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TOP VARIETIES OF GARLIC
There are two types of garlic grown in the UK, hard neck varieties and soft neck varieties. Soft neck varieties keep the longest as a general rule.
Soft neck garlic also produces more individual cloves but they are smaller compared hard neck garlic. Hard neck varieties are said to have a deeper, more richer flavour, however that depends greatly on your taste buds.
Hardiness is one area where opinions diverge, especially when growing garlic in the UK which has significant temperature differences depending on where you live. We garden in the West Midlands where winter temperatures are slightly lower than the UK average. Both hard neck and soft neck garlic grows equally well for us.
This goes contrary to the sometimes given advice that soft neck garlic will only only grow successfully in warmer parts of the UK. It's not our experience and neither is it that of all the gardeners I know in our local, rather cool area of the UK. The research I can find on the subject (as opposed to general folklore) supports our findings.
Lower down this article is a picture of Germidour, a soft neck variety which we grew on our West Midlands allotment. Looks good to me!
In the coolest parts of the UK it may well pay to grow only hard neck varieties but for most of us the key to growing garlic is a well drained, slightly light soil. In those conditions your chances of success will be at their highest.
Below we list garlic varieties we recommend as being suitable to most areas of the UK.
This hard neck variety has many points to recommend it but unfortunately is very difficult to buy in the UK.
EARLY PURPLE WIGHT
We always plant a few of this soft neck variety as well because they mature early in the season, extending the cropping time. In warmer areas of the UK expect to be harvesting this variety in late May, in cooler areas during mid June. They don't keep particularly well so use this variety before any others.
Early Purple Wight garlic
Maximum storage time is around two months. This is a French variety which is best planted in autumn to early winter. Top quality bulbs of Early Purple Wight available online from Crocus here.
A soft neck variety, this is definitely our favourite, it works well every year without exception. What has impressed us most with this variety over the years is that it never rots even when planted in autumn and the weather turns wet and damp.
The picture above of Germidour from our garden is typical of what you can expect (the picture is unadulterated, almost straight from the ground with no thought for aesthetics!). Consistently large cloves, six or so to a bulb, plus a couple of smaller ones. They grow strongly with a thick stem that dries out well when harvested. Keeping qualities are excellent in the correct conditions, easily six months or more.
When you peel the skin away from the cloves they are mainly white with a tinge of green, impressive looking cloves by any standards. The flavour is definitely typical garlic but relatively mild, just right for all cooking uses but they stand head and shoulders above most varieties when roasted whole - a true culinary delight.
This variety was awarded an Award of Garden Merit (AGM) by the RHS from their last trials of garlic in 2004.
This hard neck variety of garlic has a deliciously strong flavour. Let's get the bad news out of the way first, it really is only suitable for the warmer parts of the UK because it originates from the warm south west of France.
However, if you do live in a warm area (and it's not waterlogged) then this variety is excellent. Like most hard neck garlic, it crops best from an autumn planting but also does well when planted in spring. The flavour is medium strength.
Picardy Wight is a soft neck variety originating from Picardy in Northern France. The cloves have a strong and full flavour. Well suited to growing in most parts of the UK from a spring sowing.
It matures around July time and stores very well up to April the next year.
This is a soft neck variety which is one of our favourites because it forms good-sized bulbs which store for much longer than the average soft neck garlic variety.
It performs very well in the UK climate and is fine for both autumn and spring planting. Matures slightly later than average with a full garlic flavour. Bred on the Isle of Wight.
Solent Wight garlic
Solent Wight is one of the most popular soft neck garlic varieties in the UK and is readily available in garden centres, diy sores and online. Our personal recommendation, if you are buying online, is Crocus.
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