What is spring garlic?
In certain regions extending from Russia through to California, some garlic types known as Silverskins, usually pink, silvery skinned softnecks, have been selected by local farmers as they grow well from an increasing temperature profile from January onwards. Planted in the spring they produce neat symmetrical hard white skinned bulbs with exceptional keeping quality up to June the following year. If planted in the autumn they will usually survive but are ill shaped with irregular clove formation.
Silverskins are perfect to plait or just hang in bunches in the kitchen. They should last to the beginning of the next harvest hanging in a warm kitchen. Temperatures below 8C will simulate winter/spring and promote growth. Therefore the kitchen, consistently above 15C (most kitchens), is where they will stay asleep until planting.
Classic silverskin bulbs are deep with long, large elegant cloves. They feel heavy and dense with higher solid levels than other garlic. They have an immense bouquet and increase in strength up till Christmas.
Mersley Wight, Picardy Wight and Solent Wight are three classic silverskin types originating from the Auvergne in the Massif Central in France, Picardy in the Pas de Calais, Venetian and Piacenza in Italy (from which California Late derives) and Hungarian late from Szeged. Two older Spring types are Cristo and Printanor, increasingly less productive in size and shape and superseded by Mersley and Solent Wight.
Planting and Harvesting
These silverskin types respond to planting from mid December in the South (rule of thumb south of Birmingham) and early January in the North through to mid March. January and February are the optimum months for Spring garlic planting across the UK.
Spring garlic silverskins are perfectly suited to our soft UK climate. In Central Europe east of France, the land rarely thaws out until March or even April, dramatically shortening the growing season.
Silverskin spring garlic is usually the last to harvest, at the end of July or even up till mid August. Plant Extra Early Wight from September onwards to give the first harvest in June and covering the period until the far superior Silverskins are ready at the end of July.