We received a nice, thorough response from Seed Savers Exchange to our concerns about the garlic stock we purchased this year (summarized in this post). See text below, and our response below that:
Dear Eric:Thank you for your comments and concerns.We have always experienced some conversion of the softnecks to hardnecks, and this year, we have experienced an abnormal number of heads converting across most softneck varieties.The two softneck varieties you ordered, Inchelium Red and Lorz Italian, are classified under the variety of ‘Artichoke.’ While Artichokes do not normally produce a seed head, they often produce large bulbils that protrude from the lower third of the stem. When stressed, Artichokes can produce hard necks and seed heads.The ‘hardneck’ bulbs you received in these softneck varieties are a result of bulbil clusters being produced on the stems of these stressed plants. Many growers experience that cloves planted from these bulbs will usually revert to soft necks the following season. In the past, we have sorted out and trialed these ‘hardneck’ types, and received advice from our Garlic Advisor, John Swenson, that we should not be overly concerned with doing this – these varieties will often convert, and they just do that. We do, however, only save softneck bulbs with soft stems as planting stock for our continuedcommercial production.Another variation in explanation we can give you is taken from Ron L. Engeland’s book, *Growing Great Garlic *(pg8-9):“In some climates (such as Germany), they *(Artichokes)* still often produce topsets, but in most climates they only produce a few large bulbils out the side of the false stem a few inches above the bulb. These bulbils may even appear as small, odd-shaped cloves inside the bulb wrappers at the very top of the bulb… many growers would claim that softneck garlics are less stable than hardnecks and more likely to display a wide range of environmental responses.”Since softneck varieties typically perform better in warmer climates, we can speculate that our northern conditions are not as ideal for these varieties and as a result, experience more environmental responses, such as bulbil production and hardneck conversion. These bulbs are still true to the variety and we will continue to grow and offer these varieties, to honor theSeed Savers mission and the tradition of preserving and sharing heritage varieties and promoting biodiversity. However, since we strive to offer quality products, we are considering sorting out the ‘hard-necked’ softnecks from our sales stock next year to sell as eating garlic at our Visitor’sCenter and to donate to the local food pantry.We will gladly issue you a refund for the Lorz and Inchelium garlic varieties that you are not satisfied with. The Persian Star is a hardneck, and a very good performer for us, but please let us know if you are not satisfied with this variety. We do still have a small amount of qualityseed stock remaining that we would be glad to send you as a replacement if what you received is unsatisfactory. We just finished planting our stock seed garlic last week, and weather conditions in Missouri should still be fine for planting garlic.Please let Lou or I know how you would like to proceed. Your satisfaction is important to us. Thank you.Sincerely,Kelly
Thank you for the prompt, thorough, and informative reply. I would strongly suggest that you include a version of that information in your catalogue, and even potentially with the shipped garlic. We would not have been as disturbed if we had had that information beforehand. We do have “Growing Great Garlic” and consult it often, but had not made the connection between these varieties and “artichoke” varieties, so we appreciate you pointing that out.
I would also agree that a good policy would be to treat customers as you treat your own stock, and only sell the true softnecks. Or maybe offer the option to get a mixed bag for a different price, since some growers won’t care. Those who do care should be able to get the more pure selection, but you don’t need to sacrifice all sales for those of us who are picky.
As regards a refund, we appreciate the offer, but are not sure we should take it at this time. We did, after all, plant the garlic and expect to harvest and sell it next year. If we get a good crop, there’s no reason to take your money. However, if we do harvest it and find that many are not
true-to-type or otherwise unsellable, we would at that point like at least a partial refund. Would it be possible to record this for next year if that happens?
We also appreciate the offer of extra stock, but we have planted all the beds planned for garlic at this point, and would not have a place within our rotation for any further garlic.
Thanks again for the good response,
Chert Hollow Farm