Garden Blog

Store Your Garlic and Use it Too!

Store Your Garlic and Use it Too!
Although I have written about growing garlic (and closely related shallots) and about harvesting and curing garlic, I’d like to write about storing garlic the right way for the longest shelf life. For despite garlic’s tough guy image, the harvested product doesn’t last forever. The standard usable lifetime is considered three to six months for home grown (not pickled or processed) and now at the first of December I’m right at the five month mark. Last night I did a bit of pantry management, throwing away some garlic cloves that were starting to go bad – you can tell by the “off” smell in the cupboard – and then had a feast with some of the rest. There’s still enough for the next month’s cooking.
Growing and storing garlic from seed- chopped garlic
The basics first: garlic gets planted by cloves in October and matures the following July. Once harvested, in order to have any quality at all the garlic heads and stems must be air-dried for weeks outdoors in a porch or other area protected from rain and direct sun. Only then is it ready for storage; hardneck varieties have larger heads and fewer cloves but don’t last as long, while softneck varieties store better but have smaller cloves. Without careful curing the heads are liable to rot quite fast.
Once heads are dry, for best pantry storage store them in a basket, mesh bag, or in the case of softnecks, braided into ropes. Air circulation is crucial for this crop. Dry, dark, cool conditions will help you get the most from your harvest. Every once in a while if you ever smell a slightly sweet rotting odor, check all the garlic and discard any heads with soft or blackened cloves. Otherwise there shouldn’t be a strong garlic odor.
It's as easy as that! With a little care and attention, you can get as much as you can out of the garlic you grow. 

Garden Ambassador Nan Chase in her urban garden

Written by Sow True Seed Garden Ambassador for WNC, Nan Chase:

Nan Chase gardens in Asheville, N.C., specializing in perennial herbs, alliums of all sorts, greens, and sweet crabapples. She is the author of Eat Your Yard! and co-author of Drink the Harvest. Follow her @drinktheharvest