5 Types of Garlic You Need to Know

April 09, 2014

Thought you were a garlic connoisseur? Well, there are many things you might not know about garlic including the five types explained here...

Everyone has heard that garlic has many health benefits; each clove is full of health-protective nutrients, including manganese, vitamins C and B6, and garlic is thought to have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that may contribute to heart health by reducing cholesterol levels. It also contains prebiotics, which are beneficial for gut health. But did you know there are many different varieties of garlic to choose from? There are so many varieties with different flavors ranging from sweet and mild to very hot and spicy and thanks to the Gourmet Garlic Gardens SupermarketGuru has put together a simplified list of five varieties of garlic:

Porcelains (ophios) are among the most beautiful garlics. Their bulb wrappers tend to be very thick, luxuriant and parchment-like and tightly cover their few, but large, cloves - typically only five per bulb. They are generally strong tasting, with a few exceptions and can store for up to eight to ten months or more at cool room temperature. 

Rocamboles tend to have thinner bulb wrappers and lots of purple striping and splotches. They are not as white as other ophios and seem to have a brownish cast to them, in fact, some of them almost look as though they need a bath. What they lack in beauty, they make up for in taste. Many people consider them their favorite garlics - they are very, very flavorful and most of them very hot. They have usually eight to ten cloves arranged in circular fashion about a central scape and have few or no smaller internal cloves. Their primary drawback is that they are among the shorter storing garlics.

Purple Stripes are ophios (hardnecks) and are usually vividly striped with purplish vertical stripes decorating the bulb wrappers, hence their name. In between the purple stripes, their bulb wrappers are usually very white and thick. Some sub-varieties are even heavily splotched with purple.
They tend to be rather rich in flavor, but not overly pungent, though some are milder, and store fairly well. Standard Purple Stripes (Chesnok Red and Persian Star) make the sweetest roasted garlic. 
In addition to the standard purple stripes, there are two other groups of Purple Stripe varieties, the glazed group and the marbled group - they range from the very strong, such as Metechi or very mild, such as Siberian. Persian Star and Chesnok Red have a rich medium flavor.

Artichoke garlics (sativums or softnecks) are the kinds of garlics seen most in the supermarkets in our part of the country. California Early and California Late are grown in huge quantities around Gilroy, California and shipped all over the country and are the generic garlic that most people think of when they think of garlic. They have lots of cloves, usually somewhere between 12 and 20, with lots of smaller internal cloves. Artichokes are generally very large, store well and have a wide range of flavors with some, being very mild and pleasant and others have greater depth of flavor. The Turban group of artichoke garlic tends to be the most colorful artichokes and have fewer cloves per bulb than the others. The turbans also harvest earlier and store less long than the other artichokes and a good bit stronger in taste as well. Artichoke Garlics are the commercial growers favorite because they are easier to grow and produce larger bulbs that most other garlics. Artichokes are often called red garlics or Italian garlics despite the fact that most are neither red nor were ever grown in Italy. 

Silverskins are usually, but not always, the ones that you see in braids. Silverskins are generally the longest storing of all garlics and have a soft pliable neck that lends itself to braiding and holds up over time better than the artichokes whose necks tend to deteriorate. They are usually fairly hot, strong garlics with very few cultivars being mild. They have more cloves per bulb, on the average, than the artichokes but are not nearly as large.

And by the way, if you are worried about garlic breath, SupermarketGuru's tip is to eat slowly and chew thoroughly which will help to eliminate garlic breath in the first place.

Keep in mind, this is not the full list of garlic types and subgroups– for more visit, www.gourmetgarlicgardens.com