Get to know one of the healthiest foods on earth as well as one of the oldest food flavorings by exploring the different types of garlic and their distinctions.
Garlic is a bulbous plant with more than 450 varieties that belong to the Lilies family. It originated in central Asia and is one of the first herbs cultivated about 4,000 years ago. The Neolithic men who existed over 7,000 years ago used garlic as a food seasoning.
In the 3rd millennium B.C., the ancient Egyptians incorporated garlic as part of their diet as well as a part of their medicine, religious ritual, and a source of strength for slaves.
Table of Contents
Garlic Nutrition Facts Chart
Now let’s jump into your garlic options.
1. Asiatic Garlic
Asiatic garlic is an early-harvested type of garlic and has up to 12 cloves per bulb. They usually store for up to five months only, and their taste varies depending on the actual variety. However, Asiatic garlic tends to be very strong and hot, particularly if you eat it raw, and varieties include the Russian Red, Asian Rose, Korean Red, and the Asian Tempest.
2. Black Garlic
Black garlic can be found in Korean grocery stores, and it has a plum-like taste with just a touch of vinegar. It is chewy, such as dried fruit, and if you know someone that hates regular garlic, this is the type of garlic you should try. In fact, its taste is quite unique and rather difficult to describe, and it is black in color because of the way it is made.
Black garlic is a little sweet, a little bitter, and tastes rough like it has some caramel in it as well. You can use black garlic in sauces and as a garnish on meats and salads, although some people have also used it in various desserts, as well as main dishes.
3. Creole Garlic
Creole garlic usually grows up to 12 cloves and can range in color from a light pink to purple color. In fact, the entire bulb can be that color, but Creole garlic is very rare compared to other types of garlic. It is grown in warmer climates and includes varieties such as the Burgundy, Creole Red, and Cuban Purple. Depending on where you buy this type of garlic, it can be a little on the spicy side, and if you prefer a little less bite, it is a good idea to smell it before you buy it.
4. Elephant (Buffalo) Garlic
It is easy to identify Elephant garlic because of its huge size. Also called Buffalo garlic, this type of garlic is milder than many other garlic varieties, with a slightly onion-like flavor. Great for stir-fry dishes and vinaigrettes, Elephant garlic is also superb when you roast it. They are very easy to peel and can be used in place of just about any other type of garlic, and their extra-large size makes them very easy to work with.
5. Hardneck Garlic
Known for their thin skins and violet-rose hue, the hard neck garlic has a lot of flavors and usually contain four to twelve cloves in each bulb. They usually have stalks that are long and which curl and loop, and they have different varieties, including Purple Stripe, Porcelain, and Rocambole. They also tend to grow better in areas that get very cold in the wintertime, and they go great with gamey meats such as venison or duck, as well as other dishes.
6. Purple Stripe Garlic
This is a very popular type of Hardneck garlic that stores for four to six months and produces roughly 55 cloves per pound. The cloves have a symmetrical shape and the cloves are so clearly defined that you can see them without breaking apart the garlic.
They are not only attractive, but very tasty, and they are easy to peel and taste great in a variety of dishes. They are perfect for roasting, and their varieties include the Khabar, Lithuanian Purple, Brown Rose, and the Russian Red. They come in three basic types: glazed, standard, and marbled, with each offering its own advantages.
Ramps usually have several wide, spade-shaped leaves and pale-green stems. Their leaves, in fact, are quite long, usually up to 12 inches in length, and they have a taste that is both sweet and pungent.
Closely related to the wild garlic, but looking similar to green onions, they mature in the spring, making that the perfect time to purchase them in grocery stores or farmers’ markets. They are similar to scapes in that they go with just about any type of food, and you can cook them just about any way you want to.
Often confused with ramps, scapes and ramps are actually two very different varieties of greens. Scapes grow in the middle of the Hardneck garlic bulb and have a small white bulb near the end. They have a very fresh, vegetable-like flavor and are especially tasty when sautéed in butter or oil. Scapes have a crisp, tender texture and are perfect for salads and for placing on top of pasta. They are found frequently on the West Coast, and their best season is springtime and early summer.
9. Softneck Garlic
Most of the garlic you find in the typical grocery store is Softneck garlic. The number of cloves it can contain ranges from eight to more than 30 bulbs, and this is the perfect type of garlic if you want to eat it fresh or cook with it. Its taste is plant-like and almost grassy in nature, and it is perfect for making salad dressings or when you need to lightly cook or sauté some garlic.
The two main varieties of Softneck garlic include the Silverskin, which is usually sold braided; and Artichoke, which is found frequently in supermarkets. It is also contained in most processed foods such as seasonings and garlic powder.
10. Turban Garlic
Similar to Asiatic garlic, Turban garlic has only a few cloves – usually no more than eight per bulb, and very large cloves as well. They mature in the spring, but they do not store for very long so they need to be watched carefully once they’re harvested.
They do well in warmer climates, and their varieties include the China Dawn and the Red Janice. As far as their texture and taste, Turban garlic is somewhere between the Hardneck and Softneck varieties, and they do not always contain scapes or flowers.