Garlic is a perennial plant in the onion family with thin, flat leaves which grow up to 30 cm or 12″ in length and roots which can reach depths of over 50 cm, or 20”. The white-skinned bulb is called a head and is divided up into cloves.

A head may hold between 6 and 12 cloves, each of which is wrapped in a fine, white or reddish film. A new garlic plant can be grown from a single clove as each one contains a leaf base which can germinate without needing to be planted beforehand. A shoot will begin to appear about three months after harvesting, depending on the variety and storage conditions.

The flowers are white, and in some species the stalk also produces small bulbs or shoots.
Garlic is noted for the strong, characteristic odour it releases after cutting.

Varieties and sizes

According to colouring:
Common White: Silvery wrapping on cloves, late, used when dry.
Early Pink: Pinkish wrapping on cloves. Used when young. Early.
Purple Stripe: Red wrapping, pigmentation also colours the reddish cloves. Cloves are thick and short, earlier crop than whites.
Garlic sizes (carried out with reference to the diameter of garlic head. The calibration of purple stripes and white garlic is different on account of differences in size and shape of the head):
White Garlic:

  • Elephant: Over 68 mm.
  • Jumbo: between 62 and 68 mm.
  • Extra Blossom: between 55 and 62 mm.
  • Super Blossom: between 50 and 55 mm.
  • Blossom: between 45 and 50 mm.
  • Prime Grade: between 37 and 45 mm.

Purple Stripe Garlic:

  • Extra Blossom: between 55 and 60 mm.
  • Super Blossom: between 50 and 55 mm.
  • Blossom: between 45 and 50 mm.
  • Prime Grade A: between 41 and 45 mm.
  • Prime Grade B: between 37 and 41 mm.
  • Second Grade: less than 37 mm.

Industrial Garlic comes in calibres of all sizes.


In the times of Ancient Egyptians, Hebrews, Greeks and Romans, people were already very much aware of the health benefits of garlic as a condiment and medicine.

Although its exact origin is uncertain, garlic is thought to have come from Asia and to have later been brought to Europe before being taken to America by the Spanish Conquistadors. It has been employed for a variety of uses throughout history. In Ancient Egypt it was eaten by the slaves who built the pyramids as it was thought to contain properties which boosted energy and strength. In the times of Ancient Greeks and Romans it was mainly consumed by soldiers, sailors and peasants. During the Middle Ages, it was used for medicinal purposes, usually to combat bacterial diseases. During the First World War it was applied as an external antiseptic to disinfect wounds when none of the usual antiseptics were available.

Nowadays it is grown and consumed throughout the world and is used as a component in many medicines. Its therapeutic use, however, has become secondary to its use as a condiment.