I recently bought some of those big garlic heads (unlike the small, pretty ones you have in the supermarket). It looks like this: enter image description here

My problem is that when I take out the cloves and try to cut them, they break apart like a small onion. Here is a pic enter image description here

As you can tell, there is a "whole" clove buried under the smaller outer layers. My question is - do you just take out the whole, smaller clove and use it, or do you use the outer layers as well? Do the outer layers have a different flavor? Are they bitter?

  • 5
    Is that actually garlic, or is it a white shallot or maybe a pearl onion? Do you have a picture of what you bought, unpeeled?
    – J...
    Commented Apr 11, 2019 at 12:35
  • 6
    The correct answer for any form of garlic is "use all of it, another one for good measure and then a third for the flavour".
    – Stephen
    Commented Apr 12, 2019 at 4:00
  • 1
    @JAD Stephens answer is measurement-independent: If the recipe calls for cloves, apply the answer in units of cloves. If it calls for heads, use units of heads!
    – anderas
    Commented Apr 12, 2019 at 8:09
  • 2
    @Chronocidal what, you don't measure your garlic in wheelbarrows?
    – JAD
    Commented Apr 12, 2019 at 11:45
  • 2
    @JAD When reading a recipe the usual interpretation is to shift measurements up by one order of magnitude. Cloves -> Bulbs, Bulbs -> kilograms.
    – Stephen
    Commented Apr 15, 2019 at 0:48

3 Answers 3


I think that might be elephant garlic, which isn't really garlic at all. It's in the same family, but is actually a kind of leek so it has a flavor that's a cross between garlic and onion, but milder than garlic. Because it's not very strong you'll probably want to add the whole thing. Just chop it and use it as normal.

  • added a picture of what I bought. Is that elephant garlic?
    – Bar Akiva
    Commented Apr 11, 2019 at 14:22
  • 1
    It looks like it to me @BarAkiva, the thick stem gives it away, also it has very few cloves.
    – GdD
    Commented Apr 11, 2019 at 14:27
  • 5
    To be honest, it looks small for elephant garlic, and the cloves of elephant garlic are similar to normal garlic cloves - whole bits with a waxy skin and a single papery outer layer. This looks like maybe very fresh garlic that hasn't dried fully - the outer clove skin seems layered and succulent like an onion. I've never seen garlic like that. Maybe just a weird cultivar or freak mutant?
    – J...
    Commented Apr 11, 2019 at 15:17
  • 5
    Elephant garlic has fewer cloves than a hardneck garlic @J... Elephant garlic isn't always that big, it depends on variety and the soil it's grown in. Denser soils grow smaller garlics and elephant garlics with more concentrated flavor.
    – GdD
    Commented Apr 11, 2019 at 15:28

You can generally use the whole thing unless there's another papery skin inside in which case discard that (some garlic may go with it) or anything that seems bad (soft or discoloured). I've never noticed a difference in flavour, and I normally crush mine. I prefer big garlic when I can get it, for convenience when preparing as I tend to use a fair bit at a time.

  • 3
    I just wish I could find heads of garlic with cloves that size. I pick out the big ones from the head first. The ones left in the end are the teensy weensy flimsy ones, which are annoying to work with... Commented Apr 11, 2019 at 9:26
  • 5
    Look into hardneck varieties of garlic. They have fewer cloves, but generally they have a more uniform size and a stronger flavor. Downside is shorter shelf-life. I never buy the elephant garlic (not sure if that's what the picture is...) because it has a weird onion-y flavor to me.
    – kitukwfyer
    Commented Apr 11, 2019 at 10:32
  • @kitukwfyer: Thanks, I'll have a look. The shorter shelf-life will not be a problem, garlic rarely gets a chance to go old in my kitchen ;) Commented Apr 11, 2019 at 11:25
  • 1
    @Willem same here. I got unreasonably excited when I find some at a market stall near work
    – Chris H
    Commented Apr 11, 2019 at 11:49
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    @ChrisH: Hehehe, I have that with chili's. I've more than enough, of more than enough varieties, both fresh and dried. More than reasonably should be allowed for a sane person to have. But whenever I see a bunch of chili's I get all giddy inside...must...have... Commented Apr 11, 2019 at 15:48

Elephant garlic is super easy to grow, and the flavor is milder, so use the entire clove. If in doubt, slowly cook in a toaster oven ahead of time to make sweet and gooey (and leave your home smelling amazing).

To grow elephant garlic, take 40 of these cloves that are in good condition and pre-soak in water while you roto-till a patch of your lawn, large enough to make an 8 in x 8 in space for each, preferably as close to a square grid as possible, with 8 inches to spare all the way around. Do this ideally in September. I used a sod cutter to remove the grass and move to areas of the lawn that needed them. If in doubt, however, add seed-free grass clippings to the soil you are roto-tilling, esp, if it is full of clay. A sunny spot at least part of the day is best.

Plant your little bulbs according to how you should plant garlic in the fall, possibly with a little bulb-fertilizer. Planting in the Fall allows your bulbs a critical head start over grass in the Spring. Once you get pre-flowers, get out the scissors and snip yourself a stir fry with a little butter. Yum! Your 40 little "steers" will now focus on bulb making. I got a 100% yield my very first year in SE Michigan -- 40 little elephants! I dug a couple a little early as needed, and to check on progress.

Just in case you might get irradiated product from a corporate supplier, lean toward buying your parent elephant garlic from an organic/roadside source.

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