Garlic 101

Botanists place all true garlics in the lily family under the species Allium Sativum. There are two main types: Ophioscorodon, or hard-necked garlics, and Sativum, or soft-necked garlics. Hard-necked garlics are the originals, while soft-necked garlics were developed over centuries by growers through careful selection.

The latest research (2003) reveals that ten distinct groups of garlic have evolved. These include five unique hardneck varieties: Porcelain, Purple Stripe, Marbled Purple Stripe, Glazed Purple Stripe, and Rocambole. There are also three weakly bolting hardnecks that often produce softnecks: Creole, Asiatic, and Turban. Additionally, two softneck varietal groups exist: Artichoke and Silverskin. Our website has been updated to reflect this new structure.

Initially, botanists believed there were only five garlic groups. A 1995 study tried to classify garlic into 17 isozyme types, but this was unsatisfactory. Eventually, in 2003, Dr. Gayle Volk of the USDA and Dr. Joachim Keller of the Institute of Plant Biology in Germany independently conducted DNA analyses and correctly classified garlic into ten distinct varieties. This brought much-needed clarity to garlic classification.

All the hundreds of garlic sub-varieties worldwide originated from these ten basic groups, which evolved in the Caucasus Mountains between the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea. Their characteristics have changed over time due to selection and varying growing conditions such as soil type, fertility, rainfall, temperature, altitude, and winter severity. As garlic spread across Asia and Europe, new types like Asiatics, Turbans, Creoles, Artichokes, and Silverskins developed in different regions through generations of selective replanting.

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