Tuesday, 17 March 2009 | Tags: ,

One of the most versatile flavours to add to food, garlic also comes with a long list of health-smart benefits. We explore different types of garlic to see which provides the best flavour oomph.

The Basics

  • The flavour of garlic starts out strong, hot, and pungent, and finishes with a subtle, sweet background.

  • There are two main types of garlic:

    • Softneck garlic includes two varieties: Artichoke and Silverskin, which is the variety you’ll find most commonly at supermarkets and usually comes from China or California.

    • Hardneck garlic has many varieties including Porcelain, Purple Stripe, and Rocambole, and is best grown in northern climates because it prefers cold winters.

    • Elephant garlic is actually a leek and is milder in taste, and doesn’t have all of the health benefits of garlic. It shouldn’t be substituted in dishes that call for garlic since the flavour is so much milder. 

  • Tips for buying fresh garlic:

    • Pick a bulb that’s compact and plump with its several papery layers intact.

    • The heavier the bulb, the fresher it is; avoid bulbs that feel light and airy or spongy. These are dried out and definitely not fresh.

    • Avoid anything with dark powdery patches under the surface – a good indication of decay.

    • Garlic is available at the supermarket year-round, but it’s in season and at its freshest in the late summer and early fall.

    • Don’t pick a bulb that is sprouting – it won’t be as flavourful. If your garlic at home starts to sprout, plant it in your garden for some added greenery.

Other Considerations

  • Garlic has many health benefits if consumed regularly, including lowering blood pressure and improving blood flow throughout the body. It also contains many vitamins and minerals including manganese, vitamin B6, vitamin C, and selenium.

  • You can buy garlic in many formats, including fresh, frozen,freeze-dried, crushed/pressed, and powdered, though experts recommendusing fresh garlic whenever possible in order to reap the maximumhealth benefits.

  • Store fresh garlic in an open container in a cool, dark place. Unbroken bulbs can last up to 8 weeks, though they will dry out. Once broken off the bulb, individual cloves keep from 3 to 10 days. Some chefs say never to store fresh garlic in the refrigerator.


For a garlic-themed cook day on Anna & Kristina’s Grocery Bag we had to use 91 cloves, so we tested a few different types to find out which was most popular with supermarket shoppers:

  • Silverskin garlic (China, softneck): the least expensive and most common
  • Organic Artichoke garlic (California, softneck): $6.99/lb
  • Rocambole, Red Russian variety (California, hardneck):$10.99/lb
  • Elephant “garlic” (California): $15.99/lb

Taste Test

We were surprised at how different they all tasted. Comments from over 50 testers include:

  • The Silverskin was the strongest of the four, with a flavour evocative of Southern France.

  • The Artichoke garlic had a more sour taste that was also strong and pungent. It was a very different flavour. Not many people liked it very much.

  • The Rocambole Russian Red was more subtle and mellow.

  • The Elephant “garlic” was the softest and least garlicky of them all.


Fresh is definitely best! The inexpensive and most common garlic in our test, the Silverskin from China, won our taste test with 34% of the vote.


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  • Brigitte Estelle

    You guys are entertaining, funny!!