Garlic grows in underground bulbs, and is part of the same family as onions, leeks, and shallots. There are hundreds of varieties of garlic across the globe, but these are a few types you'll come across most often:

  • Softneck — This is the most common type found in every grocery store. Its name comes from the papery layers and soft stalk. This is the type that you'll sometimes see braided together and hanging at a farmer's market or someone's kitchen. The two most common softneck varieties are Silverskin and Artichoke.
  • Hardneck — These varieties have very firm stalks that produce thin, green "scapes" when growing, which can also be used in cooking. Hardneck garlic varieties can be found at farmer's markets and some specialty grocery stores. Some examples are Rocambole, Porcelain, and Purple Stripe.
  • Elephant — This variety is exceptionally large, but actually has a very bland flavor, similar to leeks. It also doesn't have the same level of health benefits as other varieties.

For the most health benefits, use fresh garlic, either raw or lightly sautéed. For convenience, it can also be found in jars or bottles, dehydrated, or powdered. These processed varieties will still give good garlic flavor, but with less beneficial nutrients.

Health Benefits

Garlic is full of sulfur-containing compounds, which act as antioxidants, and also have protective effects on our cardiovascular system. Studies show that garlic may help lower cholesterol, triglycerides, blood pressure, and inflammation. Some studies also suggest that garlic may have antibacterial and antiviral properties.

Photo of roasted garlic