Hardneck Garlic / Softneck Garlic

Hardneck and Softneck Garlic: What's the difference?
There are two main types of garlic: hardneck and softneck. Garlic is seperated into these two based on each of their ability to produce flowering stalks, their hardiness, and the clove pattern.


Hardneck features:

  • Types: Rocambole, Porcelain, Purple Stripe, Marble Purple Stripe, Glazed Purple Stripe, Asiatic, Turban, and Creole.
  • Produces a long, woody flowering stem in mid summer called a scape. (See our section about garlic scapes below.)
  • Flavor- Hardneck garlic boasts big flavor! You'll enjoy robust, rich and complex flavors with this choice.
  • Cool weather loving. Hardnecks grow well and offer big yields in freezing winter climates. 
  • Tend to be very easy to peel. If you are looking for cloves that pop right out of their skins, hardnecks are for you! Although hardnecks have a single layer of cloves around the woody stem, the cloves are large and plump.
  • Shorter shelf life. Quality begins to deteriorate within 4-6 months but some varieties can push out to 10 months with best storage practices.
  • There are hundreds of hardneck garlic varieties! Some well-known named are Spanish Roja, Romanian Red, Chesnok Red, Georgian Crystal, German Extra-Hardy, and Music.
Softneck features:
  • Types- Silverskin and Artichoke.
  • Normally will not produce a flowering scape.
  • Flavor- You'll be enjoying milder, traditional garlic flavor. Extremely versatile for many of your recipes!
  • Generally grows best in climates with hot summers and mild winters.
  • Bulbs can produce many, many cloves depending on growing conditions and mature earlier in the season. Cloves do not peel as easily as their counterpart but you will have varying clove sizes within the bulb. Choose a little, or a lot!
  • You'll get a long shelf life with softnecks. Some can store well over a year with best storage practices.
  • Softnecks are your garlic to grow for braiding! With the absence of a hard flowering stalk that grows from the center of the bulb, you'll be able to braid the leaves into beautiful lengths or wreaths for creative storage and display.
  • Look into Nootka Rose, Lorz Italian, Red Toch, Inchelium Red, and California Early for popular softneck varieties.

Our thoughts: 

Don't be discouraged by the climate recommendations of growing your own garlic seed! Here on our farm we successfully grow hardneck and softneck varieties. We like to joke that we experience climate zones 3 to 7 several times a day, and for 365 days a year!  We can hit 55 degrees in January and have snow in July. The softneck, Lorz Italian, has produced some monster bulbs here. And, Nootka Rose wasn't too shabby either. 

Many varieties have become well adapted to the regions they are grown in against all odds. If anything, mature garlic bulbs may be small for your first harvest but keep at it using your harvested seed for your future crops. It may take a few years, but a warm-loving softneck can definitely come around and show up a hardneck in the next row over. Sun exposure, soil quality, weed and pest management, fertilizer inputs, and the health of seed contribute greatly to a crop's success. It doesn't hurt to grab a few bulbs and give it a try! 

 

 Hardneck and softneck garlic. Shown here is beautiful Purple Stripe 'Chesnok Red'. You can see in the center of the cross section where the stem of the scape forms in the bulb. The other bulb, Nootka Rose, is free from a central scape stem and has many cloves bundled together.

Hardneck and softneck garlic. Shown here is beautiful Purple Stripe 'Chesnok Red. You can see in the center of the cross section where the stem of the scape has been cut. The other bulb, Nootka Rose, is free from a central scape stem and has many cloves grouped together.

 

What is a garlic scape?

Garlic scapes are the long stemmed, flowering bud of a garlic plant seen in hardneck varieties. Softneck varieties do have the rare ability to bolt under stressful conditions and produce a pseudostem but that's a whole different side of horticulture we won't dig into here.

In June or July a single stem emerges from the center of the garlic bulb and out through the leaves of each garlic plant. As the flower stem grows it coils about itself to straighten out and bloom into a head with small blossoms much like an onion flower. Garlic scapes are generally removed after they emerge but before they flower in order to increase garlic bulb size. If scapes are not removed the growth energy is pushed into producing flower, after which the scape becomes tough and woody. Remove scapes while they are still coiled and tender, and enjoy a delicious culinary treat! Scapes have a mild, light garlic flavor and are extremely versatile in recipes. Enjoy the plant as well as it bulb- It's a win-win from one crop!

 Here is an example photo of garlic scapes.

Photo(s) copyright Grey Duck Garlic