Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Garlic Part 1

Right'o, Garlic.

What got me started on Garlic was the plethora of articles popping up in the indigenous gardening magazines such as Better Homes and Gardens and Gardening Australia, plus most of the online mail order nursery's like Green Harvest and Diggers have been sending me e-mails about their garlic.

So I'm guessing it must be Garlic time.

One thing that struck me was information about Hardneck and Softneck garlic which is info I'd not come across before.
So what follows is my take on Hardneck and Softneck garlic and which witch is which.

Firstly is the softneck which is the most common garlic we all know and love and the one you are most likely to find in the supermarket.
This is because softneck garlic is easier to grow and plant mechanically and also keeps for longer than hardneck.
There are two main types of softneck garlic: silverskin and artichoke. Silverskin garlic is most common simply because it's easier to grow and keeps longer. Artichoke garlic tends to have fewer but larger cloves and a milder flavour. The artichoke garlic bulb wrappers are coarser than those of silverskins and sometimes have purple blotches.

In a nutshell softneck refers to the fact that bulbs are covered in a white outer flaky skin and it does not produce a flower stem. Simple as that.

Softneck varieties are the easiest to grow and will accept the widest variety of climates.
If you are in the slightly warmer parts of Australia then this is the one to go for. Not for the tropics though.

The variety I'm planting is Italian white from Green Harvest.
Green Harvest suggests,

'Italian White is a well-known bulb with flat, grey-green leaves; 'Italian White’ is a soft-neck type with creamy white skin, medium to large bulb with up to 17 cloves per bulb.

Worth buying just for cooking as this organic garlic has a superb flavour and will keep for many months'.

Diggers also have Australian White, Early White, Italian Red, Melbourne Market and Silverskin.

Next, or second if you like, is Hardneck varieties.

Hardneck varieties prefer a mild and cool climate with a cool spring. My springs can warm up quickly at times so I'll just have to wait and see how I go with this one.

There are three main types of hardneck garlic: rocambole, porcelain and purple stripe. Rocambole garlic usually has up to a dozen cloves of a tan or browny colour. Porcelain garlic has a satiny white wrapper and the fewest cloves in a bulb, perhaps as few as four very large cloves. Porcelain garlic is often mistaken for elephant garlic. Purple stripe garlic is highly distinctive because of its colouring, with bright purple markings.

The variety I'm growing is a Rocambole called 'Manaro Purple'. from Green Harvest who go on to say, ‘Monaro Purple’ is a hardneck or top-setting variety which is suitable only for cooler areas. It is also called a ‘rocambole’ variety from the habit the flower stem has of looping over on itself to produce a distinctive twist. Rocambole types have a sweet, nutty flavour with 6-8 cloves per bulb.

So if a softneck is defined as having no flower stem then you'd be thinking that hardnecks would have a flower stem and you'd be right, but there is a twist.

Hardneck garlics have a "scape" - (a flower stalk) that coil and bend in curious ways. On the top of this scape grow a number of bulbils which are often mistakenly referred to as garlic flowers.

To get a good description of this "scape" then "Yard and Garden News" have it explained it clearly.

Well that's it for softneck and hardneck varieties. I hope I haven't confused you anymore than I am. If you have any tips, additions, corrections or questions then please let me know.

Tomorrow I'll post some general info on soil prep and planting.

Garlic Part 2

Garlic Part 3


April said...

I will be paying close attention to this garlic talk! I'm planning on putting some in this fall, so can use all the info I can get!

Anonymous said...

I planted garlic this winter and I'm hoping to harvest in June. I've got some reservations though....... with my Florida weather!

tina said...

You didn't confuse me at all and I like the information.

daisymum7 said...

I am playing along with you this time Stewart I ordered Garlic from green harvest and they arrived Tuesday. So roll on part 2!!


Em said...

lol, I've got a garlic post brewing too Stewart... from last year, no sense in rushing these things ;) I'm excited about growing it properly this year - last year I put in 2 supermarket garlics which turned out to be (probably) Aussie white, and a purple striped hardneck one. Oh, and elephant garlic. They were all pretty small at harvest as I didn't plant till midyear, so this year should go better. I didn't work out what the hardneck/softneck thing really meant until I tried braiding the garlic; then it all became clear :)

Good luck to your garlic, those varieties all sound so tempting!

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