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Cloves vs Bulbs

When you're reading about garlic you'll find references to cloves and bulbs. Knowing which is which is essential both to successful cooking and gardening.

What's the Difference?

So what is the difference between a clove and a bulb of garlic? Simply put, bulbs contain cloves in the same way that an orange contains segments.

The bulb is the single item covered with a papery layer which is usually white but can have traces of purple. When you peel off the papery outside you find the individual cloves attached to a stalk. The cloves themselves usually also have their own protective layer which needs to be removed before cooking.

An individual bulb of garlic usually contains somewhere between ten and twenty cloves, so you can see how important it is not to use a bulb instead of a clove in a recipe!

One exception to this rule is so-called elephant garlic. This still has bulbs and cloves but the cloves are much bigger and you only get a couple of them in a bulb. Sometimes a bulb of elephant garlic only contain a single clove so in this case a clove and a bulb really are the same. But that's very much the exception, not the rule.