Heard about hardneck garlic and itching to taste some? After 2 years of searching, I’m listing places where you can buy hardneck garlic and pros + cons of the different sellers.
When I first discovered the history of garlic and the different types grown around the world, I was eager to find hardneck garlic to try. I wanted to know whether hardneck garlic was punchier and spicier. Does it carry floral notes like descriptions I read on the Internet purported?
The beautifully marbled purple skin intrigued me. The side benefit of bigger cloves and less sticky tissue-thin skin compared to softneck garlic appealed to my slothful self: “I can peel fewer hardneck cloves with less effort and cook with more flavor? Whoa, sign me up.”
As you guessed, the wrinkle to this plan was the difficulty in finding hardneck garlic. Most conventional supermarkets sell softneck garlic even though it’s harder to peel, each clove is smaller, and it can be flavorful. Why?
Because softneck garlic has a longer shelf-life. Plus you can braid it, which looks pretty. 😀
Since 2017, I’ve been on the hunt to buy hardneck garlic. This ongoing quest has revealed different places that sell hardneck garlic, the importance of timing, and how to save a buck. This post will cover these places to buy hardneck garlic and what to watch for.
- eCommerce stores
- Farmers market
- Grocery stores
Let’s dive in to learn where you might find hardneck garlic.
Challenge of finding hardneck garlic
Imagine you get excited about the idea of eating aromatic garlic bread made with hardneck garlic. You start searching online and end up buying 4 garlic bulbs for $15. Or in my case, 12 bulbs in a variety pack for $60. Is that a good deal?
Before you learn about where to buy hardneck garlic, I want to offer context to help you understand the challenges of finding hardneck garlic and then pricing it. So you don’t make the same mistake I did (if you consider spending $5 on a bulb of garlic a mistake).
Hardneck garlic is seasonal
Sellers typically deliver hardneck garlic around September to November-ish. This provides enough time for the growers to plant the garlic in the optimal growing months of October – December (the year before), harvest the garlic after prime growth in July-August (garlic takes 9 months to mature), and cure it (1-2 months).
If you want to buy hardneck garlic, you need to keep your eyes peeled starting August. As more growers sell garlic, this date could change. Since most growers are smaller farms or homesteaders, it’s hard to find hardneck garlic in the off season.
NOTE: Keep a calendar reminder to check in August. Be patient if you’re looking for hardneck garlic in January. I’m not saying it’s impossible to find but it’s harder than if you were shopping for it in October.
Seed versus food
Most of the garlic sold online appears to be garlic seed stock. Because you can grow a garlic plant from a single clove, you can eat garlic seed that’s sold for gardening.
However, garlic seed is much pricier than the garlic you buy in the supermarket for eating. I’m not sure why. Sure, garlic seed is typically organic and farmed with the highest standards of quality, so the online stores say. But I don’t know why it’s triple or quadruple the cost of garlic sold at Trader Joe’s other than lack of scale.
The one great thing about garlic seed online stores is the variety of garlic they offer. If you find garlic in brick-and-mortar stores, there’s one variety, and it’s usually unlabeled. You’ll pay for this benefit of identification but it’s worth the money if you’re precisely looking for Russian Redstreak or Chimyon garlic.
Alright, it’s time to look at all the places where I’ve discovered you can buy garlic.
Buy hardneck garlic online
There are a range of eCommerce stores that sell hardneck garlic as well as premium varieties of softneck garlic. These include:
- Gardening stores selling garlic seed stock
- Small farms and hobby homesteaders
- Amazon sellers
Pros: You can read online reviews to gauge the quality of the products (especially on Amazon and eBay). There’s a big variety of garlic to choose from.
Cons: Garlic seed is expensive. It’s hard to find the online stores of smaller farms because they often don’t a strong web presence. You don’t know how long the garlic has sat in the Amazon warehouses.
Buy it at the farmers market
I’ve discovered sellers at my local farmers market sell hardneck garlic in the late summer. The Daily Camera, Boulder’s local newspaper, wrote a story about the farmers market, which informed me there was a vendor that sells hardneck garlic.
Pros: You can have a direct relationship to the farmer. You get to support local farming and ask the farmer questions about the garlic (they’ll know the varieties). Garlic sold at the farmers market is cheaper than most of the online stores, and there are no shipping charges.
Cons: There are fewer varieties than online gardening stores. It’s hard to track down which vendors will be at the farmers markets and what exact produce they’re selling that week. Last year, Colorado experienced hail and colder spring weather killing the scapes, which made the garlic bulbs smaller. Because farmers markets are local, all sellers there will suffer the same problem.
Buy it at Costco
When we first moved to Colorado, we noticed our closest Costco didn’t stock some of our favorite items there were available in the Bay Area Costco branch. The silver lining is that our Costco in Superior, CO sells hardneck garlic.
In the last 3 months that we purchased garlic from Costco, we bought a purple-skinned hardneck variety. If you’re shopping at Costco, it’s worth a peek into the plastic mesh bag to see whether you can detect a marbled purple skin. You can confirm it’s hardneck garlic when you cut into it and see the stiff, dried scape.
Pros: The best price for hardneck garlic.
Cons: It’s hard to tell if it’s hardneck garlic (the price sign never labels it as hardneck). The inventory is unpredictable and varies from branch to branch. Even if the hardneck garlic shows up, there’s only one kind.
Buy it at Whole Foods
Last October, I bought hardneck garlic from the local Whole Foods. It was about $7 for 4 small bulbs from a Colorado farm.
Pros: While I often complain about prices at “whole paycheck”, I’ll admit the hardneck garlic was cheaper at Whole Foods than most online garlic seed retailers. If you already shop at Whole Foods, you’re not going out of your way to buy garlic. They also clearly labeled the garlic as hardneck.
Cons: The staff at Whole Foods didn’t know what variety it was. There was only one kind.
Recipes for hardneck garlic
Assuming you successfully buy hardneck garlic, here are my favorite recipes to cook with hardneck garlic that showcase its flavors. These recipes help you enjoy it because they don’t use other flavorful ingredients that mask the hardneck’s taste.