Garlic Varieties and their Scapes

In my last post on harvesting 2nd year bulbils I referred to different types of garlic. One of the ways to tell different garlic types apart is by their garlic scapes.

There are two garlic subspecies

  • hard-neck garlic (Allium sativum ophioscorodon)
  • soft-neck garlic (Allium sativum sativum)

This refers to whether a garlic produces a hard stem topped with a garlic scape.  Whether a garlic bolts or not also depends greatly on winter temperatures. Our Quebec winters are cold (regular night time lows between -20 to -30 degree celsius) and all hard-necks have always bolted in my experience. This weather also stresses soft-neck garlics and causes some to bolt and produce their own types of scapes.

Each garlic subspecies is further broken down into different varieties (what I often call types.)

According to Gourmet Garlic Gardens, there are 8 hard-neck varieties and 2 soft-enck varieties. Not all of these varieties thrive in Quebec.

Let’s look at the scapes of some the garlic varieties we grow at Tourne-Sol farm. I have tried to include pictures of both immature and mature scapes.

Hardneck – Porcelain Garlic

Long and skinny. Porcelain garlic was the first I grew. I think of their scapes as the standard when I compare other varieties.

Porcelain scapes whiten as they mature.

And burst open with small pink bulbils and green flower parts!

Hardneck – Rocambole

Shorter curved beak and paler spathe (the swollen base) than the Porcelain scape.

A mature white spathe also.

Medium sized purple bulbils inside.

Hardneck – Marbled Purple Stripe

The red blush at the bottom of the scape distinguishes these from Porcelain garlic.

The spathe is a light green.

Softneck –  Artichoke

When Artichoke garlic bolts, it usually produces neck bulbils just above the ground.

This year, many Artichoke garlic produced scapes. They might have been stressed by the lack of winter snow-cover insulation.

Softneck – Silver Skin

A semi-mature Silverskin scape. Smaller and paler than a porcelain garlic.

More garlic pictures to come!

We’re about to harvest a lot of garlic over the next week. As the bulbs cure, I will post about some of the below ground and taste differences between all these garlic varieties.

12 thoughts on “Garlic Varieties and their Scapes

  1. What do you do for the soft neck garlic when it grows scapes do to stress? do you cut it like the hard neck scapes? What does it mean to bolt? I ask because this is my first year growing garlic and it looks like I’ve got one that has bolted and another that has a scape due to stress (strictly based on comparing to your wonderful photos). Thanks!

    1. Hi Trish,

      To bolt means to go to flower or in the case of garlic, to produce bulbils.

      Are the bulbils on your garlic in near the base or at the top of the plant? If they are at the base, just leave them there. At the top, you can cut them off. However, I find there is less of an impact from topping softnecks than hardnecks.

      Happy growing!

  2. Hi there,
    thanks for the info!!
    I was wondering if you knew the pyruvate scale 1-10 on all the garlic?
    hope you can help 🙂

    1. I’ve heard some growers have great success with some soft necks in the spring but I have never tried them myself.

      Have you had any success?

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