Porcelain garlics may be the most beautiful garlics of all and sometimes seem too beautiful to eat. Their bulb wrappers tend to be very thick, luxuriant and parchment-like and tightly cover their few, but very large, cloves. The outer bulb wrappers are often very white to milky and light tan although some some, like Romanian Red, tend to some purple striping as you peel away the wrappers. Their appearance tempts one to wonder whether they were sculpted by some great artist rather than something grown in the ground. There are no smaller cloves as most cloves are large and fat (four to eight per bulb), this makes them a great favorite with foodies.
Great eating garlic Porcelains are all very richly flavored garlic with an earthy muskiness and generally hot strong tasting garlics with a few exceptions like Georgia Crystal and Music.
Great storing garlic Porcelain garlics store longer than most other garlics, only the Silverskins store longer, if all are grown well. Large fat strong cloves that are very long storing, it's hard to ask much more out of a garlic.
Great Health Benefits The Porcelains are the densest of all garlics and weigh more per unit of volume than the other kinds and research scientists say that makes it a superior medicinal garlic, especially the hotter ones. There are lots of reasons to want to grow your own Porcelain garlics, especially if you like hot, strong garlics like Romanian Red (some think it is the strongest) or Wild Buff or Rosewood.
Great growing garlic In our experience, Porcelains are very hardy garlic and will grow well in most of the USA, but get larger the further North they are grown. Even so, they do well in most areas of the South most years although they are "iffy" in Florida and South Texas and the warmer winter parts of California. Clove covers tend to be somewhat longish and a golden brown color with distinctive vertical, purplish streaks.
Porcelain garlics are unique in that the scapes they produce in the spring coil in all kinds of ways and resemble a bed of snakes before the scapes all straighten up and become vertical. Other hardneck garlics form a characteristic fairly uniform pattern before straightening up, Rocamboles form a distinct double loop while Purple Stripes form 3/4 of a loop but the Porcelains do what they wanna.
Porcelains have few but large cloves and this has limitations in that a large clove may be more than you want to use and sometimes a smaller clove might be preferred (Another reason to grow several kinds of garlic.) and also, you have to save back a larger percentage of your total crop for planting stock next year than you do with other varieties if you plant from cloves as most people do, though some plant bulbils that takes two full growing seasons to mature. For those who want to grow their own garlic it takes a year or two longer to grow all you can eat. Porcelains harvest late in the season but well before the Silverskins. Bulbs are usually over 2 1/2 inches in diameter and 3" bulbs are not unusual and are grown primarily for their rich flavor and good storage capability.
Porcelain garlics are often more expensive than most other garlics partly because or their rarity and partly because the growers have to set aside a larger part of their crop for next seasons planting stock and for this reason many commercial growers prefer to grow varieties with more cloves per bulb so they can sell a higher percentage of their crop every year. Higher wholesale price means higher retail price.
Recent DNA analyses of garlic by Dr. Gayle Volk of the USDA in Colorado and also Dr. Joachim Keller of the Plant Institute in Gaterslaben, Germany showed that cultivars of Porcelain garlics were more genetically similar to each other, though distinctly different, than any of the other groups of garlic.