What you see here is a recently discovered wild garlic. I search the countryside looking for wild garlic to cultivate. Well, it’s not actually wild garlic. You see this area has all of these old abandon farms around hereabouts and at one time they all had a garlic patch. That was in the 1920’s or 1930’s when the small family farms flourished in this area. Now not so much, mostly weeds and thickets with a few semi-productive hay fields and there are some, but not many commercial snap bean and wheat fields that rule the day. Amazingly, some of these old garlic varieties have found a way to sustain themselves mostly though the spread of their aerial bulbils. They have held their ground against the weeds admirably for all these many years. Although, as you see here the underground bulbs don’t develop into large bulbs due to the weed competition and the overcrowding of the cloves trying to re-grow each year in the same spot.
This one appears to me to be a porcelain hardneck due to the many small bulbils on the seed stem. All of the other old garlic finds have been of the rocambole variety (and have looked quite similar to each other). So, I will replant the tiny cloves of this porcelain find and grow it back to its formal glory. It will likely take a few years of replanting in a cultivated garden to get them to produce a marketable sized bulb.
Many of these garlic probably originated in Europe and were brought here by Immigrants who came here to work in lumber industries during the logging era boom in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. Some of them could of been brought here by the migrating settlers mostly from New England moving west during the mid and early 1800’s. Who knows but they taste so good, and are like finding lost treasures to me.
And yes you are right, it would be far easier to just buy a commercially available garlic that already produces a grand bulb; say like, that huge imposter they call elephant garlic. But, it totally lacks any of that true spicy garlic taste, because it’s a phony. I’ll stay true to the cause, and grow my local heirlooms that I know taste the best. And, they will produce a nice sized bulb when given some time in a garden to reestablish their rightful Terroir (sense of place) in these native soils where they have endured for so long.
It has been shown (Genetic Diversity among U.S. Garlic Clones) that there are very few truly different strains of garlic, speaking DNA-wise. However, we agree that garlic (hardnecks are what we grow) responds to the environment and garlics that thrive in some locations will do very poorly at others dependent upon local environment (soil, rainfall, winter/spring coldness, latitude, altitude and cultural practices, for some given examples). So, we believe that by finding these old garlic strains, that have strived years of neglect, provides us with a valuable natural-selection process that has already been done for us.
Below is shown a Hardneck Garlic Story Board, and yes it’s literally on a board. To follow along, the story goes from left to right and then becomes a circle or the wheel-of-life that can sustain itself forever. The mature garlic plant produces aerial bulbils on top of long stems that get dispersed ideally several feet in all directions to spread its growing area. The garlic aerial bulbils grow a round which is an underground bulb that has only a one-clove bulb. This garlic round doesn’t produce a top-set of aerial bulbils. The second-year the garlic round will produce a bulb that has a few small cloves and a stem that has a top-set of aerial bulbils. Each year thereafter, each clove in the garlic bulb will attempt to produce an individual bulb of cloves and a top-set of aerial bulbils. And, if given a good growing spot (not too weedy and favorable soil conditions) the garlic plant will produce larger underground bulbs. However, since the “wild” garlic is in an uncultivated condition, these cloves will become too crowded trying to regrow in the same spot each year. So as a result, the aerial bulbils become the main propagation method over the long-run growing under the “wild” uncultivated conditions.
Now to wrap things up, let’s discuss the garlic’s third propagation method. Look closely at the picture (shown below) of the aerial bulbils stem with the bulbils removed. Notice that there are some very small flowers growing in between where the bulbils form. Those flowers can potentially produce True Garlic Seeds under certain conditions. Garlic TGS is somewhat an advanced topic for us, and we are just starting to explore this subject. Here is a link to click and learn more about TGS.