No cook’s garden is complete without garlic. No herb garden is either, since all Alliums, including garlic, are old time favorites for remedies. If you cook with them, you get some of those health benefits on a regular basis.
Like onions, I interplant garlic for its repellent abilities with deer, rabbits, etc. Even many insects steer away. Honeybees like it, and it can make the honey taste off if there is too much. If that is a problem, remove the scapes.
In Texas and Seattle I grew softneck garlics. This group includes the standard garlic cloves in every US store. It also includes those pretty braided garlic chains. Before I moved to the mountains, I raised softneck garlic on my apartment patio in Albuquerque. Plant plenty, because garlic greens are great. The softneck varieties are Allium sativus var. sativum. They adapt to a wider range of conditions and store longer.
Now that I live in the New Mexico mountains I am shifting to hardneck varieties, Allium sativum var. ophioscorodon. These are less productive, but have a greater variety of flavors. The flowerstalks, called scapes, are prized for their delicate flavor and are delicious in stir fry dishes or salads. Removing the scapes encourages clove production, so eating them will not hurt matters. Garlic stops growing June 22 when the days get shorter, and starts pulling energy from the top and storing energy in the bulb.
Hardneck garlics come in three distinct groups called Rocambole, Purple Stripe, and Porcelain. I will try one of each.
Ontario Purple Trillium Serpent is an heirloom Rocambole prized for its great flavor. It is very cold hardy and an early season variety that does not store long. Rocambole are the great French cooking garlics. They are sweeter and less sulphurous than other garlics and are best when raw garlic is needed. This is a nice garlic for rubbing a wood salad bowl before serving. For a Rocambole, Ontario Purple Trillium Serpent is a bit hot, but it has a great spicy flavor to it.
Chesnok Red is a hardneck Marbled Purple Stripe variety. It is an heirloom from Shvelisi, Republic of Georgia. I ordered this one because it is very vigorous in cold climates and has a distinctive lingering taste. Plus I wanted to see the brilliant red cloves on the inside. I won’t see them soon, because I ordered bulb is and they take two years to mature… speed dating it’s not.
German White Georgian Fire is a workhorse Porcelain variety. It is a good survivor, very winter hardy and withstands heavy freeze – thaw cycles. Its flavor is supposed to be good, it can get as large as Elephant Garlic, and stores up to 10 months at room temperature. This is better sounding by the minute. Georgian Fire has a high allicin content, making it a premier medicinal garlic. It helps lower cholesterol, increase circulation, and boosts the immune system.
Garlics are from the mountains of Afghanistan and Pakistan. This area is still where garlic plants breed and set seed. They are unlikely to set seed unless over 4000 feet.
I did read “scientific” research saying that out of 200 varieties tested, only 10 produced seed, and only one produced pollen. It also said purple anthers indicate fertility and yellow anthers are sterile. I put quotes around scientific because it did not include methods, varieties, location grown, or any information that would allow you to reproduce the test. It read like an abstract but included nothing else.
I mention this paper because I live at about 7500 feet and am curious whether I would be able to get seed reproduction here. Are they sterile or will they reproduce under their native conditions? I saw other research that included forcing reproduction in a laboratory, but the seeds would not sprout.
From my naturalist viewpoint, many native plants do not set seed every year, if conditions do not suit, they give it a rest. Others think that garlic has been reproduced vegetatively for so long, its genetic makeup might be messed up. I did not see proof of this and I have never seen garlic plants that look messed up. Just sayin.
I ordered one wild Allium, and am unsure whether it is a garlic or onion. Allium canadense var. canadense. It likes cool temperatures, and has bulbils (probably var. canadense). The bulbils produce a nice onion pickle, so I might include it in my dill pickles for a change. I read contradicting reports on this one, a good indicator that it has great genetic variability. I had something on my 14 acres in Texas, growing in a shady ditch, that sure looked like the photos of this one. Tasted like a mild garlic. This one will produce seed and I hope it naturalizes and thrives. Another requirement for my Food Forest and circular economy is permanent garlic.
In all, I look forward to trying these garlic plants in my mountain garden. As a cook, garlic is a must have. For my herbal garden, ditto. In all the years I have grown garlic I have never had hardneck varieties, I expect a treat.