French name: – l’Ail Automne
Last weekend, whilst enjoying a few small glasses of rosé wine with my friend, I told her about how I had spent the afternoon planting garlic. I finally shut up after about 10 minutes of ramblings about purple, white and pink garlic when I noticed a look of bewilderment on her face. When I asked her what the matter was, she simply replied “but I thought garlic was just garlic?!”
Here in France, garlic is classed into 3 different types; l’ail blanc, l’ail rose and l’ail violet. In the main it is the I’ail blanc and I’ail violet varieties which should be planted in autumn, but there are also a few types of l’ail rose which can be planted in October or November.
The difference between softneck garlic (sans bâton) and hardneck garlic (avec bâton)
Softneck and hardneck simply refers to the flowering stalk of the garlic, called the scape or batôn in French.
Softneck garlic does not produce a flowering stalk. Softneck varieties produce more cloves which tend to be smaller and have a longer shelf life than hardneck varieties.
Hardneck garlic does produce a flowering stalk. Hardneck garlic is generally hardier than softneck varieties and produces fewer, larger bulbs than softneck garlic. However hardneck garlic has less of an outer bulb wrapper making them more sensitive and thus reducing shelf life.
You’ll find many different types of autumn garlic here in France, but when living in France I think it’s only fair that we give a French variety a go, below is a list of the more common French varieties of autumn garlic.
Ail Violet d’automne
Germidour, l’ail violet de Cadours. A softneck garlic which produces large white bulbs with a mild but rich flavour.
Valdour, l’ail violet de Cadours. A softneck garlic which produces an excellent yield.
Ail blanc d’automne
Jolimont, l’ail blanc de Lomange. A softneck garlic which produces white skinned bulbs which have a delicious flavour.
Messidrome, l’ail blanc de la Drôme. A softneck garlic which produces large white bulbs with an excellent flavour for cooking.
Messidor, l’ail blanc de la Drôme. A softneck garlic which produces white bulbs with a very good yield.
Therador, l’ail blanc de la Drôme. A softneck garlic which is very hardy, very strong and very divided.
Thermidrome, l’ail blanc de la Drôme . A softneck garlic which produces ivory-white cloves with a medium flavour. Very hardy.
Ail Rose d’automne
Goulurose, l’ail rose de Lautrec. A hardneck garlic.
Iberose, l’ail rose de Lautrec. A hardneck garlic.
Edenrose, l’ail rose de Lautrec. A hardneck garlic which is renown throughout France for its superior, delicate flavour.
Whichever variety you chose you ideally need to plant your garlic before December, thus ensuring that the plant experiences the cold weather necessary to develop. Plant in the sunniest position you can and in well-draining but moisture retentive, fertile soil. Plant each clove 3-4cm deep and cover with loose soil, ensuring that you leave a 10-15cm space between each clove.
If you have chosen a hardneck variety it is better to cut off the scape or flower stem otherwise it will drain energy away from the bulb and leave you with a smaller crop. Although if you have planted quite a few cloves, why not let a few flower and brighten up the vegetable garden!
You should harvest softneck varieties once the stems have started to drop and hardneck varieties, which do not drop, when leaves have turned brown.
I have chosen to plant two varieties this autumn, Edenrose and Messidrome and I look forward to telling you about their flavour and yield next spring.
If you have planted your autumn garlic I’d love to hear about which type you have chosen and why so please do not hesitate to leave your comments in the box below.