Growing garlic is one of life’s easy pleasures. The hundreds of varieties fall into two main categories: hardnecks, with long, woody midstems; and softnecks, with soft, braidable necks. Award-winning garden writer Barbara Pleasant (buy her ebook Growing, Harvesting and Curing Your Homegrown Garlic for $5 on our website) shares her favorite varieties to grow.
1. ‘Music’ is fun to grow because everything about it is big—the leaves, the curled scapes, and the cloves and bulbs. The stately plants are easy to grow, the plump cloves are easy to peel, and perfect bulbs will keep through winter. A whole ‘Music’ bulb slowly roasted with olive oil and salt is a culinary marvel.
2. ‘German Red’ is a robust hardneck with red-blushed cloves that grows well in a wide range of climates and soils. The symmetrical bulbs are composed of uniform cloves that practically jump out of their jackets when lightly smashed with the side of a knife.
3. ‘Chinese Pink’ or any variety described as an Asiatic or turban type will mature more than a month ahead of other garlic varieties, which makes them invaluable for early summer pickling projects. The small bulbs cure quickly and store beautifully for up to a year.
4. ‘Inchelium Red’ is a vigorous softneck that’s easy to braid, and its mild-flavored, medium-size cloves are versatile in the kitchen.
5. ‘Nootka Rose’ may be late and lumpy, but this softneck is a favorite variety in the kitchen. The juicy outer cloves encircle layers of elegantly long inner ones, with sharp flavors that become sweet and mellow when cooked.