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Beverly Erlebacher bae at cs.toronto.edu
Mon Apr 6 13:02:42 EST 1998

In article <35248ABD.EA43C1EE at axess.com>, andrew  <probro at axess.com> wrote:
>     Can someone tell me why garlic, ( Allium Sativium ) sometimes
>produces bulbs above ground, on the stem, while reducing the underground

Garlic varieties are classified horticulturally into 'softnecks' that 
don't put up a seed stalk and 'hardnecks' that do.  Hardneck garlics
often produce flowers, but they never develop seeds.  Instead they 
produce bulbils (bulblets?) vegetatively.  There are strains of onion,
called top-setting onions, that do this sort of thing too.  They are
sometimes called 'walking onions' because the stalk with bulbils falls
over and the bulbils root, spreading the plant.  I've also seen ornamental
Allium species such as A.caeruleum, form a few bulbils among the florets.

Recently some scientists managed to get garlic seed by hormonal manipulation 
and crossing with a proposed ancestor species of garlic.

It's mysterious that garlic has so many distinct varieties even though
it is propagated asexually.  It seems to have been in cultivation all
over the eastern hemisphere for a very long time.

If you are referring to garlic cloves forming near the bottom of the stalk
but not inside the bulb, I've seen this happen when garlic is stressed while
it is growing, e.g. by drought.  

You can get larger bulbs from hardneck garlic by cutting off the seed stalks
as soon as they come up.  If you do it while they are still young and tender
they are good to eat.  They are a delicacy in Vietnamese and some other east
Asian cuisines.

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