Every Cook’s Dream –
Garlic Varieties with
the Largest Cloves
Harvesting History’s garlic comes from Upstate New York and the Oshkanogan Valley of Washington State. Both farms are certified nematode-free and organic. Our supplier in Washington State has been organic for 24 years. Our supplier in Upstate New York has been organic for 14 years.
This year an extremely rare amalgamation of meteorological circumstances happened this spring to produce the best growing conditions for garlic in many, many decades. The spring was incredibly wet and this was followed by a somewhat drier and cooler early-to-mid summer. The garlic LOVED this and most varieties have produced the biggest individual cloves I have ever seen.
For those of you who are seasoned garlic growers, you know to plant the largest cloves from your bulbs and to eat the smaller cloves. For you newbies, you always want to plant your biggest cloves, because, over time, this will produce larger and larger garlic bulbs with larger and larger cloves.
The garlic group that produces the largest cloves is the Porcelain Garlics. Until recently (the last 15 years), Porcelains were virtually unknown in the US. Porcelains are hardneck garlics. The bulbs are usually pure white – hence the name Porcelain, but the underlying clove skins are often faintly streaked with burgundy or rose. A single bulb produces 4 – 6 very large cloves.
The plants are gigantic, sometimes reaching heights of up to 7 feet. In my own garden, the plants frequently reach a height of 3 feet, but never more. Unlike other garlic groups, Porcelains need moisture and are quite sensitive to spring growing conditions. A spring drought will produce disappointing results, and in the 4 weeks prior to harvest when the soil around most garlics should be allowed to dry, the soil around Porcelain plants should be kept slightly moist.
Porcelains are extremely cold hardy. Because of this, they are very popular with Canadian garlic growers, but Porcelains also seem to tolerate heat well. Though I would not recommend them for Hardiness Zones 8 – 10, I would recommend them for Hardiness Zones 1 – 7.
Perhaps the most interesting attribute of the Porcelain group is that this group produces some of the highest yields of allicin, the sulfur compound thatis credited with giving garlic so many therapeutic benefits like lowering blood pressure and blood sugar.
The Porcelain Garlic, Georgian Crystal, was collected in 1985 in the intermountain region of the central Republic of Georgia at Cichisdzhvari. Its flavor is less biting than some Porcelains and it consistently produces large cloves. If you have not grown Porcelains before, this is a good choice.
Romanian Red was brought to British Columbia from Romania decades ago. It is believed that this garlic may have been the first Porcelain introduced into North America. This cultivar is the quintessential Porcelain. It reliably produces huge bulbs containing 4-5 huge cloves. The flavor is among the nicest of the Porcelain group.
If grown in poor soil or stressed in other ways, Romanian Red often produces clove skins with distinctive rose to burgundy coloration. This trait has resulted in the garlic being given the nickname ‘Red Elephant Garlic.’
Polish Hardneck comes from a Canadian garlic grower, John Jovanov, and was brought to the US by Rick Bangert of Idaho who then shared the garlic with Ron Engelund of Filaree Garlic Farm in Washington State. This garlic is considered by some to have the best flavor of the Porcelain group.
Two other garlic varieties, not Porcelains, also produce large cloves – Red Toch and Chesnok Red.
Red Toch is an Artichoke-type garlic, a softneck variety. It is also known as Tochliavri, after the tiny village of Tochliavri in the Republic of Georgia where the father of famous garlic writer and collector, Chester Aaron, was born. Because it is an Artichoke garlic, only the outside cloves are large. The interior cloves are moderately sized.
The flavor is exceptional, described as “not too mild, not too hot” with a “mellow spicy tang and a fragrant aroma.” I grow it every year and am never disappointed.
Chesnok Red is a Standard Purple Striped hardneck garlic that also produces very large cloves. It was collected in 1985 in the town of Shvelisi in the southern part of the Republic of Georgia. The garlic is also known as Shvelisi. The flavor is rich and sweet.
Unlike most garlic grown today, Chesnok Red has exhibited the ability toproduce true seed in formal field trials.
I admit to being very, very lazy when it comes to cooking. I would muchrather peel one large garlic clove than 3 tiny ones. This means that I am always looking for garlic varieties which produce large cloves. The five discussedabove are among my favorites.
All Harvesting History garlics are sold in 4 oz. bags. They are available forpurchase and shipping from end of September through January as long as supplies last.
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