- How to Plant and Store Garlic
- How Long Does Garlic Last? 3 Signs of Bad Garlic and Tips on Proper Storage
- How Long Does Garlic Last?
- Signs of Bad Garlic
- Side Effects of Bad Garlic
- How to Properly Store Garlic
- Food Storage – How long can you keep…
How Long Does Garlic Last?
- Can garlic go bad?
- How to know whether garlic is bad
- Some of the common side effects of using spoilt garlic
- How long does garlic last?
- How long does processed garlic take
- Storage of garlic
- Temporary storage in a fridge
- How do you store peeled garlic?
- In conclusion
- Guess My Garlic
- Garlic Harvest, Curing, and Storage
- How to Harvest Garlic for Winter Storing
- How to Harvest Garlic
- How to Cure Garlic for Storage
- How to Store Garlic
- Gourmet Garlic Curing
How to Plant and Store Garlic
It’s easy to grow your own garlic. It’s hardy, tolerates cold weather well, and does not need pampering. Whether in a garden or a patio pot, garlic grows well under most conditions and requires little maintenance.
Many gardeners, especially those in northern climates, plant their garlic in October. Others prefer to do it on the shortest day of the year — the winter solstice in December. Planting in the fall lengthens the growing time so bulbs get a jump start on spring and can grow larger. Some gardeners in more southern climates prefer to plant garlic four to six weeks before the date of the last frost.
Garlic is robust enough to survive the frigid months, but if the winter seems too cold or the snow doesn’t form a thick enough blanket over the plants, you can cover the bulbs and emerging shoots with straw or other mulching material for insulation.
You can try planting the garlic you buy from your local grocery store, but some grocery store garlic is treated with a sprout inhibitor that disrupts the natural growing cycle. If you don’t know whether your store-bought garlic is treated this way, visit a plant nursery or garden center to purchase naturally grown garlic that is suitable for gardening. If you prefer to try your hand with specialty garlics, visit a garden center or check a seed catalog.
How to Plant
To plant garlic, gently remove the outer skin from the entire bulb and separate the individual cloves, taking care not to damage them. (Leave in place the thin papery skin that covers each clove.) Choose about eight to ten of the largest cloves from the outside of the bulb for planting.
Place the cloves in the ground, tip up, in a place that gets about six hours of direct sunlight per day. Garlic needs to grow quickly to form large bulbs, and full sun fosters fast growth. You’ll also want to be sure the area in which you plant will not become waterlogged in winter.
Work the soil about ten inches deep, adding organic matter and perhaps even sand to improve drainage. Bury the cloves in this loose, fertile soil so the tips are about two inches beneath the surface of the soil and the cloves are four to six inches apart.
Apply a weak organic fertilizer every two weeks or so. Water the plants regularly so the soil is moist but not overly soggy, and pluck out weeds that would otherwise compete for nutrients and possibly overgrow the garlic.
Garlic prefers hotter and drier conditions as it matures. If you water the garlic less frequently near the end of the growing season, it will dry out a bit and its flavor will be better. Of course, the amount of water your garlic needs depends on your area’s climate, so keep a close eye on your soil.
It’s time to harvest your garlic when the green tops dry out and turn yellow-brown. This is typically about three to four months into the growing season — late summer or early fall. Some gardeners prefer to harvest their garlic on the longest day of the year — the summer solstice in June.
Harvest too early, and you get small bulbs. Harvest too late, and the bulbs may split. This indicates that they have already started their next growing season and diminishes their culinary quality.
Before you harvest all your plants, carefully dig up one bulb and examine it. Check its size, and count the layers of papery skin. If the bulb seems well formed, the cloves are plump, and there are about three layers of papery covering, harvest your crop.
If there are four or more layers, let the plants grow a bit longer. When you’re ready to harvest, use a small garden trowel to loosen the soil around each bulb. Then dig up the entire plant and shake off loose soil.
Some gardeners save part of their crop for planting again. Others believe that doing so heightens the risk of disease and results in smaller bulbs the next year. Because you can easily buy garlic to plant at a garden center, there may not be a need to save any cloves, unless you cultivate unusual varieties.
After the harvest, your garlic can last for months — just don’t pack it in plastic. Get more tips on the next page.
- To learn about how to use garlic medicinally, read the article The Health Benefits of Garlic.
- For more information about how to plant herbs, try How to Grow an Herb Garden.
- If you wanted to know how to cook with garlic, our How to Cook Italian Food article has some great advice.
How Long Does Garlic Last? 3 Signs of Bad Garlic and Tips on Proper Storage
How long does garlic last? Does garlic go bad? Find out the signs of spoiled garlic and tips on how to properly store garlic.
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Garlic is one of the most popular must-haves in every household– unless you’re in the royal household of the UK. Queen Elizabeth II can’t stand garlic in anything. Used in many recipes – meals, bread, dressings, and also known for its ability to reduce cholesterol and combat heart disease, garlic is proven worthy of a place in your kitchen. So, how long does garlic last?
The shelf life of garlic depends on how and where you store it. Properly stored fresh and whole garlic can last up to five months in the pantry and 12 months in the freezer.
Garlic is a member of the amaryllis family with other cooking regulars onions, leeks, shallots, and chives. Aside from cooking, garlic also has many amazing benefits. You can now buy garlic as the usual fresh and raw whole bulb, refrigerated garlic cloves, roasted garlic and jarred minced garlic.
Storing garlic is very common, so you should know the signs and effects of spoiled garlic and how you can maximize the shelf life of garlic.
How Long Does Garlic Last?
How Long Does Fresh Whole Bulb of Garlic Last?
Like many vegetables you buy, fresh and raw garlic does not have any best-by date or expiration date. The shelf life of garlic can go as long as a year or as short as a few days depending on how you store it.
A properly stored whole bulb of garlic can last up to three to five months in the pantry. Once the bulb is broken, you can expect the quality of your garlic to decrease rather quickly. Individual unpeeled garlic cloves can last for seven to ten days in the pantry.
How Long Does Processed Garlic Last?
Peeled and chopped garlic usually stay good for about a week in the refrigerator and 10 to 12 months in the freezer, same with frozen cooked garlic. Processed garlic available on the market, like frozen garlic cloves, dried garlic, powdered garlic, minced and those in jars usually have an expiration date on their label. Most of the time these best-by dates are accurate and should be followed. Typically, a prepared jar of chopped or minced garlic can last up to three months in the fridge.
However, commercial jarred garlic usually have preservatives such as citric acid to give it a longer shelf life. That’s why we encourage you to try making your own minced garlic at home and soak it in extra virgin olive oil, which can last for 2-3 weeks in your fridge.
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Signs of Bad Garlic
Know if your garlic has gone bad with three easy steps – look, smell and feel.
Spoiled garlic forms brown spots on the cloves and turns from the usual white to a more yellow or brown color. Another thing is the green roots forming in the center of the clove. These are new sprouts forming. Though not harmful these roots taste extremely bitter and should be removed before cooking.
Garlic has its own universally known scent– spicy, pungent and mellow. If your garlic starts to lose its distinct smell or have a sour scent, chances are it has already gone bad. It is best to get rid of that garlic bulb to avoid contaminating your other bulbs.
Good garlic should feel firm to the touch. Garlic becomes soft over time. If your garlic already feels mushy then better disregard that one already.
Side Effects of Bad Garlic
Consuming bad garlic can cause botulism. Foodborne botulism is extremely rare but can be serious and potentially fatal.
Clostridium botulinum, the bacteria that causes botulism, forms normally inactive spores that can be found in low-acid vegetables like garlic. In certain conditions, these spores may become active. Low acidity plus lack of oxygen, moisture, and temperature can cause the development of botulism. Garlic has low acidity and if not stored properly can develop active toxic spores.
Botulism affects the nerves connected to the eyes, mouth, face, and throat. Symptoms of botulism caused by garlic include nausea, vomiting, dizziness, double vision and difficulty in swallowing and breathing. If you consume spoiled garlic and experience these symptoms, see your doctor immediately.
How to Properly Store Garlic
Follow the following tips to maximize the quality and shelf life of your garlic bulbs.
- Store in a dry and dark place. Light and moisture can cause the growth of mold in garlic.
Store your garlic in room temperature. At high temperature, the quality and shelf life of your garlic will decline fast. Refrigerating your garlic gives it a longer shelf life but doing so can cause sprouts to develop quickly.
- Use containers that allow good air circulation. Store your garlic in a wire-mesh basket, a paper bag, or a garlic keeper with holes.
- Freezing can alter the texture and flavor of garlic but can give it a much longer shelf life. If freezing, make sure you wrap the whole bulb unpeeled garlic in a plastic wrapper or aluminum foil.
The following tips would maximize the shelf life of your peeled garlic:
- Spread your peeled garlic cloves on a baking sheet and freeze them for 20 minutes. After that, transfer the garlic cloves to an airtight container or freezer bag and keep frozen.
- Store minced and chopped garlic in an airtight container or jar and cover with olive oil. Keep in refrigerator.
- You can also keep chopped and minced garlic frozen if you don’t want to use oil. Keep chopped and minced garlic in an airtight container or wrap up tightly with freezer plastic wrap.
There’s no doubt garlic is one of the most popular vegetables and spice among households. Garlic is acknowledged for its many proven health benefits. It also has a long shelf life making it more ideal for stocking up. Looking for more recipe ideas? Try these street-smart recipes with your garlic.
Garlic Pull-Apart Bread
Zesty Garlic Almond Green Beans
Roasted Brussels Sprouts With Crispy Garlic And Almond
Garlic Herb Hasselback Potatoes
Spicy Garlic Pepper Baked Shrimp
Garlic Turkey Enchiladas
Garlic Dressing Spinach
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Food Storage – How long can you keep…
- How long does garlic last? The precise answer to that question depends to a large extent on storage conditions – after purchasing, keep fresh whole garlic in a cool, dry, area.
- How long does fresh garlic last at room temperature? Properly stored, whole raw garlic will last for about 3 to 5 months at normal room temperature.
- To maximize the shelf life of garlic, store it in a moderately warm (55°- 60°F) area; at higher room temperatures, the shelf life of garlic will be shorter.
- To further maximize the shelf life of garlic, store it a container that allows for air circulation, such as a wire-mesh basket, a paper bag, or a garlic keeper with holes.
- Should you refrigerate raw garlic? Whole, raw garlic should ideally not be refrigerated; doing so can cause it to sprout quickly.
- Once the whole garlic bulb is broken, individual cloves will last unpeeled for about 7-10 days at room temperature.
- How long does raw garlic last after it’s been peeled and chopped? Chopped garlic will usually stay good for about 5 to 7 days in the refrigerator and 10 to 12 months in the freezer.
- Can you freeze raw garlic? Yes, to freeze garlic: (1) Wrap whole, unpeeled bulbs in plastic freezer wrap or aluminum foil, or place in airtight container or freezer bag and remove individual cloves from freezer as needed; or (2) Peel then chop or crush garlic and wrap tightly in plastic freezer wrap or aluminum foil, or place in airtight container or freezer bag.
- How long does garlic last in the freezer? Frozen cooked garlic will stay at best quality for 10 to 12 months.
- The freezer time shown is for best quality only – foods kept constantly frozen at 0°F will keep safe indefinitely.
- How can you tell if garlic has gone bad? Garlic that is going bad will typically become soft and change color from white to yellowish; green roots in the middle of the garlic clove are also an indication that the garlic is deteriorating in quality- these green roots are not harmful, but taste bitter and should be removed before cooking.
Sources: For details about data sources used for food storage information, please
How Long Does Garlic Last?
Garlic for many households in the world is a common kitchen herb used to enhance your food taste. Whether you want to make that garlic bread, beef rice or the tender and glossy garlic shrimp garlic, it enhances your flavor. This is mostly because the nutritious and health benefits value that has been scientifically proven to be acquired when one uses garlic. Below are the common benefits of using garlic:
- it adds flavor to your food
- garlic prevents and treats cold
- it can help you grow beautiful hair
- garlic has vast medicinal advantages which include the ability to detoxify your blood, help reduce the chances of getting Alzheimer disease and reducing your blood pressure among others.
I can discuss the endless benefits of garlic but, if you are using bad garlic then the negative effects are abounding.
Check my article about How to Make Ginger Garlic Water.
Can garlic go bad?
Garlic is a wonderful herb that is used in various cuisines in the world today. Although, I have known garlic to have a longer shelf life than most other items in your kitchen it can also get spoilt. All these depend on the manner of storage used and if you employ the methods that may help extend the shelf life.
How to know whether garlic is bad
You can know if your garlic has gotten bad already by:
You will need to be very observant to be able to tell. Bad garlic has brown spots on the cloves and the color changes from the usual white to yellow or brown.
In addition, green roots are formed from the middle of the clove as sprouts. Note that the sprouts are not usually harmful although they are known to make the garlic bitter which means, before using it you should remove the root forming or better yet discard this clove.
Who doesn’t know the spicy, pungent and mellow smell of garlic? When you can’t smell the garlic anymore or it has a sour scent you need to know that chances are that it is already spoilt.
Good garlic should have a firm feel when you touch it. Over time garlic becomes soft but it should not be mushy.
Some of the common side effects of using spoilt garlic
Garlic like any other foodstuff when spoilt and subjected to our bodies can cause a rare food poisoning disease called: Clostridium botulism which is where bacteria form spores on the low acid vegetable.
Some of the symptoms expected are dizziness, double vision or blurred vision, speaking and swallowing difficulty. Some instances indicate paralysis occurrence that makes it hard to breathe. To be on the safe side it is necessary to visit a doctor as soon as you experience this symptom after consuming spoilt garlic.
How long does garlic last?
It’s very tricky to tell how long garlic can last because it’s one herb/vegetable that is assumed to last longer than any other vegetable. In order to understand the duration of time that the garlic may take will depend on whether the garlic is ground of whole.
For the whole bulb of garlic
Most fresh vegetables don’t have a sell by date. This means that you have to use your experience to know the lifespan. The whole bulb can go for as long as one year or few days with the determining factor being your mode of storage.
If you store the garlic properly then it may take any time from 3 to 5 months before getting spoilt. However, once you break the garlic, expect it to decrease in quality pretty quickly. If you have individual unpeeled garlic you should know that it will take around 2 weeks before getting spoilt.
How long does processed garlic take
When you have your garlic peeled and chopped you can expect to have them stay for no more than 10 days in the refrigerator while it can take close to 12 months in a freezer. My only concern with storing the garlic in a fridge is that it mostly decreases in quality.
In addition, the processed garlic sold in the market like powdered garlic, frozen garlic and dried garlic have their expiry date written on the packets or jar. Nevertheless, the processed garlic have preservatives like citric which make the garlic lose its authenticity.
My advice to you is press your own garlic at home and preserve in olive oil for like 2-3 weeks in a fridge.
Storage of garlic
If you will concentrate on storage of the garlic the shelf life will be increased. Follow the steps below for storage.
The head should be left intact
Garlic’s freshness is determined by the presence of the bulb. The moment you break the garlic then the duration span of freshness is reduced. Since the broken garlic can only be fresh for not more than 10 days it is important to use them first before breaking a new one.
Keep it dry and dark
Note that garlic’s worst enemy is light and moisture as it aids the growth of moulds. Always store the garlic at room temperature, dry and dark place while making sure there are proper ventilation and air circulation. Make use of baskets, pantry and open paper bags.
For longer preservation purposes if you have a large supply of garlic from your farm or the market the best trick is to keep the garlic clean and dry and at room temperature, they will remain fresh up to about 12 months.
Below are the steps to follow for this kind of preservation.
- After harvesting or buying the garlic, lay them in a shady place for a number of days.
- Be patient to allow the garlic to evenly dry up.
- Take them of the place and lay them on a screen as you shake off the dirt.
- Handle them with care so that they are not bruised because this will cause them to spoil from bacteria infestation.
- Remove the roots leaving about an inch of the roots as well as the tips.
Store them in a cool dry place with normal humidity and preferably 50 degrees F.
Another method of drying is where you don’t break the tops rather you braid them and then hang in a well-ventilated place.
Roast the garlic in the oven
Below is another perfect method to store it for long
- Peel the garlic and slice them thinly
- Arrange them well in a baking tray
- Bake them in the oven at 140 degrees
- Reduce the temperature to 130 degrees
- Leave them in the oven to dry.
These slices may be used for seasoning your food or can be ground to form garlic powder and used to flavor your food. This can last for 3 to 4 years if you store in an air tight container and dark place.
You can pickle the garlic
Garlic cloves can be pickled in apple cider vinegar this can increase the lifespan to 4 months in the refrigerator. You need to follow the few steps below
- Peel the garlic cloves
- Add them to a container of apple cider vinegar
- Seal the container then place in refrigerator
- You can add any flavor like salt if you need to
Freeze the garlic
This is another sure way to lengthen the garlic shelf life. It is said to lose its crunch but other than that the taste and flavor remain the same. Always ensure your freezer is at 0 degrees as this will determine its safety. Below are the steps to follow in freezing the garlic
- Wrap your garlic in an air tight bag/plastic wrap/foil
- In a resealable freezer bag, place your bag.
- Freeze it.
This will be used within 6 months. When you need the cloves remove the garlic cloves and return the rest to the freeze.
You can also freeze it with olive oil by following the steps below
- Mince, crash or blend the garlic to form a puree
- I part of garlic should be added to 2 parts of olive oil
- Mix the ingredients well
- Keep the mixture in a freezer
The good news is that the oil never freezes so when you need it for your recipes that are flavored with garlic, you just scoop the amount desired.
Temporary storage in a fridge
There are times you find that you have crushed more garlic than needed, at this time you can store it in a fridge for 1 – 2 days. As for the cloves keep them in your fridges crisper drawer, however, note that when you store the garlic at this place it will start sprouting within days so you may want o use it as soon as possible.
How do you store peeled garlic?
If you have a lot of garlic already peeled for a particular recipe you can store in the fridge. However, ensure to store in an airtight container to prevent the smell from filling your fridge. Use it in a few days to avoid sprouting and spoiling.
You can also store minced garlic in a freezer if you don’t want to add oil for preservation.
If you love garlic like I do, you will find that you have been using the garlic even after it gets spoilt and the good news is now you know how long it lasts in freshness. The benefits of using fresh garlic abound but always use it moderation because when used in excess it can develop some bad side effects.
Plant: October to February
Harvest: June to August
Staggeringly simple to grow: simply push a clove into the earth and a few months later, you’ll have enough garlic to keep the entire cast of Buffy at bay …
Recommended varieties: “Thermidrome is best planted in October, makes a large bulb by early July and stores until winter,” says Charles Dowding. “And shop-bought garlic has always grown well for me.”
Sowing and planting: First, check your cloves – anything smaller than 1cm in diameter should be discarded. You may also find that supermarket-bought cloves won’t grow, as some are treated with a sprout inhibitor. Plant between late autumn and early spring. For the best yields, it should be in the ground by Christmas. Plant cloves 10cm-18cm apart – the bigger the gap, the better the yield. If your soil is light, plant 10cm deep. If your soil is heavy and poorly drained, lay a bed of coarse sand or potting soil and plant 2.5cm deep.
Cultivation : Garlic requires little attention. If you experience dry spells through spring and early summer, water thoroughly to improve yield. Garlic is shallow-rooting; regular weeding will remove competition.
Pests and diseases: Birds may uproot cloves found peaking out of the ground. If they do, just push them back in the earth. If you do find mould or rust on the bulb, throw those affected away. If the foliage wilts or turns yellow, look for fluffy white onion rot on the bulbs. Once onion rot has struck, rotate your crop.
Harvesting: Lift when the leaves start to turn yellow and bend at the stem. If it’s sunny and breezy, dry outside for 7-10 days. If damp, dry inside a drafty greenhouse.
Storage: Store in hanging bunches or plaits so that air can circulate the bulbs.
Extending the season: Garlic won’t grow out of season, but bulbs accidentally left in the ground will often resprout leaves that can be used as chives.
Growing without a veg plot: Can be grown in containers 15cm deep. Intersperse with cut-and-come-again crops and eat shoots as chives for maximum productivity.
Guess My Garlic
COMMENTATOR:And now it’s time for Australia’s beloved flavoured quiz show, where contestants compete for fabulous prizes and mountains of cash if they can ‘Guess My Garlic.’ And now here’s the voice of ‘Guess My Garlic’ – here’s Janey!
JANE EDMANSON: Welcome to this week’s program, ‘Guess My Garlic,’ and now it’s time to meet our contestant.
COMMENTATOR:Penny Woodward is a renowned alliophile. She’s written many books on gardening including one exclusively on garlic and she’s also on the board of the Australian Garlic Industry Association.
JANE EDMANSON: Now Penny, you know how this program works. You’ve got 30 seconds in which to name as many cultivars of garlic as you can. Your time starts now.
JANE EDMANSON: That was amazing. You are the garlic queen.
PENNY WOODWARD: Thank you Jane.
JANE EDMANSON: Penny, people really do like to grow their own garlic, but sometimes it can be a little bit disappointing. This one that I grew last season was really….well I was looking forward to it, but look – it’s a little bit small.
PENNY WOODWARD: Oh Jane. That’s a lovely garlic. That’s a ‘Turban’ – um and you shouldn’t be disheartened by small garlic. It often…it can be caused by bad drainage, it can be the time of year that you planted – maybe not enough fertiliser or it might be the wrong cultivar for your climate, so there’s lots of reasons and it’s worth persevering and even though it’s small, it’s still delicious.
JANE EDMANSON: Oh I’ve used it. It’s gorgeous. Quite intense.
Now, there’s a lot of interest in growing garlic now – lots of different cultivars around.
PENNY WOODWARD: Yeah look, in Australia we’ve probably got over 100 different cultivars of garlic that work in different climates and different places. Worldwide, there’s probably over 1000 different cultivars of garlic.
JANE EDMANSON: What is the secret to growing good garlic?
PENNY WOODWARD: Well look, one of the secrets, and it’s probably the one that not everyone knows about, is that you need to get the right cultivar for your climate.
JANE EDMANSON: So take us through some of the cultivars and what areas are they suited to.
PENNY WOODWARD: Ok, well one of the things I need to tell you is that the cultivars are all divided into groups and we’ve got 6 of those groups well represented in Australia. Those are the Artichokes, the Silverskins, the Creoles, the Turbans, the Standard Purple Stripes and the rocamboles.
The Artichokes are made up of things like Germidour and Tochliavri and Italian Late. You can plant these from Tasmania to Queensland and another really good one is Italian Red which does particularly well in humid areas, so it’s a good one for Sydney, Southern Queensland – those sort of areas.
The we’ve got the Silverskin groups. They are really hot, but they don’t have a lot of complexity of flavour. They will grow again, over most of Australia, but not so good in humidity.
JANE EDMANSON: I think that sounds like a one for me – that hot.
PENNY WOODWARD: If you love it really hot.
One of my favourite groups are these ones here which are the Creoles and they’re not grown enough. They have a fabulous spicy hot flavour to them. Beautiful garlics. They’re like unwrapping a Christmas present.
And then two that are not well represented, but are just beautiful garlics and you’re going to be seeing more of in the future – this one is Dunganski. It’s a Standard Purple Stripe and they have pointed cloves, lovely beautiful bulbs but these really only do well in colder climates, so you need sort of highland on the mainland or Tasmania.
And this one is a true Rocambole. They have one of the best flavours of all the garlics. Not super, super hot, but a real complexity of flavour.
JANE EDMANSON: These are terrific aren’t they?
PENNY WOODWARD: The umbels and the bulbils…and you can eat the bulbils. You can actually break those off and sprinkle them into a salad or you can grow new plants from them.
JANE EDMANSON: Yes. Amazing.
Penny, is it true that garlic can be planted on the shortest day and then harvested on the longest day?
PENNY WOODWARD: No, that’s actually a myth. In the UK and Europe, that’s fine, but in Australia, we need to…because we have shorter day lengths, we need to plant in March or through to the beginning of June – depending on the cultivar.
JANE EDMANSON: Right – and what are some good tips to get successful garlic?
PENNY WOODWARD: First of all, you start with the bulb and you only split it up when you’re about to plant. Plant garlic cloves with the root end down and the pointy tip up. You plant them about 15 centimetres apart and about 2 centimetres deep. You need a good organic-rich mixture in your soil to plant into, so rotted manure, compost – never use fresh manure – and you need good drainage, full sunlight and plenty of air movement around the plot.
JANE EDMANSON: And what about watering?
PENNY WOODWARD: And you water when you plant and you make sure they don’t dry out, but don’t overdo the watering cause they hate getting too wet.
JANE EDMANSON: Penny will be back later in the show to give us her top 5 favourite garlic cultivars.
Garlic Harvest, Curing, and Storage
Garlic growers in MA begin thinking about harvesting garlic in mid-late July but timing the harvest can be tricky. Here are some tips to help you decide when the time is right. Heads should be left in the ground as long as possible to attain maximum bulb size (which doubles in the last stage of growth), but not so long that the cloves begin to separate, as these bulbs sell and store poorly. Harvest when leaves begin to turn yellow, but when about 60% are still green. Check bulbs by cutting through the head sideways to see how well developed the cloves are. Cloves should fill the wrappers – if they seem a little loose, the garlic has a little ways to grow. A little of the very outer wrapper may have started to discolor at this point. Harvest before the bulbs pop, which can happen relatively quickly, especially in a wet year. Remember that it is better to harvest too early than too late.
Use hand tools to loosen soil under the bulbs or a mechanical harvester to undercut the bed. Pulling bulbs out when they are tight in the ground can open wounds at the stem- bulb junction and allow for fungal infections. Fresh bulbs bruise easily and these wounds can also encourage infection. Don’t knock off dirt by banging bulbs against boots, shovels, or buckets – shake or rub gently, and leave the rest to dry out during curing.
Curing is important for successful bulb storage and finding the ideal conditions for curing can also be a challenge. Curing in the field runs the risk of sunscald, while poorly ventilated barns can result in loss from disease. Avoid high temperatures (over 90 F) and bright sunlight. Rapid curing can be achieved by placing bulbs roots up on 1” wire mesh in a hoophouse covered with a shade cloth, and with the sides and ends open. A well-ventilated barn will also work, but be sure that bulbs are hung with adequate air circulation or on open racks up off the floor. Curing takes 10-14 days. Stems may be cut before or after curing. Curing is complete when the outer skins are dry and crispy, the neck is constricted, and the center of the cut stem is hard.
Storage. After curing, garlic can be kept in good condition for 1 to 2 months at ambient temperatures of 68 to 86 °F under low relative humidity, ie., < 75%. However, under these conditions, bulbs will eventually become soft, spongy and shriveled due to water loss. For long-term storage, garlic is best maintained at temperatures of 30 to 32 °F with low RH (60 to 70%). Good airflow throughout storage containers is necessary to prevent any moisture accumulation. Under these conditions, well-cured garlic can be stored for 6-7 months. Storage at higher temperatures (60 °F) may be adequate for the short term, but it is important to select a place with low relative humidity and good air flow. As with onions, relative humidity needs to be lower than for most vegetables because high humidity causes root and mold growth; on the other hand, if it is too dry the bulbs will dry out.
Seed. Garlic bulbs that are to be used as seed for fall planting of next years’ crop should be stored at 50 °F and at relative humidity of 65-70%. Garlic cloves break dormancy most rapidly between 40 to 50 °F, hence prolonged storage at this temperature range should be avoided. Storage of planting stock at temperatures below 40 °F results in rough bulbs, side-shoot sprouting (witches-brooms) and early maturity, while storage above 65 °F results in delayed sprouting and late maturity.
Garlic cloves used for seed should be of the highest quality, with no disease infections, as these can be spread to new fields and to next years’ crop. Be on the lookout for garlic blight nematode which may have been distributed around New England on infested seed garlic. This nematode, which is also known as a bulb and stem nematode, causes bloated, twisted, swollen leaves, and distorted and cracked bulbs with dark rings. Infestation with this nematode can weaken plants, causing them to be susceptible to secondary infections. The UMass Plant Disease Diagnostic Lab can make a positive identification; call 413-545-3209 to submit a sample.
-R Hazzard. Resources: New England Vegetable Mgt Guide, Oregon State, ATTRA, Wishingstone Farm, Astarte Farm, USDA Handbook 66.
Last Edited 2013.
Knowing when to harvest garlic can be tricky. Here are tips to help you decide when the time is right to harvest garlic, plus learn how to cure and store garlic for winter.
Garlic is planted in the fall to allow the roots to begin growing before winter arrives, and the plants go dormant. Once the soil warms up in the spring, the garlic begins growing again right where it left off.
Since the bulbs are under ground, it is difficult to see when the garlic is ready to harvest. Lifting the bulbs too early will give you undeveloped, small bulbs. Harvesting too late and the cloves could split through their skins. Either situation will affect the garlic’s long-term storage potential.
How to Harvest Garlic for Winter Storing
If you are growing a garlic crop with plans on storing the bulbs for winter meals, you need to allow the garlic to mature fully before harvesting. The garlic bulbs should be allowed to grow as long as possible to reach the maximum size, but not so long that the cloves separate because these bulbs store poorly.
When is garlic ready to harvest?
It is always a delicate balance between allowing the garlic to mature to its fullest and going too far. Harvesting garlic too early will result in undersized bulbs that won’t last long in storage. If you harvest garlic too late, you risk the bulbs splitting through their skins leaving them unprotected and unable to withstand long-term storage. Here are tips to help you harvest garlic at the right time.
Watch the garlic plant’s leaves for signs
The leaves on the garlic plant will begin to yellow and turn brown when the garlic is finished growing. Each leaf on the garlic plant extends down the stem and wraps around the bulb, forming a layer of protective paper wrapped around the cloves. For example, a garlic plant with 8 leaves will have 8 layers of bulb wrappers.
The leaves grow from the bottom of the plant up, so the ones at the bottom are older and begin to brown first as the bulb reaches maturity. This happens because the garlic plants reduce the moisture and nutrients from leaf growth and focus on developing the bulb.
As the leaves on the bottom of the plant begin to brown, the remaining leaves will also start to look a bit ragged with yellow or brown tips. The foliage will die from the bottom upward indicating the end of the plant’s growth cycle. Once the lower three leaves whither and turn brown, the garlic bulbs are ready to harvest. This happens around mid-July in my zone 5, New England garden.
Some like to wait until at least half the plants are brown. This may be too late for some varieties of garlic. The way you know for sure is to dig up a garlic bulb and evaluate the growth.
Dig up a garlic bulb and check the growth
Before you harvest the entire crop, dig up a test plant to see if the bulb is fully developed. Select a thick-stemmed garlic plant with at least three brown leaves for your test.
Carefully dig up the garlic without disturbing the other plants, brush off the loose soil, and examine the bulb. Look to see if the bulb is filled out and the skins are slightly dry and papery. As the green leaves on the stem of the garlic plant turn yellow and brown, they begin to dry out and tighten around the garlic cloves under the soil, forming the protective layers.
If the garlic is ready to harvest, the bulb will be good sized, with well-formed cloves, and tight wrappers.
How to Harvest Garlic
Once the lower three leaves have turned brown, you have about two weeks to harvest your garlic. If you wait too long, the cloves of garlic may break out of the outer wrapper.
Step 1: Let the garlic bed dry out
Once you have determined that your garlic is ready for harvesting, stop watering the garlic bed, and wait for a dry period to dig up the bulbs. This will help reduce moisture on the bulbs that may lead to fungus.
Step 2: Dig carefully to avoid damaging the garlic bulbs
Use a digging fork to loosen the soil beneath the bulbs, then carefully pull the garlic up by their stalks, and shake off the soil.
If you grow hardneck garlic, you will find the stalks are pretty solid. If you grow softneck varieties, you want to dig the bulbs out carefully with your hands because pulling from the stalks may tear them. Try not to bruise the bulbs as you dig. Damaged bulbs won’t last very long in storage.
Step 3: Place the garlic the shade to dry
After harvesting, spread the garlic out in the shade to dry a bit before curing. This allows some of the soil to dry and fall off naturally without damaging the skin. A few hours or overnight should be sufficient.
How to Cure Garlic for Storage
To prepare the garlic for long-term storage, it will need to be cured.
To cure garlic simply means to allow it to dry out properly. As the garlic dries, the skins and paper wrappers surrounding the cloves shrink and tighten around the bulb, essentially sealing it up in its own natural wrapper.
Step 1: Identify a good place to cure garlic
Garlic cures best in an area that is warm, dry, and has good air movement. Avoid very hot places, such as an attic, closed greenhouse, or in direct sunlight.
We run a dehumidifier in the basement in the summer to eliminate excess humidity. I discovered that this is the perfect environment for curing garlic since it is dark and dry.
Alternatively, garlic can be cured in a ventilated shed or barn, as long as there is good airflow and protection from direct sunlight.
Step 2: Ways to cure garlic
The best way to cure garlic is in a single layer with good air circulation on all sides.
Since I cure garlic in our basement while running a dehumidifier, I spread out the garlic on wire shelving and let it cure. A small fan can provide good air movement.
You can also bundle the garlic in bunches and hang it to cure in a shady, dry, cool and well-ventilated location. Curing can take a month or more, depending on the humidity level.
Step 3: Check to see if the garlic is cured
When the garlic is fully cured, the skins will be very papery and the foliage dry and crunchy.
Test one stalk to see if the garlic is finished curing. Cut the stem cleanly an inch or two from the bulb. Inspect the cut area to be sure the garlic has cured completely. There should be no green at the center. If there is green, allow the garlic to cure one week later and check it again.
How to Store Garlic
Once the garlic is cured properly, it is ready to clean up for storing.
Step 1: Clean and trim the garlic
It can be a bit of a messy job, so take the bundles outside for trimming and cleaning.
Use a strong pair of scissors and cut the stems an inch or two from the bulb. Trim the roots and brush the garlic bulbs with your fingers to release any additional soil still clinging to the papery skin. Sometimes, the outer wrapper flakes off. This is ok, but try not to damage the protective wrappers any further than the first layer.
Step 2: Sort the garlic bulbs
As you trim the garlic, examine the bulbs and remove any that are damaged, soft, or show signs of mold. Trim and use these first in cooking because they won’t last long in storage without the protective layer.
Pull out the largest bulbs with the fullest cloves to reserve for fall planting to grow garlic for the following year.
- See How to Plant Garlic in Fall
Step 3: Store the garlic
Ideal storage conditions for garlic are at a temperature of 32-50˚F in a dry area with a relative humidity of 50-60%. Garlic can last up to 6 months in storage.
Store the trimmed bulbs loosely in a basket in a cool, dark, and dry location. Sort through the garlic every now and then and pull out any bulbs that feel soft or have sprouted. Some varieties of garlic last longer in storage than others. Our garlic usually lasts until April before it begins to sprout.
What to do if your garlic sprouts?
If your storage conditions are not ideal, or if you have garlic in storage come spring, there is good chance that it may begin to sprout if the storage area warms.
Here are several ways you can put it to good use before it spoils:
- Plant Sprouted Garlic: Let the garlic cloves grow and enjoy green garlic shoots, or let the cloves mature to small green garlic. You can plant sprouted garlic cloves in the garden, or in pots. See How to Plant Garlic in Spring.
- Make Garlic Powder: Make your own, shelf stable garlic powder by dehydrating and grinding garlic cloves. See Homemade Garlic Powder.
- Roast and Freeze Garlic: Roasted garlic can be substituted in any recipe that calls for garlic. See How to Roast Garlic.
This article was originally published on July 15, 2014. It has been updated with additional information and photos.
You May Also Like:
- How to Plant Spring Garlic
- 10 Garlic Scape Recipes
- 7 Tips for Growing Great Garlic
- How to Plant Garlic in Fall
Gourmet Garlic Curing
Once your garlic has been harvested, it needs to be ‘cured’ to prepare it for storage. Since this process takes weeks to complete, you’ll be glad to know that it began while your bulbs were still in the ground! Curing is essentially a more formal term for drying. If you are consuming your garlic right away, then curing it isn’t really necessary. If you want to store it for any length of time, however, then proper curing is essential to prevent that garlic you worked so hard all year to grow, from becoming moldy, shriveled, or otherwise compromised. The goal of curing is get the outer wrapper and clove skins of the garlic completely dry, while maintaining the lovely, fleshy oiliness of the cloves themselves.
Once harvested, garlic takes approximately three to six weeks to fully cure, depending on conditions including temperature, humidity, air circulation, amount of green material left on the bulbs, and the size and type of bulbs. As you would expect, larger bulbs and those with more green material take longer to cure, so softnecks tend to require a longer curing period than hardnecks. High humidity and poor air circulation will also increase the length of time for curing, and a longer drying time increases the risk of mould and other pathogens and, subsequently, decreased storage capability. Likewise, don’t be tempted to rush the process, since this can result in dry, shriveled bulbs that also store poorly.
Garlic Bulb Curing Methods
There are different ways to cure your bulbs based on the amount of garlic to be cured and the space in which to cure it. Two commonly used methods include hanging the garlic in bunches, or stacking the bulbs in vented boxes. Whichever method you choose, remember that garlic should never be cured in the sun, in order to prevent discoloration and softening.
Curing garlic by hanging it in bunches is a method preferred by small-scale growers, and can be used for both hard and softneck varieties. The garlic is not trimmed, but rather gathered into small bundles of six to twenty-four bulbs, which are tied with twine or string and hung from wall racks or nails. Although the leaves and stalk are not trimmed, the scape usually is, since it retains a high level of moisture. The bundles should be tied securely, and balanced with the bulbs angling downward. Ensure that the bundles are hung someplace dry and cool, with moderate humidity and good air circulation.
If you are growing garlic on a scale too large to permit you to hang bundles, vented boxes or racks can be used to efficiently cure your garlic, although this method can be somewhat risky and requires proper management. Ideally, the bulbs, whether you are using vented boxes or racks, would be dried in a single layer. Rarely is this possible due to space constraints, so alternatively, the bulbs can be layered to a maximum of 3-4 deep per box or rack, with the boxes and racks then stacked upon each other. There should be a minimum of two inches of space between the top layer of bulbs and the lower layer of the box above, to guarantee adequate air circulation.
Keep Cool and Dry
Boxed or racked garlic must also be kept someplace cool and dry, with good air circulation and moderate humidity. Managing these elements is more challenging with this method, as a large number of bulbs will release a significant amount of moisture into the air, drastically increasing the humidity of the storage room and making rot and mould a constant threat. To achieve successful curing, proper air circulation is essential, including a quick way to release large amounts of moisture if necessary. In our shed, for example, we use a combination of vented floors and industrial fans to keep cool air constantly circulating in and around the garlic, and the humidity is carefully monitored by constant measurement. The shed is also equipped with a large sliding door, which we can open if the air moisture level should rise above 50%.
Your garlic is finished curing when the skins feel completely dry and papery. The cloves should still be firm and plump. If, on breaking open a sample bulb, all the outer layers of skins are dry, and the clove skins are thin, tight and dry, then your bulbs are likely ready for storage. Garlic will continue to cure as long as it is stored properly, so that even garlic that is not completely cured at the time of storage should keep for months.