Six Crazy Facts About Garlic

As we enjoy some unusually lengthy spring rains here in California, my garlic beds are coming in nicely.

I have been doing research on my favorite garden plant, and I felt compelled to share with all you lovely folks! So basically… garlic is a strange little plant!

Garlic doesn’t really fit nicely into any one plant category. Garlic is not commonly referred to as a food, a spice, or an herb.. it’s just garlic! Check out these crazy facts about the garlic plant:

1. Garlic is a bulb that is related to the daffodil.

Bulbs are amazing plants. When you think “bulbs” you probably think of a tulip or a daffodil or something similar. But when hearing the word “bulb” people rarely think of the distant cousin of the daffodil… garlic! But it’s true.. they are related!

2. The average American eats one to three pounds of garlic a year.

Americans love garlic! Commercial farmers in the USA produce one pound of garlic bulbs for every one person living in the United States ever year, and we still import garlic from out of the nation to meet demand! (This is not an official statistic, but it seems for every one person who insists garlic makes their breath stink, there are a dozen who are nomming on a whole bulb when the recipe called for just one clove, haha.)

3. Garlic is a botanical oddity.

When garlic is growing it looks like it has a normal stem. But on garlic, the green leafy portion of the plant is not them stem… the “true stem” is entirely below the ground and almost flat as a pancake.

Another oddity, is that garlic plants begin growth in the late fall when normal plants are dying or already dead. In fact, the garlic clove never dies, and leaf growth begins inside the clove long before the clove is even planted. Cloves are actually swollen leaves, but no one would dream of calling them leaves. (Botanists call them “fleshy skins”!) Technically, the cloves are small bulbs within a bulb, but no one, not even botanists, ever refer to cloves as bulbs, and no one knows why cloves are called cloves!

Few people know how or when cloves are formed either. A common misconception, even among garlic growers, is that a large, solid bulb grows and then divides into cloves right before harvest. Actually, tiny vegetative buds occur on the surface of the true stem at the base of the inner leaves. Some of the buds are fertile – another strange term, since they never actually get fertilized! Specialized leaves swell into cloves around each fertile bud in mid-spring in order to nourish and protect the bud through its period of rest and during its early growth. Another interesting tid-bit! Most people assume garlic bulbs lie “dormant” until they’re planted, but according to botanists, they only “rest”.

4. Grocery store garlic does not taste like true garlic.

To further add to the mystery of garlic, softneck garlics (the kind grown in your local grocery store) are so “hot” that the true garlic flavor is overwhelmed. In order to truly taste real garlic, you have to try an ophioscorodon garlic, a half-wild hardneck variety that still produces a flower stalk, has such a short shelf life that you pretty much have to grow it yourself, or get lucky at a local farmers market to get it on your table.

5. Unlike most plants, vegetables and herb, garlic does not have any kind of universal nomenclature.

Garlic is an amazingly simple yet highly deceptive plant. What you see and hear about garlic really depends a lot on whether you’re talking to a botanist, a farmer, a produce buyer, or a layperson, all of which will also change depending on what part of the world you are from, since each geographic region has it’s own specific brands of confusion and misnomers.

Generally speaking, garlic has been relegated to the cultural status of a sub-food, somehow less than a food, at least in the highly visible public eye. Despite its wide and varied uses, not to mention its history, (which started long before humans even invented history!) garlic is still a very confusing little plant to gardeners!

6. Garlic ranks as the second most important allium crop in the world behind only onions.

The species of garlic are divided into two subspecies (often called varieties) whose botanical Latin names are a mouthful – ophioscorodon (hardneck) and sativum (softneck). Ophio garlic, which is also known as “topsetting” evolved directly from the wild garlic known as Allium longicuspis. Softneck garlic – the most commonly grown garlics in the world, and what you buy in the grocery store – may also be called “Artichoke”, or sometimes “Italian” or “Silverskin” garlic, and these evolved later from the ophio garlics.

So, despite stems that aren’t really stems, flower stalks without noticeable flowers, cloves that are really leaves (or bulbs.. or fleshy scales… or whatever..), fertile buds that are never fertilized (so how did they get fertile?!), and a plant that never dies no matter how old it gets, I think it is fairly safe to say that garlic is a crazy plant, am I right?!

Do you like garlic? Do you add it to your recipes, or garden? Why or why not? Share below!

Gingi Freeman

Gingi is a photographer, cosplayer, amateur chef, crazy cat lady, anime otaku, bookworm, generic geek, world traveler, conservative Christian, homeschooler, devoted military wife and stay at home new mother of two little girls. Gingi blogs about anything and everything that is relevant to being a supermom, stay at home wife, homeschooler and geek girl! You can contact her at or via the contact form on her website at

44 thoughts on “Six Crazy Facts About Garlic

  • 7 February, 2017 at 1:49 am

    On to three pounds? I must be significantly less than average, then.

  • 7 February, 2017 at 2:39 am

    I did not know that garlic is related to the daffodil, but it makes sense!

    • 7 February, 2017 at 3:45 am

      I need to start growing other bulbs, at the moment all I grow is garlic!

  • 7 February, 2017 at 3:52 am

    Wow! I would never have guessed it was related to daffodils. I love me some garlic! 🙂 I’ve never thought to try and grow it.


    • 7 February, 2017 at 4:54 pm

      You really should, especially if you grow the ophioscorodon variety… its a whole new world of garlic!!

  • 7 February, 2017 at 3:59 am

    What an interesting read. I love using garlic and at present am making good use of black garlic in everything.

    • 7 February, 2017 at 4:54 pm

      Mmmmmm, I will have to keep an eye out for your yummy recipes featuring garlic!!!

  • 7 February, 2017 at 5:56 am

    We eat LOTS of garlic!! I wish I could lived closer, so I could drop by and admire your garden produce :-))

    • 7 February, 2017 at 4:55 pm

      Hahaha, this is the first year we utilized all three beds for garlic! So we should have TONS this summer!

  • 7 February, 2017 at 8:18 am

    Yeeeeees I love garlic! As does my hubby. Thanks for all the fun facts 🙂

  • 7 February, 2017 at 8:50 am

    I’m growing garlic in my country house, really interesting facts!

  • 7 February, 2017 at 11:05 am

    We love garlic but I’ve never tried to growing it. Now you’ve got me interested in it. I wonder if it’s too late to plant garlic in my region (zone 7b)?

    • 7 February, 2017 at 4:56 pm

      It isn’t too late if you go with a variety like California Early White… you should give it a try! It is a super easy to grow plant!

  • 7 February, 2017 at 12:35 pm

    Oh wow, your garlic looks great!

    • 7 February, 2017 at 4:57 pm

      Thanks! I am SO EXCITED that they are growing in so nicely!

  • 7 February, 2017 at 12:39 pm

    My dear, do I love garlic, and I enjoyed learning more about that beloved ingredient!


    • 7 February, 2017 at 4:57 pm

      Great, I am glad everyone found this article so interesting! <3

  • 7 February, 2017 at 5:03 pm

    very informative! i used to be obsessed with garlic but now i’ve turned a 180 and seem to be hyper sensitive to its presence. i still respect it though. 🙂

    • 7 February, 2017 at 5:34 pm

      Oh no!! That would be like a culinary death sentence for me!!

  • 7 February, 2017 at 5:07 pm

    I love garlic. Food without garlic is well, not that great. Nothing smells better than walking into a restaurant and smelling garlic. You know there is a good meal waiting.

    Have a fabulous day. ☺

    • 7 February, 2017 at 5:35 pm

      RIGHT?!??!! It is one of my favorite elements to any dish!

  • 8 February, 2017 at 2:37 am

    I’ve had garlic in things here and there, but I don’t tend to add it myself. Great facts!

    • 8 February, 2017 at 5:32 pm

      You are missing out!!! Garlic is pretty much awesome sauce! 😉

  • 8 February, 2017 at 2:42 am

    Wow, Garlic is related to the daffodil? I would have never guessed that. I defiantly eat at least 3 pounds of garlic a year. I can’t get enough of it. Garlic stems are under the ground and flat like a pancake? Ok, that makes sense, but I need to see it up close and personal to wrap my head around it. I’m so NOT surprised grocery store garlic doesn’t taste like real garlic, I need some real garlic in my life ASAP.

    • 8 February, 2017 at 5:33 pm

      Hahaha, I love your enthusiasm over garlic!! But yeah, crazy facts amirite?!

  • 8 February, 2017 at 11:41 am

    I pull wild garlic out of our lawn in the summer. Maybe I should start growing the real stuff. Enjoyed learning more about one of my favorite ingredients!

    • 8 February, 2017 at 5:33 pm

      Wow, you have wild garlic?!?!?! That is so rad!!!

  • 8 February, 2017 at 2:53 pm

    You forgot #7:

    Garlic makes GiGi smell so stupid bad… She can clear a room in under 20 seconds.


  • 8 February, 2017 at 10:04 pm

    Such cool little facts about garlic! I grew up in a household obsessed with garlic LOL. My dad swears by it to cure common colds and any small ailment.

    • 9 February, 2017 at 4:47 pm

      YES!! They are super medicinal… forgot to add that tidbit onto the post!

  • 13 February, 2017 at 6:12 pm

    i love garlic and would put it in everything savory (not sweet; i had the garlic ice cream at the gilroy garlic festival once and it wasn’t my favorite) ever if my family would let me. i’ll have to loiter at the farmers market and pick up some real garlic next time (:

    • 14 February, 2017 at 4:35 pm

      That is one area I have NOT tried garlic, is in desserts! But man, I would love to give THAT a try!!

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