasons. And in warm places, it grows better when planted in spring (but can still grow almost at any time.)
As for the soil, it demands high organic content to thrive. Yet, it can still grow almost anywhere, with different pH levels and at different altitudes.
There are many things to consider, though. But you can generally say garlic is easy to grow – depending on the type.
Types of Garlic: Hardneck
When we talk about the wild type of garlic, we refer to the closest species to the most popular option we use: the hardneck garlic.
It produces large gloves and has the most potent smells and taste. Most hardneck species contain between 4 and 6 gloves. Either way, the easiest way to identify hardneck garlic is to look at its stalk – often hard and thick enough to pierce through a paper.
This is the most likely type of garlic you’ve consumed. But even though it is a type of garlic, there are many sub-types to consider. Below, we explain each of them:
The first sub-type and the most common of all hardneck garlic is the Asiatic one. There are several types of Asiatic garlic, though. But the typical one comes from China. Yet, it was initially grown in Korea.
If you’ve ever seen a white bulb with small purple portions, then that’s Asiatic garlic. Sometimes, they develop a deep purple tone instead of white.
This type of garlic grows between 4 and 8 cloves per bulb. Generally, the taste is spicy, which is ideal for Asian flavors.
As for their growing needs, they require constant sun exposure and thrive in slightly shady areas. The soil needs to be highly organic and well-drained. Most importantly, they need daily watering.
When adequately sustained, the plant can grow up to 4 feet in height. And what’s even better, it can grow several times a year super-rapidly when compared to other species.
Most Asiatic species can last over 6 months without sprouting or rotting. Yet, they require dry areas to do so.
Another common type of garlic is the Rocambole. It looks similar to the Asiatic with a white tone and small red marks all around. However, this one has easier-to-peel cloves, it typically grows 8 to 12 per bulb, and they tend to have a brownish clove.
One vital feature Rocambole stands out for is the pungent smell and unusually sweet taste. Supposedly, it is one of the tastiest, sometimes considered the best of them.
But Rocambole is not perfect. In contrast with most garlic, it requires cold winters and only thrives in fresh to cold climates.
It thrives under constant sun exposure and average moisture. The soil needs to be well-drained and loamy for better results.
They can grow up to be 6 feet tall. However, the plants tend to curve down due to the weight of the bulbs.
White on the outside but purple on the inside, Creole garlic is another popular type. It has a mild flavor, sometimes nutty to the point of spicy. The smell is strong, nonetheless.
Creole thrives in warm areas instead of cold ones. And because of its ability to grow in warmer places, it typically grows between 8 and 12 cloves per bulb.
To grow this garlic, you will need a place with constant sun exposure. It may also grow on partial shade, but it’s not recommended. The soil should be well-drained and fertile, though. And even though it is ideal for warmer clients, it doesn’t withstand drought.
In the right environment, a Creole plant can grow up to 6 feet. Sadly, it rarely grows this large in cold climates.
4. Standard Purple Stripe
As the name says, this garlic boasts a purple color. It is typically called Red Zezan as well, as it can be a bit red as well. This purple appears directly on the peel with a stripe-like pattern. The cloves, in contrast, are often white and pale.
It is not only the color that stands out, though. The Purple Stripe species is one of the sweetest. It is so sweet that it’s used as an ingredient in desserts in some areas of the world.
When in the right environment, it can grow up to 10 cloves per bulb but can grow up to 16 at once. It thrives in cold climates, yet it also works in slightly warm ones.
You will need full sun exposure to make it work. Some shade won’t harm the plant, though. In the right conditions, it grows bushy and up to 5 feet tall.
5. Glazed Purple Stripe
A glossy exterior with a purple tone on garlic means it is a glazed purple stripe. As the name says, it comes with a shiny surface that adds a more attractive appearance, making it a unique species to grow.
Even though the exterior is typically attractive, the taste is one of the mildest. If you’re looking for less spiciness and sweetness, you will love this species.
One worthwhile feature of this garlic is its lifespan, with a shelf capacity of up to 7 months. This comes from its ability to grow in cold environments, as it comes from Eastern Europe.
Most of these gloves can handle over 6 cloves, with up to 12 in the largest ones. And when grown in direct sun exposure with well-drained soil, the plant can get up to 5 feet.
6. Marbled Purple Stripe
Also known as the Siberian garlic, it is similar to the glazed garlic with a purple exterior. However, this one has a slightly less glossy appearance, mixing tones of cream on the surface.
The taste of Marbled Purple Stripe garlic is also a bit strong, just like the smell. But it still has tons of similarities with its glossy cousin, like the ability to last 7 months without any problem.
Another similarity comes from its origin, coming from Eastern Europe and the warmer parts of Russia. Because of this, this garlic can grow in both cold and slightly fresh environments with no issues.
Like all gloves, however, it thrives under tons of sunlight and well-drained soil. And of course, it can reach 5 feet in height with proper fertilization.
Now we start with the summer types of garlic. The first one is the Turban, also known as the Chinese purple or Tzan type.
This one only thrives under total sun exposure with high moisture. In cold climates, it typically requires less water. Places where you can find Turban garlic include Mexico and the warmest parts of Eastern Europe.
Turban’s taste tends to be sweeter than average, which is why people don’t use it much for seasoning but as a whole ingredient on salads and soups. Similarly, it is easy to peel and doesn’t last more than 5 months.
Well-grown Turban garlic can grow to 3 feet. Every bulb can give 12 cloves. These cloves are typically evenly-sized, more than usual.
8. Middle Eastern
Also known as the Syrian or Subtropical garlic, it one of the rarest forms. As the name says, it grows mostly in the Middle East, so it thrives in extra-warm areas.
Because of this, this garlic doesn’t thrive in cold environments. At the same time, the plant only grows to be 3 feet tall if you’re lucky. Every bulb can give between 5 to 10 cloves.
As for the taste, it is mild. However, it tends to have intense spiciness. This makes it an ideal option in Middle Eastern cuisine.
Most Subtropical garlic bulbs are white and small. This makes them easier to cultivate, grow, and transport.
The largest type of hardneck garlic is the Porcelain. Each bulb of this species can have a maximum of 10 cloves. These cloves are evenly-sized but gigantic in comparison to other hardneck species.
You can also find it as the German White or Romanian Red. It stands out for a mildly colored surface, typically with a thin peel that’s easy to take off. The name comes from the ability to shine with light exposure.
A Porcelain garlic bulb can last up to 8 months. In some cases, it may last even more than that. And it all comes down to its ability to grow in slightly warm and cold environments – so it is a widely resistant species.
Lastly, it can grow up to 6 feet as long as there’s sufficient sun exposure and fertile soil.
Types of Garlic: Softneck
While hardneck garlic is a more manageable version of wild garlic, softneck is an easier-to-grow and more long-lasting version of hardneck. It is the most typical type in the market, especially in warm areas close to the equator.
What sets softneck garlic types apart is the ability to grow over 10 gloves per bulb in most species. However, the colors tend to be dull and pale.
If you want to identify this garlic, look at how white it is. If the garlic doesn’t have any touch of purple or red, it is very likely softneck. Apart from that, you can also tell because the stalk it comes with is pliable, which is why it is typically sold in braids.
Here are 3 sub-types of softneck garlic to know.
One of the smallest types of garlic, the Artichoke species comes from places where growing hardneck garlic species is difficult. This includes Europe and North America with strong summer and winters.
Because the gloves are small, a single bulb of Artichoke garlic can handle 25 gloves at once. They come tightly packed, asymmetrically, and inside a hardened peel, typically difficult to take off.
Thanks to this peel, Artichoke grows almost anywhere as long as there’s enough sun exposure. Similarly, a single bulb can last 10 months without rotting. Yet, most Artichoke plants can grow only as long as 2 feet.
The second most common type of softneck garlic is the silverskin. As the name says, the shell is typically silverish. For this, it is usually called Polish garlic.
What sets it apart is the small cloves it comes with. While the bulbs are not necessarily large, the cloves are so small it is not uncommon to find over 40 cloves per bulb. Cloves tend to be white and hold a very mild flavor.
The peel is thick, sometimes composed of several layers. This makes it hard to take off. But at the same time, it makes them last up to 12 months in some cases.
As for growth, they thrive in warm areas. The plant doesn’t get over 2 feet, though. So, they may grow well, even in small spaces.
3. Elephant Garlic
For those who want to go the extra mile, nothing will be larger for their garden than the Elephant or Buffalo garlic.
As the name implies, it is a gigantic type of garlic. Each bulb comes with 4 to 8 cloves only. Because of this size, the peel tends to be super-thin, making it a piece of cake to take off.
People tend to use this type of garlic baked in their meals more than as seasoning. It is because the flavor is mild. The color is pale white to creamy.
As for growth, you’ll need a relatively warm environment. Otherwise, it won’t sprout well. In the right environment, an elephant garlic plant can reach 4 feet in height, making it the largest softneck species.
So, did you learn about the types of garlic with this article? There’s a high chance you weren’t prepared for so many varieties. You’re probably a bit surprised.
But now that you’re more aware of these types, how they grow, and what you can get from each – it’s time to get your hands dirty.
Growing them at home shouldn’t be much of a problem if you recreate their ideal environment. So, what are you waiting for?