How to Cure and Store Garlic for Long-term Storage
When it is garlic harvest time one must learn how to cure and store garlic. Hanging garlic to dry is one of the method for curing and storing this bulb.
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Substantial amounts of garlic should be planted throughout the garden. Not 30 cloves, but a minimum of a hundred of cloves. Trust me, you will not regret it. Plant enough garlic that when the wind blows causing the stalks to sway, you can smell the amazingly delicious aroma.
Growing garlic does not take up much room, as matter of fact, it can be squeezed into any space available in the garden. Not to mention, garlic, like many other herbs and flowers, deter pests and bugs from destroying the vegetation.
Once you’ve started growing garlic you will regret ever purchasing it from the market. For this reason, it is necessary to learn how to grow, harvested, cure, and store these little bulbs.
Garlic Harvest time
Before you can begin to learn how to cure and store garlic you must first learn how to grow and harvest it. Selecting a variety which stores best long-term is necessary. However, knowing when to plant garlic to maximize the bulb’s size is equally as important.
Regardless of your growing zone, garlic can be grown anywhere. A bit of information on how will ensure you have a great harvest each year.
The garlic harvest time will vary based on when it it was planted, weather conditions, and the variety planted. Do not rush to harvest the bulbs, allowing them to reach maturity will provide a much larger bulb.
The garlic harvest time has finally arrived! Of course many of the heads will be cured and used for cooking, however, consider the following preserving methods. The methods listed below are guaranteed to not disappoint.
- Fermented Garlic and Honey
- Pickled Garlic Cloves
- Dehydrated Garlic and Homemade Garlic Powder (an article I wrote for Countryside and Small Stock Journal Magazine)
- Smoked Garlic Bulbs
How to Cure and Store Garlic
Prior to storing freshly harvested garlic it is necessary to prepare the bulbs to be stored long-term. This requires fresh bulbs to be cured, otherwise known as, drying garlic.
It is necessary to harden the skins of root herbs and vegetables such as garlic, onions, shallots, and potatoes. Curing these items allows the moisture to remain within the bulb or tubular, providing a longer shelf-life.
The most important factor in drying garlic to allow for proper air flow. In short, air must be able to circle the bulb to allow for proper drying. For this reason screen drying or hanging garlic to dry are the best techniques.
Because the skin of freshly harvested garlic is delicate, make sure to dry garlic away from direct sunlight. Find a location such as a porch, the garage, or a drying shed which will provide shelter from the sun and rain.
Three additional tips:
- Leave the stems and leaves attached as the garlic is being cured. This allows for the energy of the plant to be focused on drying the bulb.
- Do not wash the garlic bulbs prior to setting them out to dry. Simply bush off the dirt taking care to not damage the skin of the bulb. Damaged skin will hind the ability to protect the cloves for long-term storage, and often causing the bulb to mold.
- Finally, do not trim back the roots of the bulb until it has the opportunity to fully dry. The roots moderate how quickly the bulb will dry.
How long it takes for garlic to dry will depend on the temperature, humidity, and proper airflow. Garlic generally takes 2 weeks to cure at 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Areas high in humidity may require the assistance of a dehumidifier to draw out the moisture from the skins, whereas fans are used to generate airflow.
Once fully cured garlic will take on the following appearance:
- The skin surround the cloves will take on a paper-like texture and appearance.
- The stems, leaves, and roots will become thoroughly dried and crispy.
Hanging Garlic to Dry
Hanging garlic to dry is an old world and traditional method for drying garlic. This method is the most practical for those who grow large amounts of garlic.
Using twine or cooking string, bunch no more than 25 to 40 cloves with the stem and leaves attached. Exactly how much to tie together will depend on the size of the bulbs. Keep in mind, air flow is necessary to allow for proper drying. For this reason, staggering the bulbs is a practical idea.
The bunches are then hung to allow for proper drying.
Screen drying is an excellent method for those who do not grow an abundance of garlic. The type of screen used will depend greatly on how many plants are being dried.
Here are some DIY drying screens which work well:
- 1-inch X 1-inch hardware cloth attached to 2 X 4’s
- Chicken wire attached to 2 X 4’s
- 1 X 1’s attached to 2 X 4’s, must be constructed narrow enough to prevent garlic from falling through
These DIY drying screens can be placed on sawhorses to allow for proper air flow.
Once the wrappers have dried it is time to prepare the heads for long-term storage. There are three methods available for storing cured garlic, with the most popular being braided garlic. However, storing garlic in a basket or hanging the entire bunch is just as efficient.
Garlic is best stored between 32 to 50 degrees Fahrenheit, making a root cellar or cold storage location ideal. Again, the variety grown will determine how long dried garlic will store for.
Once the bulbs are completely cured:
- Gently brush any remaining dirt from the skins, taking care to not damage the dried skin.
- Loosen any dirt in the roots, snip the roots close to the bulb to prevent moisture from entering the heads of garlic.
- Storing garlic in a basket or mesh bag will require the foliage to be cut 1-inch from the top of the bulb.
Softneck garlic is the variety of garlic which is best for braiding. Unlike hardneck garlic the stems for the softneck variety are soft and bendable. Braiding garlic is as easy as braiding hair. Begin the braid with three garlic heads with stems attached, add a new head of garlic each time a new section is required. Selecting heads which are similar in size will help to keep the braid uniform in size.
In a Basket
Many people store cured garlic in baskets or plastic containers which have proper airflow. A plastic container can be a laundry basket, however, mesh storage bag also work quite well.
The process for hanging garlic is the same as braiding garlic. Once the garlic is cured simply move the dried bunch to the location in which it will be stored long-term.
How to cure and store garlic is an extremely easy process. In exchange for the opportunity to consume the garden’s bounty for many months, do not rush the process for properly curing garlic. Also, properly stored garlic will ensure bulbs do not sprout prior to being able to consume them.
Garlic which has Sprouted
What should you do if your garlic sprouts? Dehydrate the cloves to make garlic powder. The process is quite simple and the final product is much tastier than what is purchased from the local market.
Another option for garlic which as sprouted is to make garlic salt. Follow the steps for making garlic powder, next add fine sea salt until the desired taste has been met. The final ingredient, which is optional, is dried Italian parsley leaves.