Though garlic isn’t categorized as a bulb, it is one – a close relative of onions. Because of its strong flavor, it’s used to cook delicacies in different cultures. It’s also famous for its medicinal benefits, including improving memory, skin, lowering blood pressure and cholesterol.
You can buy garlic from your local grocery store or grow it yourself in your kitchen garden. Garlic doesn’t require much space to develop, so even those living in apartments with tiny balcony gardens can grow garlic. Whether you buy fresh garlic or grow it, you can make it last longer by storing it properly.
In this piece, we consider everything you need to know about storing fresh garlic.
Storing Fresh Garlic
When looking to store garlic, always start with fresh, unpeeled garlic. We cannot stress this enough. The fresher the garlic, the longer it lasts. If you grow your garlic, getting fresh garlic shouldn’t be a problem. But if you are buying from a local grocery store, you should know how to tell if the bulbs are fresh or not. Below are some quick tips:
- Fresh garlic is firm and has papery dry skin without sprouting. However, if you notice the bulb is soft, it means that it’s overripe and won’t last long.
- Stay away from shriveled or sprouted garlic bulbs or the frozen garlic heads that stores keep in the refrigerator section.
Dry Homegrown Garlic
Growing garlic is simple and less demanding. Provided you understand its growth cycle, get the soil nutrients and sunlight right, you’ll be self-sufficient. But after harvesting, you need to dry your garlic before storage. Drying the bulbs allows their signature flavor to develop further and get even more concentrated. Here is a simple process of how to do this:
- Clean the dirt off your recently harvested garlic and put it in a dark, moisture-free space for seven days.
Then, · Hang the stalks to dry. If you have minimal space, you can cure them vertically. And for soft neck garlic, you can braid the stalks together before hanging.
Dried garlic stores exceptionally well at room temperature and can last for many months.
Store Your Garlic At Room Temperature
Don’t be one of those who store garlic in the refrigerator. Garlic doesn’t thrive in cold temperatures but relaxed environments of about 60 degrees Fahrenheit.
Refrigeration is terrible for the garlic because it negates your drying efforts by adding moisture to garlic and supporting mold growth.
The exception to this rule is when you are working with freshly chopped or minced garlic. Both chopped garlic and minced garlic can be refrigerated in airtight containers but only for short periods – you’ll need to consume your garlic soon if you use this method.
What about freezing? Well, that isn’t a great idea either. While it might preserve garlic for longer, frozen garlic tends to lose its flavor and consistency.
Store Garlic In A Well-Ventilated Space
Storing garlic bulbs in a properly ventilated space with ample air circulation allows them to breathe and consequently prolong their storage. Note, however, that keeping your garlic fresh in winter can be more difficult, especially since heated winter homes tend to be too dry. This causes the garlic cloves to dehydrate and rivel after a while. To avoid this, store fresh garlic in a dark cabinet.
In addition to keeping the storage room well ventilated, you should keep/hold the garlic bulbs in a wire basket or use bowls with little ventilation. If you have none of these, plastic bags work great too.
It would help if you didn’t store your fresh garlic in an airtight container or plastic bag because it can lead to sprouting or molding, which reduces shelf life.
Garlic Thrives In Dry And Dark Spots
A corner in your kitchen counter would work great, as would your cupboard. However, for garlic to sprout, garlic needs moisture and sunlight. As such, it’d be best if the corner you choose is moisture-free and away from sunlight.
Use Garlic After You Break The Bulb
Garlic storage life is significantly reduced when you break the bulb. It’s like you’ve started a timer on the remaining cloves. Usually, an unbroken garlic bulb can last about eight weeks with proper storage. However, once the papery skin is broken, the bulb lasts between three and ten days. So if the garlic starts feeling soft or it starts sprouting, you know it’s time to throw the peeled garlic cloves in a bin.
New-Season Garlic Is Stored Differently
So far, we’ve dealt with how you store regular garlic. However, if you grow garlic and would like to save some for the next planting season, you should refrigerate the bulbs immediately after harvesting.
Young wet garlic has a mild garlic flavor and is harvested early. This garlic doesn’t need drying and can be refrigerated for a week. Because of its mild flavor, you can use young wet garlic instead of leeks and onions when cooking.
Other Methods Of Storage
Even though garlic tends to alter the flavor and texture of garlic, it’s an excellent way to store garlic. It’s perfect for those who don’t use garlic often or those who have leftover cloves that they don’t want to go bad. There are two methods you can choose to freeze garlic:
- First, you can choose to freeze whole cloves of unpeeled garlic. Wrap them in aluminum foil or plastic wrap, or better yet, put them in a freezer bag before you throw them into the freezer. If you need to use garlic, you can pick individual cloves according to need.
- Second, you can choose to store peeled cloves. Peel off the papery skin, chop or crush them finely into garlic paste, and store in a plastic freezer wrap or a freezer bag. If the frozen cloves stick together, you can grate off as much as you need and return the rest to the freezer.
Store Peeled Garlic Cloves In Oil
There has been a heated debate about storing cloves in oil, claiming that it causes food poisoning. The logic behind this is that keeping garlic-infused oil at room temperature fosters the growth of clostridium botulinum, a bacteria that causes severe food poisoning.
However, if you store garlic oil in a freezer, the risk of botulism is reduced. To store your garlic in oil safely, you can:
Peel individual garlic cloves and submerge them in olive oil, flavored oil, or any oil of your choice in a plastic container or glass. Then seal the container or jar tightly and put it in the freezer. When preparing meals, you can scoop garlic as you need.
Also, you can opt to make a puree of olive oil and garlic by mixing them in the ratio of 2:1 in a food processor or blender to create some garlic paste. You can then transfer the olive oil – garlic puree into a freezer-safe airtight container and put it into a freezer. When stored in the refrigerator, this paste can last up to three weeks. This method is convenient for most home cooks as the oil keeps the puree from freezing and can therefore be scooped and readily placed on a pan.
Store Peeled Garlic In Wine Or Vinegar
You can pickle peeled cloves in vinegar or wine and store them in your refrigerator for up to 4 months. Pickling garlic involves filling a glass jar with peeled cloves and then fill it with vinegar. You can then put your cloves in a refrigerator.
To add flavor to the pickled garlic, add salt and dried herbs, like oregano, red pepper flakes, bay leaves, or rosemary to taste. Mix the ingredients well and then store them for later usage.
Although pickled garlic lasts for four months when put in an airtight container and refrigerated, you should throw away the cloves when you notice signs of mold on the wine/vinegar surface. Do not store garlic at room temperature as mold will develop very fast.
Another efficient way of storing garlic is by drying it. Dried garlic condenses and takes up little space. But when you use it for cooking. The dried garlic will absorb the water you add and add its unique flavor to the food. There are two ways you could dry garlic- using a food dehydrator or an oven.
When using a dehydrator, peel the cloves and cut them lengthwise. It would help if you only did this to plump garlic cloves. Please put them in a tray inside your dehydrator and then follow dehydrator instructions for heat settings. You’ll know the garlic is ready when it’s brittle and crisp.
Alternatively, you can achieve similar results with an oven. Place halved cloves on a baking tray and bake them at 140 degrees Fahrenheit for about two hours and then reduce the heat to 130 degrees Fahrenheit and continue baking until the garlic is dehydrated.
Use dried garlic to make long-lasting garlic salt, adding subtle flavor to your foods—first, blasting the dried garlic in a blender or food processor until it turns into fine powder to make garlic salt. Next, add sea salt to the garlic in the ratio of 4:1 and then process for 60 -120 seconds to combine. Do not pass the 120 seconds mark, as the mixture will clump together. Also, store your garlic salt in an airtight glass jar and keep it in the dark and cool corner in your kitchen.
People Also Ask
How Long Does Garlic Last?
A whole head of garlic will last for six months when you follow proper storage procedures. However, peeled garlic has a shorter shelf life of about a week, depending on your storage method and prevailing conditions.
Note: The shelf life of a head of garlic continues to reduce the more you prepare it.
How To Know Your Garlic Is Going Bad?
Sight – fresh garlic cloves have a firm white/tan color. When garlic goes bad, the color turns brown. It might start to turn translucent and deepen to a light yellow or brown color in some instances. Other times, the garlic bulb will begin to sprout. However, sprouting isn’t always a bad thing, but it’ll have a bitter taste. If the bulb starts sprouting, remove the green roots before you use them.
Feel – peeled garlic cloves should feel firm and crack when you exert some pressure. As the bulb starts going bad, you’ll notice them getting spongy and slimy. As for whole bulbs, they’ll begin to dehydrate. While you can use dried garlic, it’ll pack a lesser punch compared to fresh garlic.
Taste/smell – fresh garlic has a strong odor, especially after peeling the cloves. As it ages and goes bad, the smell becomes even stronger with a sharp hint of ammonia. This smell carries into the flavor, which makes food a pain to eat.
Can I Eat Garlic If It Starts Going Bad?
Well, yes, you can, but not always.
Generally, when the garlic starts going bad, it’s better if you discard it. Using bad garlic will add an intense aroma to your foods and even make them taste bitter. So while you can still eat garlic that has just started to go bad, the experience isn’t worth your while. If you come across garlic cloves with moldy spots, you best discard them.
Another reason not to eat bad garlic is that sometimes it harbors clostridium botulinum bacteria, which causes botulism, a fatal foodborne illness. Botulism is prevalent in low acid foods with warm temperatures and little oxygen. While this isn’t something you’ll worry about when it comes to whole or peeled garlic cloves, beware when you store garlic in oil.
Can You Store Garlic In Plastic Paper Bags?
No, you shouldn’t. To extend your garlic storage life, you need to allow it room to breathe. Using a plastic bag or container for this beats this purpose as it increases the chances of the bulb sprouting or mold growth. Instead, consider storing garlic in mesh bags or a wire basket in a dark place that is well ventilated. Stored properly, garlic can last for months.
How Do You Prepare Garlic For Storage?
The process is relatively easy. If you grow your garlic and have recently harvested it, find a good location for curing. The curing process involves a couple of steps:
- Bunch your garlic and hang them in a well-ventilated space.
- Allow the garlic bulbs to dry for a couple of weeks. Larger bulbs tend to take longer to cure. But when it’s dry, the wrapper will shrink and feel papery.
- Once the bulbs are dry, trim the roots.
- Remove dirt with a soft brush.
- If you plan to braid garlic, leave the stalks intact. However, if you want to store them loose, trim the stalks an inch or two closer to the bulb.
Can I Freeze Fresh Garlic?
Yes, you can freeze garlic. You can opt to freeze whole bulbs or individual cloves. But while freezing garlic extends its shelf life, refrigerated garlic tends to lose its taste and texture.
How Long Do You Hang Garlic To Dry?
Curing garlic heads takes about 10 to 14 days. You can opt to cut the stems after or before curing. You’ll know the curing is complete when the outer skin of your garlic heads is crispy and dry.
How Do You Store Garlic For A Year?
The best way to store garlic for up to a year is by drying it and putting it in an airtight container at room temperature. After that, you can opt to make flavored oil or salt with dehydrated garlic.
Can Garlic Be Left In The Ground?
When it’s mature, garlic has to be harvested. If you leave it in the ground for a long time, the bulb will split open and be susceptible to dehydration and mold.
Is Garlic Bad When It Starts Sprouting?
No, you can still trim off the green shoots and use your garlic bulbs. However, the bulb no longer has a mild herb flavor. Instead, it has a sharp and bitter flavor.
If you have grown garlic in your home garden and want to store garlic for home use until the next harvest, you can. However, even with the above tips, there is a limit on how long you can store garlic. With that said, don’t try to store more garlic than your family can use.