Hardneck garlic is a favorite of mine. There are several distinct forms (or types) of garlic out there. Hardneck garlic is not as common as the most common form of garlic, called softneck. Hardneck garlic gets its name from the fact that it produces a woody central stalk and flower head. Instead of seeds, however, hardneck garlic produces “scapes,” which are like miniature cloves of garlic on top of the plant.
Hardneck garlic produces flower heads and scapes.
Look at our feature photo. Those balls are made up of the little cloves, or scapes. With some varieties, the scapes come replete with small stems and leaves, similar to the way that Egyptian multiplier onions form their topsets (see illustration below).
When the seed balls are crushed, the individual scapes come loose from one another, giving me a full handful of tiny scapes, which look like miniature cloves of garlic. Scape production is one of the main reasons that hardneck garlic is a favorite of mine.
You might ask, “What good are garlic scapes?”
Well, I’m pretty sure they could be crushed and used as garlic seasoning in a soup or stew, but I haven’t tried that yet. I do get a kick out of pulling and crushing seed balls and then tossing the little scapes around the garden. They start to grow when the weather cools, in the fall, and every time winter temperatures get above 40 F, they continue to grow. During much of the winter, if I want garlic for a soup, stew or stir fry, it’s relatively easy to go out to the garden and pull some small hardneck garlic sprouts. I dice them up, leaves, bulb and all.
For more information, see: Garlic: Easy to Grow, Delicious & Healthy
Now look at these same plants on March 19.
This is why hardneck garlic is a favorite of mine. These garlic plants could be transplanted and produce a usable crop this year! At this stage, they’re also perfect for cooking. We once hosted a Kurdish leader from Iraq who told me that garlic was regularly sold and consumed at this stage “back home.” I can believe it. It’s great at this stage!
Sandhill Preservation Center has a number of kinds of garlic.
Southern Exposure Seed Exchange has a good selection.
Hardneck garlic is a favorite because it multiplies like lightning.
Okay, for a plant, it multiplies like lightning. A single seed ball, one year, could easily produce all the garlic cloves I would normally use the following summer. Those cloves would be about half the size of normal, but they would be usable. If replanted for the following year, the resulting cloves would be of normal (full) size. Hardneck garlic multiplies like a weed, yet it’s an extremely useful, beneficent “weed.”
Hardneck garlic has one main downside, I hate to kill any of it, but I must!
If I’m going to grow other things, I can’t grow every plant that sprouts, wherever it comes up. It’s easy to weed out with a stroke of a hoe, yet I love it so much it hurts to do so. That’s a wonderful “downside.” Consider growing hardneck garlic!