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Types of Garlic Plants

garlic image by Norbert Tuske from

Garlic is available in supermarkets and food outlets. These garlic heads have a papery white skin that encases a tight, circular grouping of garlic cloves. You may use this kind of garlic in sauces or salads, as a seasoning in soups or for medicinal purposes, such as treating cold symptoms. It is, however, not the only type of garlic.

Soft Neck Garlic

Soft neck garlic is considered common garlic that encompasses both the artichoke and the silverskin garlics. The artichoke type is the one most commonly found in supermarkets. Larger cloves encircle the inner, smaller cloves, numbering a dozen cloves or more within a bulb. The outer skins of the silverskin garlic have a silvery tint but otherwise resemble in both clove size and flavor the artichoke type. A subcategory of the silverskin is the Creole garlic. Creole has a rose blush to the outer skin. The cloves are evenly sized and number from eight to 12.

Hard Neck Garlic

Hard neck garlic is sometimes referred to as stiff neck garlic. As the name implies, the necks of these types of garlic bulbs are more rigid. The cloves in hard neck garlic types are whiter, more evenly sized and have less parchment or skins surrounding them. The hard neck garlic types also are reputed to have a stronger taste than the soft neck garlic varieties. A common type of hard neck garlic is the purple stripe. Smaller than artichoke or silverskins, the purple stripe exhibits bright purple striping and a rose tint on the outer skin. Purple stripe garlic is considered the better variety for roasting.

Elephant Garlic

Elephant garlic is an imposter, that is, it is not a garlic but rather a leek. The cloves, however, form a multi-cloved bulb just as garlic does, and have a similar taste and smell. Elephant garlic is roughly twice the size of the common artichoke type and also has the papery white skins. These skins, however, tend to disintegrate during storage. This does not affect the taste or nutritional efficacy of the elephant garlic clove.

Society Garlic

Purely for show, the Society Garlic plant derives its name from its light garlicky scent. The plant has slender leaves with a vertical growth habit that, when crushed, smell like garlic. The plant sends up delicate purple or white flowers from its stalk, but neither the flowers nor the leaves should be eaten. Though not toxic, ingesting the plant can cause digestive distress.

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