To save space, plant a wide bed with cloves spaced on an 8-in. grid.
Perhaps some day cookbooks will call for specific garlic varieties—‘Spanish Roja’ for a mild pesto, for instance, or ‘Asian Tempest’ for a more fiery rendition. Garlic bread could be ratcheted up a few notches with ‘Nootka Rose’ or ‘Persian Star’. Markets would carry rich rocamboles such as ‘German Red’ and ‘Carpathian’, along with refined silverskins like the French ‘Rose du Var’ or the Italian ‘Locati’. Long-storing artichoke strains like ‘Oregon Blue’ and ‘Russian Redstreak’ would be offered through the winter, and even rare porcelains such as ‘Romanian Red’ and ‘Rosewood’, with their plump, easy-to-peel cloves, might become widely available.
If you don’t want to wait that long, you can enter the world of garlic by growing your own. Over time, a garlic variety you grow faithfully will adapt to your local growing conditions and reflect them like a vintage wine. We’ve been growing a ‘Spanish Roja’ for so many years now that it’s known to local chefs and stores as ‘Ruckytucks Red’, named for our farm.
The complex attributes of garlic varieties not withstanding, all garlics fall into two main categories—hardnecks and softnecks (see illustrations, p. 51). Most commercial garlics are softnecks, so named because their leafy stalks remain pliable. The lesser known hardnecks develop a stiff stem at their core in addition to leafy stalks. Both types are worth growing in the kitchen garden, the softnecks for their keeping qualities, the hardnecks for their flavor.