Garlic, or Allium sativum, comes in two basic types – hardneck and softneck.
Hardneck varieties (var. ophioscorodon) usually grow a woody flower stalk or scape out of the centre of the bulb. They do best in cold, damp climates. Typically a bulb develops four to ten large cloves. Flavours are strong and often spicy and complex. Most hardneck garlic does not store well and is best used fresh. Hardneck varieties come in three different types: Rocamboles, which have thin parchment-like skins, and are easy to peel, Porcelains which have thick tough skin and do store well, and Purple Striped, named for their distinctive colouring.
Softneck garlic (var, sativum) evolved from hard-neck varieties and grows best in warmer climates. Bulbs keep well and typically contain multiple cloves. They don’t produce flower stalks unless they are stressed. Softneck varieties come in two different types: Silverskin and Artichoke. Silverskins have soft pliable necks that lend themselves to braiding, lots of small cloves and spicy flavours. Artichoke garlic has larger but fewer cloves and a milder flavour. Most of the commercially grown garlics found in the grocery store are soft neck varieties.