The Elephant Garlic

Hello Folks! In yesterday’s post I mentioned I had to dig up some of the Elephant Garlic in order to dump the wheelbarrow of “The Good Stuff” in the flower bed on the south side of the house. I decided to do a post about the Elephant Garlic and talk about some very interesting details you may not know… First off, Elephant Garlic, Allium ampeloprasum, is NOT a true garlic (Allium sativum), but a close relative of the leek that produces cloves like garlic.

Since it is only June 5, the plants that produce the large heads with cloves are not ready to harvest. SO, I can’t show what they look like right now. But, here’s the deal…

The garlic heads with cloves and bulbs both produce small, hard bulbils. If you leave them in the ground or plant them they produce a bulb with NO cloves…

They look sort of like a small onion. I should have cut one open to show you what they look like inside. They are quite “wet” inside and they stay that way if you save some for cooking. I have put them in soup before and they completely dissolved. Some of them get pretty big. These bulbils produce a plant that WILL NOT flower their first year. Leave them in the ground and the plant that grows the next year will produce a flower stalk and HUGE heads of garlic with large cloves.

NORMALLY, if you don’t harvest the heads with cloves, each clove will produce a plant along with all the bulbils left in the ground. They can form good sized colonies after a while because usually the cloves in the ground do not rot. I didn’t dig my garlic last fall, but the year before I did. I left the bulbils in the ground so I have A LOT of bulbs and LOTS of bulbils. Some of them were deep in the ground!

NOW, if you plant the cloves, they WILL produce a plant that will flower the first year and produce cloves. Does that sound confusing?

  1. The bulbs produced by the bulbils and the cloves from the heads will both produce flowering plants and heads with cloves the first season.
  2. Bulbils planted will only produce a plant that will not flower the first season that will produce only a single bulb.

Ummm… These groups have not been dug for a few years so you can see plants with flowers and some without.

As far as when to plant goes… I replant as I dig them, if I dig them. I take the heads with cloves and replant the bulbils and bulbs right then. They will come up and overwinter just fine.

The flowers in this cluster have not fully opened yet. OH, I forgot, am supposed to say inflorescence? When the tops are immature, I think they are called scapes, they can be cut off and used in cooking soups, stir fry and pickled.

OH, one other thing about the flower stems… If you cut them off the plant when they start to grow the heads will be larger. It allows the plant’s energy to be used to for the head instead of flower production, too. Why do they call it a head when it is below ground. OH, never mind that subject…

One other very interesting thing about the Elephant Garlic is that they have properties of both garlic and onions. They produce allicin found in garlic and syn-propanethial-S-oxide found in onions and leeks. Allicin is what makes it smell like garlic and syn-propanethial-S-oxide is what makes your eyes water. There are many health benefits of garlic and onions but if I write all that down this post will be much longer.

I want to thank my neighbor in Mississippi for giving me my start of Elephant Garlic in 2010.

SO, I will end this post and hope you enjoyed it. Be happy, healthy and prosperous. Most of all, GET DIRTY!

4 comments on “The Elephant Garlic

  1. Jim R says:

    We tried cooking some scapes from our CSA a couple of years ago. They must not have left a strong impression on us. I can’t remember how we used them.


  2. Jim R says:

    I just read a post I think you will appreciate about naming plants.


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