Biodiversity is the spice of life. This adage is especially true when it comes to garlic. If you love this healthful, pungent root vegetable, perhaps you're ready to begin growing it and experimenting with different varieties. Garlic is easy to start from seed or bulbs. Although you can plant garlic cloves you purchase at the supermarket, you might find that other varieties have different flavors and degrees of "hotness" when you grow garlic from seed.
Bogatyr Purple Striped Garlic
This heirloom garlic originated in Russia. It has a hot bite when eaten raw, according to the Local Harvest website. But the flavor does not linger, so Local Harvest recommends it for use raw in recipes such as pesto sauce and hummus. When this variety of garlic matures, the bulbs are striped with purple, and they are easy to peel. Each head contains eight to 12 crescent-shaped cloves, which are also good roasted. This type of garlic grows well in regions that have hot, dry summers.
Recommended for southern growing regions, the Creole variety of garlic comes from Spain and resembles the purple striped garlic with its colorful, elongated cloves. When you peel cloves of the Creole garlic, they are colored solid red or purple. If you grow Creole garlic in northern areas, heads will grow smaller than they would grow in warmer parts of the country. Gourmet Garlic Gardens suggests growing this variety in California, Texas and the Deep South. Seed supplier Filaree Farm reports that the flavor is sweet when you first taste it, and that its heat grows more intense afterward.
The porcelain garlic variety has very large heads, similar to elephant garlic, for which it is sometimes mistaken, according to the seed supplier Filaree Farm. Porcelain garlic bulbs are large and enclosed by snow-white wrappers. Filaree Farm refers to their flavor as "vastly superior." The Local Harvest website claims that they are resistant to diseases and that they store very well. Every pound of seed yields fewer plants than garlic varieties with smaller cloves, but gourmet chefs prefer this variety for its good flavor and large cloves.
Several types of the artichoke variety exist. They are often grown commercially and will look familiar to you if you purchase garlic at supermarkets. The grower Gourmet Garlic Gardens states that this variety is one of the easiest to grow and that it does well in areas that have warm winters. Each head contains from 12 to 20 large cloves, which store well and have flavors ranging from mild to strong, depending on the cultivar. The artichoke garlics are sometimes referred to as "red" or "Italian," although they are not red and have not been known to grow in Italy.