Silverskin garlics are in a class by themselves, literally, and in several ways; they are the last garlics to mature each season and they store the longest. There is also a great range of tastes, pungency and onset of pungency, clove color, leaf color and size as well as time of maturity. No other garlics braid better than Silverskins. Silverskins are great garlics for all the reasons outlined above but also because they will grow well in most of the USA, what's not to like?
Silverskin garlics 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 earlier than the silverskins.
They are usually very richly flavored in garlickiness and anywhere from mild to hot in pungency. S & H Silverskin, for example, has a musky, earthy garlickiness with very little bite when eaten raw, whereas Locati can be fiery hot some years. Silverwhite also has a richness to it and seems almost mellow for 15 to 20 seconds and then you experience an intense heat rush that lasts for about 30 to 45 seconds. Nootka Rose has that same richness but with only a medium heat. I have been amazed at the variation in tastes and flavors I have found in Silverskins.
Among Silverskins, the more they have in common, the more different they become. All are different.
The last couple of years I have been growing some Silverskins as an experiment and noticed that in the rows where they were growing all the beds looked different because every cultivar of the Silverskins had a noticably different color and shade of green as well as larger and smaller leaf sizes and much difference in date of maturity with Nootka Rose being the last to fully mature, in late July/early August. That means it survived some heat. So much variety, yet they're all Silverskins. There are more variations of more kinds among Silverskins than any other variety I know of, with the possible exception of the Creoles, once thought to be part of the Silverskin family but now known to be a seperate group unto themselves.
Silverskins don't all mature at the same time, just like the Artichokes, There's as much as a month difference between cultivars with Mother of Pearl being the earliest harvesting and Mild French and S & H following. Silverwhite was the next to the last and Nootka Rose was the last to be harvested and well worth the wait.
Their bulb wrappers are very white although the clove covers can be strikingly beautiful as in the case of Nootka Rose or Rose du Var.
Silverskins have more cloves per bulb, on the average, than the artichokes and some, like Mexican Red Silver have a lot of tiny cloves while others, like S & H and Silverwhite have almost all large cloves with very few small ones - again they're all different. Small cloves can be smashed and added to soups or they can be planted with the intent of growing green garlics - like green onions. Small cloves can be pickled. Small cloves are good cloves.
There's a lot to be said for a garlic that can store 10 months or more at room temperature when all other varieties are only distant memories and a faint smile. It's not uncommon for Silverskins to still be firm and good the following year when the early harvesting varieties of garlic are ready to dig and if you grow both early harvesting like Red Toch or Chet's Italian Red, you may never run out of good garlic.