Elephant garlic

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Elephant garlic
Elephant Garlic (Allium ampeloprasum) 2.jpg
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
(unranked): Angiosperms
(unranked): Monocots
Order: Asparagales
Family: Amaryllidaceae
Subfamily: Allioideae
Genus: Allium
Species: A. ampeloprasum
Subspecies: A. ampeloprasum var. ampeloprasum
Trinomial name
Allium ampeloprasum var. ampeloprasum

Elephant garlic (Allium ampeloprasum var. ampeloprasum) is a perennial plant belonging to the onion genus. It is not a true garlic, but actually a variant of the garden leek. It has a tall, solid, flowering stalk and broad, flat leaves much like those of the leek, but forms a bulb consisting of very large, garlic-like cloves. The flavor of these, while not exactly like garlic, is much more similar to garlic than to leeks. The flavor is milder than garlic, and much more palatable to some people than garlic when used raw as in salads. It is sometimes confused with solo garlic.

Cultivation and Use[edit]

Bulb size of elephant garlic

The mature bulb is broken up into cloves which are quite large and with papery skins and these are used for both culinary purposes and propagation. There are also much smaller cloves with a hard shell which grow on the outside of the bulb. Many gardeners often ignore these, but if they are planted, they will in their first year produce a non-flowering plant which has a solid bulb, essentially a single large clove. In their second year, this single clove will then, like a normal bulb, divide into many separate cloves. While it may take an extra year, it is desirable to plant these small bulbils (several can be produced by each bulb) and the harvest increased, though delayed a year (but will allow you to eat more of your main crop, having these "back up" bulbils growing into full-sized elephant garlic bulbs in their second year).

Unlike many garlics, elephant garlic does not have to be harvested or divided each year; but can be ignored and left in the ground without much risk of rotting. The plant, if left alone, will spread into a clump with many flowering heads (one stalk and flower from each clove, once the bulb divides). These are often left in flower gardens as an ornamental and to discourage pests. Of course, once they get over crowded, the plant may not do as well, and growth will be stunted, and there may be some rotting.

As growing any root crop, the best method is to dig down a foot in your normal garden soil, and then add about 1 5-gallon bucket each of sand, granite dust, and humus/peat moss, per each 2' x 2' to 3' - 3' section, mixing the soil well, and some well-aged manure as top dressing will never hurt. The granite dust and sand help loosen the soil, help with drainage, humus will absorb extra moisture later to be absorbed by the plant roots, and also makes weeding and harvesting much easier, in addition to helping produce larger and better-formed root crops. Mulch, chopped leaves, and/or sawdust added to the surface of the garden area will also help keep weeds down and provide nutrients once the amendments begin to decompose into good "black gold" as some gardeners refer to it.

Elephant garlic is not generally propagated by seeds.

The immature plant tops can be topped off (cut) when the plant is young and they are still tender, as can be done with onions, and chives, along with the very immature flower bud, and are called scapes. They can be pickled, lacto-fermented, stir fried, added to soups, etc. The scapes (whether elephant garlic, garlic, onion, chive, garlic chive) can also be frozen in a zip lock bag without any cooking, and they will generally remain fresh for a year or so without freezer burn, to be added to any soup, stew, stir fry, etc. Topping the plants off also helps more of the plant's energy to be directed toward the bulb. Since seed is not generally gathered from elephant garlic, this is the best utilization of resources and helps the bulb, though it does detract from the aesthetic value; though of course you can leave a few scapes to mature to into stalks to flower.

Like regular garlic, elephant garlic can be roasted whole on the grill or baked in the oven, and then used as a spread with butter on toast. Fresh Elephant garlic contains a lot of moisture and will foam up like boiling potatoes, whether on the stove or in a glass dish in the oven. Drying in the basement for a few months will reduce the moisture content, and also bring out a fuller flavor.


When crushed and then analyzed using a DART ion source, elephant garlic has been shown to produce both allicin, found in garlic, and syn-propanethial-S-oxide (onion lachrymatory factor), found in onion and leek, but absent in garlic, consistent with the classification of elephant garlic as a closer relative of leek than of garlic.[1]


Elephant Garlic is suitable for being planted at two different times of the year: spring and autumn. In warmer areas it can be grown over winter for a late Spring harvest.


  1. ^ Block E, Dane AJ, Thomas S, Cody RB (2010). "Applications of Direct Analysis in Real Time–Mass Spectrometry (DART-MS) in Allium Chemistry. 2-Propenesulfenic and 2-Propenesulfinic Acids, Diallyl Trisulfane S-Oxide and Other Reactive Sulfur Compounds from Crushed Garlic and Other Alliums". Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry 58 (8): 4617–4625. doi:10.1021/jf1000106. PMID 20225897.