Allium Sativum Sativum
"Silverskins are among the most long-storing garlic cultivars. In various regions of the United States they are called Italian garlic and Egyptian garlic. If storage conditions are favorable, well-grown bulbs can be stored for up to a year or more." When you go shopping at your regular grocery store the variety of garlic you'll encounter on the shelves there is most likely from the Silverskin family.
Western Rose-Silverskin Garlic
On the Tongue
Silverkins are notoriously hot and aggressive in character. Sometimes we'll conduct garlic tasting events at customer's homes, bringing 3 or 4 hardneck varieties from different horticultural groups (a Porcelain, a Rocamoble and a Purple Stripe for instance) and we'll have the customer supply the garlic they usually purchase at the local store. The customer's garlic is invariably a Silverskin and we save this one for last in the tasting. One by one, everyone present will nibble the hardneck cultivars, sighing with delight and savoring the complexities released, each one contributing something unique and adding to the customer's overall appreciation of what garlic has to offer. Then we arrive at the Silverskin and prepare slivers that are half the size of the sample we prepared of our hardneck varieties because we know what's coming. Quite commonly, the "newbies" eye's will pop and they'll rush to take a swig of whatever we've prepared as a palette cleanser. Silverskins definitely have their place in cuisine, but it is not due to their subtlety on the tongue.
Silverskins tend to be smaller than bulbs from the other softneck group, the Artichoke. "Comparing similarly sized bulbs, Silverskins have more cloves than any other horticultural group. The cloves are arrayed in multiple layers. many of the inner cloves are often tall, slender, and small. The outer cloves are relatively large, flattened on the interior side, and tallish, with rounded corners and a graceful curvature that helps form the teardrop shape of the bulb. The outer cloves may be quite thin and wide in some cultivars. The bulb wrappers are white but may have yellow or tan veining. Clove skins range from white to tan, prominently pink-blushed, or even reddish purplish. The bulb and clove skins adhere very tightly, contributing to exceptional storage longevity. Leaves are narrow and blue-green, and more vertically angled than Artichoke cultivars and have a pronounced bilateral symmetry. The leaf characteristics of Silverskin, combined with their compact, teardrop shaped bulbs and long storage ability, make these cultivars the chosen garlic for braiding."
In the Field
"Silverskins are generally quite productive and tolerant of a wide range of growing conditions, though they grow best where the growing season is long and winters are mild. Like Artichoke cultivars, Silverskins are generally non-bolting and softneck, at least when grown in more southerly climates. Some cultivars routinely bolt in more northerly regions. Silverskins are among the most late-maturing of all garlic cultivars and are more likely than many other cultivars to produce bulbs of an acceptable size when planted in spring."
(All quotes above from Ted Jordan Meredith, The Complete Book of Garlic.)
Cultivars We Typically Carry
Our only Silverskin so far, Western Rose is a hardy representative of this garlic family.