Broadly speaking garlic, Allium Sativum has two sub species: Sativum or more commonly Softneck Garlic and Ophioscorodon or more commonly Hardneck Garlic.
Softneck Garlic is perhaps best known because most commercially available garlic is of the softneck variety. Softneck garlic is easier to grow on a large scale and generally stores well. Softnecks also produce an abundance of cloves and a flexible stalk that can be formed into garlic braids. The two main types of softneck garlic are silverskin and artichoke.
Hardneck Garlic produces fewer yet larger cloves then the softnecks and are a little more sensitive resulting in a marginally shorter shelf life. Hardneck garlic also produces a scape, or stalk, which in turn produces a flower or bubil. This scape is removed from the plant early in the growing season to allow more energy to be transferred to the bulb thus resulting in a more robust and vigorous garlic. Hardneck garlic arguable produces a superior culinary product than a softneck variey. The three main types of hardneck garlic are rocambole, porcelain and purple stripe.
Further research will reveal a bewildering list of varieties. some, like elephant garlic, is not really garlic at all but a type of leek. This is where I get all frustrated and confused. Suffice it to say that all garlic are Alliaceae or members of the onion family defined by their bulbous nature like onions, leeks, and shallots.
Until I invest more time and energy into garlic classifications lets just say at farmersdotter we grow two varieties of garlic. One is an early softneck variety known to us as Kowloon. This should prove to be the first garlic available in the season giving us a jump start on positive cash flow. Thats a good thing. Very good. We hope to get Kowloon to market by late June. Our second variety is a hardneck commonly known as Russian Red. After softnecks, most consumers in our area are most familiar with Russian Red.
I won’t bore you here with specifics because I’ll post a harvest reconciliation each fall but if everything goes according to plan, on a 1 to 5 seed/bulb ratio we hope to harvest 18,000 lbs of hardneck and 2,000 lbs of softneck garlic.