Softneck Garlic vs Hardneck Garlic
Softneck vs Hardneck
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 . Hardneck garlic produces scapes, a center 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, no longer produces a flowering center stalk.
Hardnecks produce scapes which can be harvested and used fresh, cooked or pickled as a true culinary treat! However, their hard centers 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 : typically 4-6 months. Hardneck garlics are also more winter hardy than softneck garlic and grow well in northern cooler climates. Hardneck varieties are not produced on a large, commercial scale, because their cloves are challenging to machine plant and because of their shorter shelf life.
Softneck garlic is largely what you will find at any grocery store. Softneck garlic no longer produces a hard flowering stalk which makes them suitable for braiding or wreaths. Softneck garlic can be machine planted, is adaptable to warmer climates, and can store up to a year. Softneck garlic produces multiple layers of cloves that tend to get smaller the closer they are to the center of the bulb making for garlic heads that bear a wide variation of clove sizes. All braided garlic is a softneck variety.