Garlic is a satisfying crop to grow with some of the most blooms you’ll ever set your eyes on. Planted in the fall, garlic grows very slowly over winter and is ready to harvest in late spring to early summer the following year.
Straight from the garden, fresh garlic produces a wonderful garlic flavor used to spice up recipes around the globe. Note, however, that although garlic can be eaten any time after harvest, its flavor has not completely developed. So, if you are looking for ways to enjoy your summer garlic harvest for longer, the secret lies in drying and curing your garlic well.
This article will take you through the steps involved in curing garlic the right way and how to keep them fresh in storage long after they’ve been pulled from the ground.
What Is Curing Garlic?
Curing garlic means allowing the garlic plants to dry out completely. It involves putting your freshly dug garlic in an area out of the sun with good air circulation. Leave the garlic bulbs out for about 2-3 weeks for them to cure completely. During this period, all of the moisture in the leaves and roots transfer into the bulb. The garlic’s skins and paper wrappers shrink and tighten around the bulb. This process essentially seals up the garlic bulb in its own natural wrapper.
How Long Does It Take To Cure Garlic?
Curing garlic takes anywhere between 10 to 14 days to cure. It may take longer to cure large bulbs and a shorter period for small bulbs.
Garlic is completely cured when the skin is dry and crispy, the center stem is hard, and the neck is constricted.
Why Do We Cure Garlic Bulbs?
After you harvest garlic, you need to cure it to enhance its shelf life. Drying and curing your garlic properly allows it to stay fresh for months, sometimes even into the following spring. In addition, the bulb gets its energy from the leaves during the curing period, improving the garlic’s flavor. As a result, you may find that cured garlic tastes way better than the garlic powder you purchase in the store. Plus, it is way cheaper too. Curing also helps minimize the risk of molds and other diseases from taking hold of your garlic.
What Are The Benefits Of Curing Garlic?
How To Cure Your Garlic Crop Right
Garlic curing should take place immediately after harvesting. So pick a day to harvest garlic, ideally when the soil is dry. Gently loosen the soil and pull out the bulbs with the stalk attached. Carefully knock off the soil stuck to the bulbs but do not wash it off until they have cured. While at it, be careful not to bruise the bulbs.
The next important step is to cure your garlic. There are many different ways to cure garlic, depending on the variety you have grown. Whichever method you opt for, it is essential you get it right.
Identify A Good Spot
You need to find the right location with the right conditions to place the garlic for curing. The right curing requirements include:
- Temperatures: The ideal temperature needed to cure garlic fully is 75-80 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Airflow: Ensure ample amounts of air circulate all around the garlic for even drying. Consider adding a fan to enhance air circulation.
- Bulb size: the larger the bulb size, the more moisture content it has. Thus, it requires long periods to cure.
- Rain, sun, and humidity: protect your garlic from direct sun, rain, and high humidity throughout the drying process.
The Curing Process
To prepare your heads of garlic for the curing process, you will need:
- Freshly harvested garlic
- A soft brush for removing dirt
Preparing your harvested garlic for curing should take just a few minutes.
Sort Your Garlic
The first step to properly curing garlic is sorting it. This ensures an easier process as it goes through the curing process. This process involves:
- Spread the harvested garlic bulbs on a dry flat area.
- Carefully remove any clumps of dirt on the bulbs and roots. Take care not to bruise the plant.
- Leave the roots and leaves attached to the bulb while they cure. You get better, longer storing bulbs if the leaves and roots stay attached during the curing process.
- One by one, inspect the bulbs for damage, missing cloves, or malformed shapes.
- Place the healthiest garlic plants in a separate group for curing. Use the rest first instead of storing.
How To Cure Garlic
Curing garlic prepares your bulbs for long-term storage. As stated above, do not cut off the leaves or wash the bulbs at all. This step is vital as the stored energy in the roots and leaves will feed the garlic bulbs throughout the curing period. Plus, that burst of energy provides powerful nutrients that give garlic its most pungent flavor. After completely drying, the little bit of dirt that remained should brush off easily after curing.
Methods To Cure Garlic
There are two main methods you can use to cure garlic. Using a screen or hanging. The curing method you choose will depend on the amount of garlic you need to cure.
Hang Garlic To Cure
Hanging garlic in mesh bags provides an efficient way to dry garlic. The steps involved include:
- Collect bunches of garlic together, about 5-10 plants per bunch. The right number of garlic plants in a string will depend on their size and moisture level at harvest. Ideally, you want the circulating air to reach all sides of all bulbs to allow them to dry evenly.
- String these together by tying the leaf sheaths together, carefully separating the leaves from the garlic neck and stem.
- Hang the strings of garlic from the ceiling—racks of drying lines to allow air to circulate all around them.
- Leave the garlic hanging for about three weeks. Larger bulbs may require four weeks to longer to cure.
Screen Drying Method For Curing Garlic
This is a popular method for curing small plots of garlic. It involves spreading out your garlic in a single layer on an open screen. Next, spread out the garlic in bulb crates or mesh bags in an area away from direct sunlight.
The screen should be set up in a dry, warm, and well-ventilated space with a temperature of about 70-75 degrees, keeping the humidity about 60%. Most importantly, ensure the area has good air circulation.
Allow The Bulbs To Dry
Note that the larger bulbs, the longer they will take to cure. For instance, elephant garlic needs at least four weeks to cure fully.
How To Know Your Garlic Is Cured
You know your garlic is fully cured when you cut the garlic neck, and there are no green leaves inside the neck, and the moisture is gone. Curing is complete when all the green parts of the plant attached to the bulb have completely dried or turned brown. Once fully cured, the skin should feel papery and crunchy. This is a sign that your garlic bulbs are completely cured.
Prepare Your Garlic For Storage
Once your garlic is completely cured, trim the roots close to the bulb, leaving just about half an inch of it. If the roots of your dried garlic are crispy, they should come off easily with a couple of rubs. Just make sure not to remove much more than that, or you will affect your garlic’s storage ability. Also, be careful not to cut the skins protecting the individual cloves. The papery skin protects the garlic and keeps it fresh for longer.
Leave the stalks intact if you plan to braid your garlic. Trim the stalk to within an inch or two of the bulb if you plan to store your garlic loose.
Use the soft brush to remove any dirt left on the cured garlic bulbs. If further cleaning is desired, you can remove the outer layer of the wrapper. Remove just the dirtiest outer layers. Place the clean bulbs in a clean mesh bag.
Note: Never use water to clean cured garlic bulbs.
How To Store Garlic After Curing
At this stage, your garlic is now ready to store. Netting your garlic in mesh bags is an effective way to store several bulbs at a time while ensuring good air circulation. Under the proper conditions, well-cured garlic should kee 6-8 months or longer. Of course, variety and other factors affect the actual storage time—store garlic at a cool, stable room temperature.
A temperature of 60-65 degrees Fahrenheit with moderate humidity and some good air circulation works well. Consider adding fans to keep constant airflow for the next 2-3 weeks. Curing garlic this way helps prevent any mold or rot issues. Mold is a common problem with root crops, especially alliums.
Select Garlic Seed
If you plan to make your seeds for fall planting, we recommend choosing your seed heads first. Then, select good-sized, fully mature bulbs with nice plump, healthy garlic cloves to use as your garlic seed the next planting season. Finally, place your garlic seed in a separate container for storage.