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Hardneck Garlic vs. Softneck Garlic: What's the Difference?

Edited by Aimie Carlson || By Harlon Moss || Updated on October 24, 2023
Hardneck garlic produces a rigid central stalk, while softneck garlic has a softer stem suitable for braiding.

Key Differences

Hardneck garlic is characterized by its stiff central stem or "neck" that emerges from the bulb. In contrast, softneck garlic has a more flexible stem, which is often braided for decorative purposes.
In terms of flavor, hardneck garlic is usually more robust and complex. Softneck garlic, however, tends to have a milder taste, making it a favorite for raw consumption.
Hardneck garlic varieties produce fewer cloves than softneck varieties, but the cloves are generally larger. Softneck garlic is known for its multiple layers of smaller cloves.
From a cultivation standpoint, hardneck garlic is more suited for colder climates, as it requires a chilling period for optimal growth. Softneck garlic is more adaptable and can be grown in a wider range of climates.
One unique feature of hardneck garlic is the production of a flower stalk called a "scape," which can be harvested and eaten. Softneck garlic rarely produces scapes, focusing its energy on bulb development.

Comparison Chart

Stem Characteristics

Rigid central stalk or "neck"
Flexible stem, often braided

Flavor Profile

Robust and complex flavor
Milder taste

Clove Configuration

Fewer, larger cloves
Multiple layers of smaller cloves

Growth Suitability

Better for colder climates requiring chilling periods
Adaptable to a wider range of climates

Scapes Production

Produces a flower stalk or "scape" that is edible
Rarely produces scapes

Hardneck Garlic and Softneck Garlic Definitions

Hardneck Garlic

Hardneck garlic produces a flower stalk called a scape.
I harvested the scapes from my hardneck garlic plants to make pesto.

Softneck Garlic

It's the most common type of garlic found in supermarkets.
The garlic you buy at your local grocery store is usually softneck garlic.

Hardneck Garlic

The bulbs of hardneck garlic yield fewer but larger cloves.
I only needed a couple of cloves from my hardneck garlic bulb for the recipe, as they were quite large.

Softneck Garlic

Softneck garlic bulbs have multiple layers of smaller cloves.
When I peeled the softneck garlic bulb, I found many tiny cloves inside.

Hardneck Garlic

This garlic type thrives in colder climates, needing a chill for growth.
The northern states are ideal for cultivating hardneck garlic due to their cold winters.

Softneck Garlic

This garlic type has a milder taste compared to hardneck varieties.
I used softneck garlic in my salad dressing for a subtle garlic flavor.

Hardneck Garlic

Hardneck garlic typically presents a more complex flavor profile.
Chefs often prefer hardneck garlic for dishes where a pronounced garlic taste is desired.

Softneck Garlic

Softneck garlic is a garlic variety with a flexible stem.
Softneck garlic is often seen braided in decorative bunches at markets.

Hardneck Garlic

Hardneck garlic is a garlic variety with a stiff, central stem.
When planting, many gardeners choose hardneck garlic for its robust flavor.

Softneck Garlic

Softneck garlic can be cultivated in diverse climates.
Southern growers often opt for softneck garlic due to its adaptability.


What distinguishes hardneck garlic from softneck garlic?

Hardneck garlic has a rigid central stalk, while softneck garlic has a softer, flexible stem.

Which garlic type produces scapes?

Hardneck garlic produces scapes, whereas softneck garlic rarely does.

Where is softneck garlic most commonly grown?

Softneck garlic is adaptable and can be grown in a wider range of climates.

Which garlic variety is more robust in flavor?

Hardneck garlic usually has a more robust and complex flavor.

Which garlic variety produces larger cloves?

Hardneck garlic typically has larger but fewer cloves.

Is hardneck garlic suitable for warmer climates?

Hardneck garlic prefers colder climates and requires a chilling period for optimal growth.

Can I substitute one garlic type for the other in recipes?

Yes, but adjust for flavor intensity and clove size.

Can you eat the scapes from hardneck garlic?

Yes, hardneck garlic scapes are edible and are often used in cooking.

Which garlic type has more cloves in a bulb?

Softneck garlic tends to have more cloves, but they are generally smaller.

Are there subvarieties within hardneck and softneck garlic?

Yes, there are multiple subvarieties with distinct flavors and characteristics.

Do both garlic types flower?

Hardneck garlic produces a flower stalk or scape, while softneck garlic rarely flowers.

Which garlic type stores longer?

Softneck garlic usually has a longer shelf life than hardneck garlic.

Are there differences in planting and harvesting times for the two garlic types?

While both are typically planted in the fall, specific timing and care might vary based on the garlic type and local climate.

How can I identify hardneck garlic at a farmer's market?

Look for a central, rigid stalk and the presence of scapes, which are indicative of hardneck garlic.

Can I braid hardneck garlic?

No, hardneck garlic has a rigid stem, making it unsuitable for braiding. Softneck garlic is commonly braided.

Is the garlic I buy at supermarkets hardneck or softneck?

Most garlic sold in supermarkets is softneck garlic.

Why is hardneck garlic less common in stores?

Hardneck garlic has a shorter shelf life than softneck, making softneck more popular for commercial sale.

Which garlic type is easier to peel?

Hardneck garlic is often easier to peel due to its larger cloves.

Why is softneck garlic often braided?

Softneck garlic's flexible stem allows it to be braided for decorative and storage purposes.

Is one garlic type healthier than the other?

Both garlic types offer similar health benefits, with variations primarily in taste and structure.
About Author
Written by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.
Edited by
Aimie Carlson
Aimie Carlson, holding a master's degree in English literature, is a fervent English language enthusiast. She lends her writing talents to Difference Wiki, a prominent website that specializes in comparisons, offering readers insightful analyses that both captivate and inform.

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