I shall not pretend to be an expert on garlic. You see, I only just planted my patch last fall. They’ve not even produced a crop so you certainly shouldn’t take advice from me. But I will tell you how I went about choosing my variety. Onward!
Time to Maturity: N/A. Bulbs are produced asexually from the previous year’s crop. This means you have to plant in the fall to get a crop next summer.
Diseases & Pests: Basal Rot, White Rot, Botrytis Rot, and Penicillium Decay. Rotating beds is key- but if you run into persistent issues with these, consider growing them in containers.
Key Words: Look for hardneck vs. softneck. Hardnecks don’t store as well as softnecks, but hardnecks do give you scapes. Some say hardnecks have more complex and varied flavors. Softnecks are what you will find in the grocery store.
Elephant Garlic will be a variety you see along with hardneck and softnecks. It is technically from the Leek family, but the taste is mild and the cloves are massive. It behaves more like a hardneck and will also provide scapes.
There will be plenty of flavor and heat indicators in the descriptions. There should also be descriptions of best use- fresh, roasted, etc. Keep an eye out for size descriptors, if you want large cloves there will be options (including Elephant Garlic).
Use: Where can’t one use garlic???
My Favorites: It probably isn’t fair to call Elephant Garlic my favorite, but it is what we planted last year. Mostly because the softnecks are so readily available and I like the idea of less peeling. I prefer milder flavored garlic, especially for fresh use in salsa and I don’t plan to (this year) preserve any beyond roasting. If the experiment goes well, we may add to the garlic collection with something like Spanish Roja (hardneck) or Nootka Rose (softneck).
What varieties of garlic do you all grow? Do you grow it at all?