Softneck vs. Hardneck Garlic: What is the Distinction?

Garlic is the inspiration of practically any tasty meal. This beloved, versatile ingredient is available in over 600 world varieties, every suited to completely different rising zones, culinary makes use of, and storage situations. Every falls into one in every of two classes: softneck or hardneck. These two sorts range drastically in progress behavior, taste, clove measurement, storage, and extra.

Whereas softneck varieties are sometimes present in grocery shops due to their long-term storability, hardnecks have a extra complicated spicy taste and are simpler to peel. Softnecks are extra suited to southern climates, whereas hardnecks require a interval of chilly climate to type bulbs correctly. The distinctions and makes use of of every sort in each the backyard and the kitchen are vital to acknowledge earlier than you order and plant seed garlic.

Finally, the selection between hardneck and softneck relies on your local weather and culinary preferences. Let’s dig into the whole lot you could find out about every class and the way to decide on the perfect varieties in your gardens.

Which is Higher, Hardneck or Softneck?

A gardener, dressed in plaid and denim overalls, cradles freshly harvested garlic bulbs in the warm, golden sunlight. Their hands tenderly embrace the earthy, pungent treasures of the garden, showcasing the bounty of a successful harvest.
One of the best sort of garlic in your backyard relies on your area.

One of the best sort in your backyard and kitchen relies on your area and style preferences. Typically, hardnecks are higher for chilly northern zones, whereas softnecks are higher for heat southern zones.

Hardneck garlic has a bolder, spicier taste, bigger, easy-to-peel cloves, and the benefit of scape (flower stalk) manufacturing for a tasty summer season deal with. Alternatively, softneck garlic has a milder taste, smaller cloves, and a longer storage time.

Heat-region growers usually have hassle rising hardneck varieties as a result of they require an extended interval of vernalization (publicity to chilly winter temperatures) to type a bulb. You’ll be able to “trick” the crops by conserving the cloves within the fridge for 1-2 months earlier than planting. Softneck garlic nonetheless advantages from chilly publicity however doesn’t require as a lot time in wintery climate, thus making it extra appropriate for southern gardens.

Hardneck vs. Softneck Comparability Chart

A bunch of freshly harvested garlic bulbs with papery white skin dangles. Thin, straw-like roots dangle beneath them, slowly drying in the open air, a testament to their recent earthy liberation.
Hardnecks are greatest suited to chilly zones, whereas softnecks are suited to heat zones.

The obvious distinction between hardneck and softneck is the hardness of the stalk. Hardnecks produce (shock!) a tough stem that’s extra inflexible and troublesome to bend. Softnecks have pliable stalks which are usually bent into braids for storage

These two classes are completely different subspecies of the identical plant. The opposite main variations are detailed on this side-by-side comparability chart:

Hardneck Garlic Softneck Garlic
Allium sativum var. ophioscorodon Allium sativum var. sativum
Greatest for northern zones 8 and colder Greatest for southern zones 9 and hotter
Daring, wealthy, spicier, complicated taste Delicate, buttery, mild taste 
Fewer cloves per head Better quantity of cloves per head
Bigger particular person cloves Smaller particular person clove measurement
Produces a scape (edible flowering stalk that must be eliminated and eaten) Doesn’t produce a scape 
Inflexible, onerous central stalk Versatile, braidable stems for garlic braids
Shorter storage (4-6 months) Longest storage (6-12 months)
Requires lengthy vernalization interval (temperatures below 40°F for 4-8 weeks by way of winter) Solely a light chilly publicity required (refrigerate 1-2 weeks in subtropical zones)
Thinner wrappers (simpler to peel) Extra wrappers (tougher to peel)
Most typical in gardens and on specialty farms Most typical in supermarkets and on industrial farms

What’s Hardneck Garlic?

Hardneck garlic is a broad class of sorts greatest suited to chilly climate climates, with stiff stalks that rise from the underground bulb. The crops require a vernalization (chilly publicity) interval to supply a large bulb.

Botanically generally known as Allium sativum var. ophioscorodon, this kind is most intently associated to the wild garlic originating in Central Asia. It has doubtless been cultivated for over 5,000 years.

In early summer season, hardneck varieties produce a flowering curly-cue known as a “scape.” It’s vital to select the scape off to make sure the crops redirect their power again towards the ultimate improvement of the bulb. The scapes are extremely scrumptious and have a buttery taste with a scallion or leek-like texture. If left on the plant, the scape will type a big spherical allium flower that may detract from garlic head yields.

Local weather

A woven basket overflows with purple garlic bulbs, creating a stunning display of natural beauty. The outer peel of the garlic bulbs have been gently peeled away, revealing their fresh, aromatic cores.
Hardneck garlic thrives in chilly areas, requiring 4-8 weeks of temperatures under 40°F.

Hardneck garlic is most suited to zones 8 and colder. It’s tougher to develop in hotter hardiness zones as a result of the winters aren’t chilly sufficient.

These crops developed in chilly climate and really get pleasure from lengthy winters mulched beneath various ranges of snowpack. The cloves want at the very least 4-8 weeks of chilly publicity under 40°F to stimulate sturdy bulb formation. 

That is simple to do in areas with frosty winters as a result of you possibly can plant within the fall a few weeks earlier than frost and let nature do the work. Nevertheless, southern subtropical growers should stimulate the same course of by inserting their planting inventory within the fridge.

Chilling cloves at 40° in a fridge (not a freezer) for round 40 days ought to assist bulb formation in tropical areas. As soon as chilled, the cloves might be planted as ordinary in the course of the coldest months of December and January.


A close-up of a vibrant purple garlic bulb rests on a sleek slate board. Adjacent to the garlic is a metal garlic crusher. The blurred background reveals scattered garlic cloves, promising the savory essence of garlic in a delectable dish.
They provide a various and intense taste profile, enhancing varied cuisines.

Should you love deep, intense taste, plant hardneck garlic! Hardneck varieties are revered for his or her daring, wealthy, and complicated flavors. These are a culinary delight as a result of they interact a variety of style buds, from an preliminary spicy burst to a mellow earthiness and well-rounded pungent muskiness that enhances practically any delicacies. 

Whereas taste profiles range dramatically between cultivars, hardnecks are all-around extra intricate within the character and power of their flavors. For instance, ‘Music’ is scorching and fragrant, whereas ‘German Porcelain’ is pungent and mellow when cooked. ‘Chesnok Purple’ is balanced and wealthy, but not overpowering, whereas ‘Metechi’ is a brilliant spicy in-your-face punch of taste.


A close-up reveals a purple garlic bulb, with its outer peel carefully removed, exposing the individual cloves. Surrounding it are numerous discarded outer peels, a testament to the culinary preparation in progress.
Their cloves are bigger, simpler to peel, and have thinner wrappers than softneck cloves.

The person cloves of hardneck garlic are noticeably completely different from softnecks. They’re bigger and simpler to peel than softnecks, with thinner wrappers. These sorts have fewer cloves per bulb, starting from 4-12 plump cloves per head.

They might be white to cream-colored to purple-blushed and are simple to organize within the kitchen. The bigger cloves are organized in a single circle across the central woody stem.

Development Behavior

A cluster of vibrant purple garlic bulbs rests on the earth. Each bulb is adorned with a network of pale, thread-like roots, while their slender green stems rise gracefully from the cluster.
Hardneck’s chilly hardiness is because of its shut genetic ties to wild garlic.

Hardneck garlic is essentially the most cold-hardy class, due to its shut genetic relationship to wild ancestors. Even far northern gardeners can develop these varieties if the cloves are within the floor at the very least 2 to 4 weeks earlier than the primary frost.

Hardneck sorts sprout roots within the fall after which go dormant by way of the winter. Inexperienced sprouts emerge within the spring, and the stiff central stalk grows upward like a mini trunk.


Curly scapes gracefully emerge from the lush, vibrant garlic plants, their elegant spirals adding a touch of nature's artistry to the scene. The garlic leaves stand tall and sturdy, providing a backdrop of rich, green foliage.
Hardneck scapes ought to be eliminated in early summer season to forestall the plant from bolting.

Scapes are the distinguishing attribute of hardneck garlic. This pliable curly stalk normally varieties on the top-center of the plant round early June by way of July. It’s thicker than the leaves and resembles a curled scallion however denser.

This scape is the precursor to flower formation. It is rather vital to select off the scapes as a result of leaving them will trigger the plant to completely “bolt” (go to seed), which can hinder bulb maturation.

The unimaginable smooth-buttery, oniony taste of scapes ensures you’ll by no means miss out on harvesting them! When the scape begins to curve, you possibly can snap it off and use it within the kitchen, like garlic cloves or onions. Scape pesto, chopped scape garnishes, and pickled scapes are just some methods to savor this particular deal with earlier than the bulbs are prepared to reap


A bountiful pile of fresh pink garlic bulbs, their papery skins intact, arranged in a disorderly yet captivating mound. These garlics exude an earthy fragrance and promising rich, savory enhancements to a variety of dishes with their pungent, versatile qualities.
It’s much less frequent in grocery shops as a consequence of its shorter shelf life.

Regardless of their great taste, ease of peeling, and scrumptious scape manufacturing, hardnecks have a draw back: they don’t retailer in addition to softnecks.

As a result of the wrappers are thinner, the bulbs don’t normally last more than 1-2 months at room temperature and 4-6 months in cool, darkish situations. They might rot sooner if improperly cured. 

That is why you don’t usually see hardneck varieties in grocery shops. It’s much less more likely to be saved and shipped throughout the nation as a result of the heads could succumb to rot earlier than they get bought. Nevertheless, you possibly can make hardnecks final even longer if stored in a cool, darkish, dry place in a fridge. 


 A close-up of plump Music garlic bulbs, their ivory-white skins gleaming in the soft sunlight, nestled together in a rustic wicker basket. Each garlic bulb boasts intricate, papery layers, showcasing its potential for culinary greatness.
Two of the preferred types of hardneck garlic are ‘Music’ and ‘Porcelain.’

The range of hardneck garlic is all the time rising, however sure heirloom strains are simply preserved due to vegetative propagation. Garlic “seed” just isn’t a real seed, however quite cloves used to asexually clone the crops. They produce an identical offspring to the mother or father bulb. 

Many growers save seed the most important, greatest cloves annually to replant of their backyard, making a passive breeding challenge that selects for the perfect bulbs. So long as you continuously plant the tastiest, largest, most well-wrapped hardneck cloves, you’ll create your personal pressure completely tailored to your backyard over the course of a few years.

However first, you could begin with seed garlic from a dependable, disease-free supply, just like the Epic Gardening Retailer! A number of the hottest hardneck varieties embrace:

  • ‘Music’: My private favourite, this cultivar has extra-large, easy-peel cloves with a wealthy, balanced taste.
  • ‘Porcelain’: These satiny white bulbs are stunning with big cloves (about 4 per head).
  • ‘German Additional Hardy’: Among the many most cold-hardy garlic, it produces giant heads of 5-8 purple-tinted white cloves.
  • ‘Chesnok Purple’: The attractive striped skins of this cold-hardy selection are identified for his or her fantastic taste and {smooth} texture that’s supreme for roasting.

What’s Softneck Garlic?

Softneck garlic is the most typical commercially obtainable, with plentiful cloves which are smaller in measurement and last more in storage than hardneck sorts. These are the traditional white garlics you most frequently see in grocery shops.

They don’t produce scapes and develop pliable, gentle stems which are typically braided. Botanically generally known as Allium sativum var. sativum, softneck garlic varieties don’t require extended chilly publicity to type bulbs, making them supreme for southern gardens. 

Local weather

A close-up of fresh, white garlic bulbs with their top layers meticulously peeled away, exposing the pristine cloves nestled within. The open husk hints at the pungent, savory potential locked within these flavorful, culinary gems.
Softneck garlic is the popular alternative for heat, southern climates.

Should you dwell in a heat, southern local weather, softneck garlic is normally the best choice. These sorts are tailored to hotter winters as a result of they don’t want in depth vernalization (chill durations) to supply bulbs. Nonetheless, softneck sorts could profit from a few weeks of refrigeration earlier than planting in subtropical and tropical climates in zones 9 and hotter. 


Three plump garlic bulbs rest on a rustic wooden surface. In the foreground, a small blue ceramic bowl holds a cluster of garlic cloves, each a pungent gem awaiting its moment to infuse dishes with its aromatic magic.
Softneck garlic gives a light, candy taste supreme for numerous culinary makes use of.

Softneck garlic is extra versatile and fewer intense within the kitchen. The flavour is milder, candy, and easy in comparison with the wealthy complexities of hardnecks. That is supreme for anybody who enjoys a subtler style extensively complementary to completely different dishes and cuisines. 


A hand gently cradles a single garlic bulb, showcasing its earthy, papery skin and plump cloves. Beneath the hand, a bunch of garlic bulbs lies scattered on a clean, white surface, promising aromatic, flavorful dishes.
This sort produces smaller, quite a few cloves organized in concentric circles.

The cloves of softneck bulbs are smaller and extra plentiful. You get many extra cloves per bulb than with hardneck garlic, starting from 8-20 cloves in a single softneck bulb.

The cloves are organized in concentric circles across the central gentle stem. These cloves are more durable to peel as a result of they’ve extra wrappers. They’re usually utilized in recipes that decision for crushed or finely minced garlic.

Development Behavior

Softneck garlic bulbs planted in rich, moist soil during the vibrant autumn season. The slender, green leaves of the garlic plants gracefully reach out from the bulbs, embracing the fall's bountiful conditions for photosynthesis and nutrient absorption.
Softneck garlic doesn’t produce scapes, however their softer necks are extra pliable for making garlic braids.

Softneck garlics have (shocker!) softer necks. The stems of softnecks are extra pliable but nonetheless upright. The crops look just like leeks when rising, and they don’t produce a scape. That is good for anybody who forgets to verify on their garlic midsummer or doesn’t benefit from the taste of scapes.

When dried, softneck stems lose their turgidity and develop into additional gentle, making them excellent for braids. Garlic braids are a reasonably, handy method to retailer garlic by way of the winter. I like to hold one in my kitchen for straightforward entry whereas cooking, however maintain the remainder of the braids in a cool, dry place like a root cellar, unheated storage, or fridge.


A black plastic tray holds a generous pile of pristine white garlic cloves, their papery skins glistening in the soft light. The cloves are neatly arranged, ready to impart their robust flavor to culinary creations.
Due to their plentiful pores and skin wrappers, they provide the longest storage lifetime of 6-12 months.

If you wish to eat garlic all 12 months lengthy, softnecks have the longest storage life. When correctly cured and saved in cool, dry situations, it could actually final for 6-12 months.

That is partially because of the plentiful pores and skin wrappers that assist protect the cloves from rot. This sort is most frequently distributed by way of industrial supermarkets.


A close-up of Nootka Rose garlic bulbs and cloves resting on a wooden surface. The garlic peels appear crisp and pure white, providing a stark contrast to the earthy brown cloves, some of which display a captivating purple hue.
Some standard softneck garlic varieties embrace ‘Inchelium Purple’ and ‘Early Italian’.

Softneck garlics are simple to search out and might be passively chosen particularly in your backyard, identical to your hardneck cloves. The secret’s all the time to avoid wasting and plant the biggest, most densely wrapped cloves so that you don’t find yourself with bulbs of one million tiny, hard-to-peel cloves. 

Widespread softnecks embrace:

  • ‘Inchelium Purple’: Nicely-adapted to the south, but hardy sufficient for northern winters. The lavender-skinned cloves have a light taste and are excellent for braids.
  • ‘Early Italian’: This early harvest softneck matures in simply 90 days and tolerates summer season warmth.
  • ‘California White’: Just like traditional grocery retailer garlic, this selection is standard in Georgia, Florida, and Louisiana for year-round storage.
  • ‘Nootka Rose’: Bigger softneck heads with sturdy taste and pink-splashed skins that also mature in intense summers.

Last Ideas

The nuances between softneck and hardneck garlic could appear complicated, however your local weather and culinary preferences normally select for you:

  • Should you dwell in an space with chilly winters and revel in sturdy flavors, develop hardnecks.
  • Should you dwell in an space with scorching summers and delicate winters, develop softnecks.
  • If you’re prepared to relax your garlic for a number of months earlier than planting, you possibly can develop both sort in a scorching local weather when you plant within the coolest a part of the 12 months.
  • If you need year-round storage, develop softnecks.
  • If you need the easiest-to-peel, greatest cloves, develop hardnecks.

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