Hardneck Garlic vs Softneck Garlic

Hardneck vs Softneck 

Almost all garlic is planted from cloves and is a clone of the garlic it came from. In fact, most garlic no longer is even capable of producing seed.  

Hardneck varieties are closer, genetically, to true seed producing garlic. They produce scapes, a stalk that grows out of the center of the garlic bulb and pushes up out of the garlic leaves. If the scape is not removed it will eventually flower in an attempt to produce seed. 

Hardneck varieties have retained the ability to produce a flowering stalk - this stalk becomes hard as the  plant dries out -  hence the name “hardneck”. Softneck garlic, on the other hand, does not produce a flowering center stalk. 

Hardneck Garlic

Scapes produced by hardneck garlic can be harvested and used fresh, cooked, or pickled. They are a true culinary treat! However, the hard centers of the scapes make them unsuitable for braiding. 

Hardnecks generally produce fewer cloves per head, but the cloves tend to be large. The shelf life of hardneck garlic varieties is shorter than softneck garlic varieties, with a shelf life of only 4-6 months from harvest. 

Hardneck garlic is more cold tolerant than softneck garlic and grows well in northern cooler climates. Hardneck varieties are not produced on a large, commercial scale because their cloves are challenging to machine plant and they have a shorter shelf life.       


Softneck Garlic

Softneck garlic is what you will find at most grocery stores. As softneck garlic no longer produces a hard flowering stalk, this makes it suitable for braiding or wreaths. 

Softneck garlic can be easily machine planted, is adaptable to warmer climates, and has a shelf life up to a year from harvest. 

In addition, softneck garlic produces multiple layers of cloves that tend to get smaller the closer they are to the center of the bulb, so the garlic heads bear a wide variation of clove sizes. All braided garlic is a softneck variety.