ABC Wednesday 5: I is for...


Some of the bulbs in my garlic harvest this year have these intriguing mini cloves part way up the stem. They're too small to use for cooking, so I'm wondering what will happen if I plant them instead. I usually save some of my crop for next year's sowing anyway, so I'll be finding out very soon!

According to the Boundary Garlic Farm's website, these mini cloves are actually called bulbils and are an exact clone of the parent plant. Most bulbils occur when the plant forms a scape at the top of the plant. Scapes can be eaten, but if left to mature they form what looks like a flower head, but it actually contains lots of tiny bulbs which can be used to bulk up garlic seed supplies over 2-3 years. Sometimes bulbils are found in the stem instead, which is usually a sign the plant's been stressed. We've had a lot of garlic rust up at the allotment this year, I wonder if this is what triggered the bulbil formation?

The variety's Albigensian Wight: this is a softneck variety - one with pliable stems which can be plaited and store well - so I'm surprised that bulbils have formed as all the references I've looked up say they occur in hardneck varieties. Hmm, come to think about it, those stems look more like hardneck ones, but they've definitely come from the bed where my Albigensian Wight cloves were planted. Another indication that the plants were stressed perhaps, or maybe a case of mislabelled bulbs from the supplier? Have you seen anything similar in your garlic harvest this year - stem bulbil formation and/or softneck garlic looking more like hardneck? If you did, what happened and in which varieties?

For more stories bought to you by the letter I, do visit the ABC Wednesday blog.


  1. VP ! How are you ? : )
    I have been thinking of planting garlic for a while but haven't nailed it so far .. now you have me thinking about it again.
    You didn't mention if it was a good idea to plant this bulbis for a garlic crop next year or not .. are you going to ? It would be interesting to see !
    Joy : )

  2. Good grief that is interesting! We lifted all our garlic (softnecked and hard) a few weeks ago and didn't notice anything like that. Bit jealous really, I like odd things. Andrew plaited our softnecks to prefection; I got him instructions of the web, looks so good. Can't believe we forgot to try a scape or two in our dinner ~ next year. xx Thanks for the comment by the way x

  3. VP, I have only planted hardneck garlic, not the softneck, but have not run into this yet.
    The first year that I planted garlic, I let the scapes flower. Well, you know what that leads too, I am still weeding tiny garlic leaves out of my bed!

  4. So very interesting. My father gave me a few wild garlic bulbs in 1985 and I planted them.
    They do add height in the flower beds.

  5. Cool, VP, please let us know what happens! We love to saute garlic scapes in our stir-fries and the like, so none escape to form bulbils or anything else. Despite all your troubles, your garlic bulbs look gorgeous!

  6. Aren't plants ingenious? It never ceases to amaze me!

    Would be great to see how you get on with the bulbils!


  7. Very interesting post - I went and read the link 'scapes' too. Good one!

  8. My garlic had bulbils last year but I can't remember which variety I grew. This year's crop (autumn planted Solent White) suffered from rust but produced an excellent harvest :)

  9. Actually look like percussion instruments.

  10. I've never seen anything like this before, VP! I've never tried planting garlic before, so I don't know much about them. Will you be planting these little bulbils?

  11. Very interesting! I had no idea this could happen.

  12. Haven't heard of 'scapes' before and have never seen 'bulbils'. It seems a bit science-fictiony. Sometimes I find nature as un-nerving as it is interesting.

    I'd be interested to know too whether you grow garlic because it is useful or because it feels a good thing to do. I ask this because I've never been happy with any garlic I've grown - the flavour hasn't really been strong enough or interesting enough to make it worth while and I've decided I can make better use of the space it takes. But I still find the idea of growing my own garlic appealing. (Maybe I am trying to pretend we have a Mediterranean climate!)

    . . . and do you manage to store it without letting it go grey and dry?

  13. Hi - it's good see so many of you are also intrigued by my garlic!

    Joy and Rose - yes I will be growing the bulbils. They won't bulk up enough for eating next year, but are a way of rapidly increasing seed supplies. I'm not sure how long it takes for them to get to eating size - must ask Patrick @ Bifurcated Carrots when I see him in October as he knows loads about garlic.

    Deborah - welcome! That's quite a problem as those scapes produce hundreds of bulbils! It's also got me thinking about what to do after I've planted my bulbils - the leaves will be tiny, so keeping them weed free will be quite a problem up at the plot. I wonder if I might be better growing them in a container?

    Sherry - that's an interesting use for garlic - do you grow lots of flowers and vegetables/fruit together in your garden?

    OFB - sounds yummy, must try that some time. I'm pleased with my harvest - it's been a good one in spite of the rust :)

    Ryan - I'll keep you posted!

    Jay - I'm glad you told me that as I do like to put together informative links just in case you want further information on what I'm talking about :)

    Anna - Cristo's my favourite so far, another softneck variety. Looks like rust hasn't affected our crops, but I wonder if keeping some back for sowing next year keeps the rust going. Another question for Patrick methinks...

    Roger - I'll try them out at our next choir practice ;)

    Tumblewords - I was surprised too!

    3C - oh I grow garlic because we use so much of it in cooking. The flavour's much stronger than shop bought and I can save some to use as 'seed' for next year, so it's a free crop after the initial outlay :) I'm storing it as seen in the picture. Cristo (my usual variety) looks much more like the garlic you see in the shops. I find the key is to make sure you get it dried thoroughly first, then it'll keep for ages, especially the softneck varieties. Hardneck is meant to have the better flavour, but doesn't store as long and I haven't fond flavour to be a problem with the softneck varieties when compared to shop bought garlic.


Post a Comment

I love hearing from you and welcome thoughtful conversations :)

Comments aiming to link back and give credence to commercial websites will be composted!

Your essential reads

Review: Riverford Recipe Box with guest chef Sarah Raven

How not to look after your Pilea peperomioides

Down to Earth with Monty Don

Ulting Wick: drier than Jerusalem? One of the Secret Gardens of East Anglia

Here comes the judge

#mygardenrightnow: there's still plenty going on!

Garden Bloggers' Blooms Day: Persicaria 'Fat Domino'

A clean break

#mygardenrightnow: the autumn edition

Are you looking at me?