What's the Difference Between Softneck & Hardneck Garlic?

What's the Difference Between Softneck & Hardneck Garlic?

Growing garlic in your own garden lets you play with flavors you cannot find in stores. We carry more organic seed garlic than any other garden company, at the best prices, so plunge in and get garlicky.

How to Grow Garlic

Learn the nuts and bolts of growing and harvesting garlic in our video How to Grow Garlic and our downloadable Garlic Growing Guide.

The question is, which varieties of garlic seed do you want to plant? Softneck or hardneck or both?

Garlic has a Neck?

By the time you see garlic in the store it has been trimmed, but there is still a papery tuft that stands above the bulb. That's the covering of the "neck" of the garlic. Garlic also comes with different colored skins around the cloves. The cloves themselves are always a creamy white.

3 bulbs or California Early White softneck garlic on a white background. One is cut in half horizontally and one has cloves broken off.

Softneck Garlic

This is the type of garlic you'll find in most grocery stores. The bulb has a mild flavor. A great virtue of the softneck garlic (Allium sativum ssp. sativum) is that it stores very well.

Since the necks are (literally) soft, you can cut them nice and long for braiding. A braid of garlic makes a winning kitchen gift for friends and family!

Which to choose? California Early White has no hot bite in its flavor, grows rapidly and is ready to harvest early. If making garlic braids is your top priority, plant California Late White. You'll get a stronger flavor with this garlic, and it does better in warm climates than the Early variety.

5 bulbs of organic Spanish Roja hardneck seed garlic on a white background. One bulb is cut in half horizontally and one has cloves broken off of it.

Hardneck Garlic

Hardneck garlic (Allium sativum ssp. ophioscorodon) are closer to wild garlic, with complex flavors. They thrive in cold climates. These are the garlics that some compare to wines with subtle differences that reflect the regional soil and weather patterns.

One simple benefit to the cook is the way some of their skins slip off smoothly. Hardnecks do not store as long as softnecks; cure them, eat them within 6-10 months, and get to know their distinctive flavors.

Spanish Roja's flavor in particular is rich and classic. It does have a shorter shelf life, of 3-4 months, so go ahead and enjoy this best seller early.

What about Elephant Garlic?

This big guy is technically in the leek family, but you'd never know by the look or the taste. Kids love harvesting this giant of the garlic patch, and elephant garlic keeps well too, with a mild flavor.

Still can't Decide?

That's why we created our Garlic Combo Pack, to let you try a little of this and a little of that, at a bargain price! It's a gastronomical delight featuring organic California Early White softneck seed garlic, Inchelium red, organic Russian Red and organic Purple Italian hardneck seed garlics, a conventional Elephant seed garlic, and even some organic French Red Shallots for delicate flavors. So many flavor profiles!

Storing Garlic

Garlic keeps best at 60-65°F with moderate humidity. Store it in a dry location, a paper bag or mesh tubing works great. If you need help keeping tabs on the temperature and humidity in your storage area, try our Digital Indoor/Outdoor Thermometer.

Cover of the book 'Grow Great Garlic.'

More on Garlic

Welcome to the world of seed garlic!  Plant some garlic this year, keep track of what you like, and experiment with new varieties in the years ahead.

Once you start growing garlic at home you'll be spoiled by having your own cured garlic to cook with, in such a range of flavors.

Our favorite Garlic Book - It's hard to keep Growing Great Garlic on the shelves here. Ron Engeland's popular book is the ultimate guide for the organic garlic grower; in addition to practical advice, you'll learn more about garlic in the Hanging Gardens of Babylon.

Our Resource Center - For more information on garlic visit our Resource Center to watch our videos, read more articles and tips, try our delicious recipes.

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28 comments

Ann, elephant garlic will grow in your zone. It is not actually a true garlic, but rather a member of the leek family. Softneck varieties do well in warmer zones and if you want to grow hardneck garlics, you will want to put it in the refrigerator for a couple of weeks before you plant, since it requires more chill than softnecks.

Suzanne

Hi Grow Organic – I am interested in growing garlic in the Fall. I live in Houston, TX (Zone 9a). What type of garlic do you recommend? Does elephant garlic grow well in 9a? Thanks.

Ann Pang

Christine, you can grow hardneck or softneck in zone 8a. I live in zone 9a and we get cold enough to grow hardnecks. I prefer hardnecks over softnecks (easier to peel and more robust flavor), so I really think you should grow for the flavor you want, if you need long storage then softnecks or elephant garlic are a better choice.

Suzanne

Should I be growing soft neck garlic in zone 8a? Thank you.

Christine

Janice, In your zone you can grow hardneck garlic with no problem. Softnecks should grow there as well, however, they are more suited to warmer winter zones. I would look at the hardnecks and choose the one that best suits your tastes…mild or spicy.

Suzanne

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