Curing Garlic

How to cure garlic

There are many ways to cure garlic, and it is essential to get it right. Mainly, put clean garlic in an area out of the sun with good airflow. It takes about 2-3 weeks for garlic to cure completely.  It can be eaten at any time after harvest although the flavor has not completely developed.

An efficient way to cure garlic

When we harvest our garlic, we brush the dirt out of the roots right away.  If they are really muddy, we will cut the roots.  Within 1 hour of harvest, we pull the lowest green leaf from the garlic bulb which cleans the garlic bulb.  We will cut the mass of leaves off the bulb leaving about 6-9" of stem.  Next, we put the garlic bulbs about 2-3 bulbs deep in bulb crates (not to many).  We store the bulb crates in our warehouse out of sunlight with a temperature of about 70-75 degrees keeping the humidity about 60% (which is hard to control).  Most importantly, we have plenty of fans blowing on our garlic to keep constant air flow for about 2-3 weeks.

We do not have any mold issues by curing garlic this way.  Mold is quite natural with a root crop especially alliums.  Our goal is to ship the highest quality bulbs with no mold issues, and this seems to work the best.

Traditional way to cure garlic

We have also hung our garlic in bundles of 10 on ropes with about 30 bundles per rope after cleaning the garlic in the above manner.  This is what has always been recommend as the best way to cure garlic especially by the "old-timers".  In our region, we just had more mold issues curing this way.  We see more Embellisia and Aspergillus mold on the outside of the bulb which is largely cosmetic, but it causes more time cleaning bulbs which is labor intensive and time consuming.

Can you wash garlic bulbs with water?

We have also washed our garlic bulbs and found it necessary when harvesting in heavy rains with our heavy clay soil.  As long as you keep good air flow on the curing bulbs, this can be done.  Although many will say absolutely don't wash your garlic bulbs, but we know many garlic growers that wash their garlic bulbs successfully.  Personally, we feel it works better if we pull the lowest green leaf at harvest and cut any overly muddy roots if necessary.

If our bulbs are really wet, we may let them stay in the sun in the crates for a few hours just to dry a little, but we don't cure our garlic in the sun.  Many say don't let the bulbs even see the sun and harvest with tents.  Our garlic bulbs see the sun, but we don't cure in the sun as it can cause curing problems.

Curing garlic for gardeners

Harvest garlic and get the dirt off by choosing your own method of cleaning or not cleaning.  Hang them or lay them in an area with good airflow.  Fans are great to keep the air flow moving.  Good ventilation is essential to prevent mold.

There are so many ways to cure garlic successfully, so do what works for you.  See our garlic curing images for examples of ways to cure garlic from different ways we have tried to ways our growers cure garlic.

2020 Garlic Harvest tips for longer storage

After we plant, grow, harvest, and cure our garlic, we want to get as long of a useful life out of each garlic bulb as possible.  There are so many things that determine the storage ability of garlic bulbs:

  • How the garlic was grown
  • The environment mother nature provided for that garlic bulb
  • The variety of the garlic
  • How well it was cured
  • Then, how well it was stored after curing
  • Microorganisms that naturally live on a garlic bulb
  • Garlic diseases
  • Temperature and Humidity
  • Handling of garlic at harvest time
  • There should be about 3 wrappers remaining around the garlic bulb after harvest and cleaning.

As you can see, there may be so many things that are out of our control. What we can control, we can help get garlic bulbs to store as long as possible.  We are surely amazed that we can have the exact same variety of garlic in the ground right next to each other and have one bulb start to deteriorate naturally in October well the next one will store into April. So, with as much as we can do everything right, the most important thing to do is to keep checking your garlic bulbs and if you start to feel that they are getting soft and are not as firm, then you know to use that garlic bulb quickly as it is starting to naturally deteriorate and will not store much longer.  If you have quite a few bulbs that are getting soft or not going to store long, it is best to go ahead and try to preserve the garlic.

When you are harvesting your garlic, make sure you treat your garlic bulbs gently and don’t bang or handle your garlic bulbs aggressively. We treat our garlic bulbs like they are apples and realize that if they are not handled carefully, they can easily bruise and that reduces the storage life of garlic

While your garlic is curing, you will want to fan or good airflow on your garlic to make sure that it cures or dries down, so that you can store your garlic for months to come.  Once the Garlic starts to dry down and the green leaves become brown brittle paper, then you know the garlic is cured and you can take the fans off the garlic. After about 2 to 3 weeks you do not want to continue blowing fans on your garlic as this will dry them out and reduce storage life. You will know your garlic is completely cured once you cut the garlic neck and there is no green leaves inside the neck or bulb and the moisture is gone. 

We have noticed that some of the longest storing garlic is when gardeners are able to keep 6 to 8 inches of stem on their garlic and either hang the garlic in bundles of 6 to 8 or put the bundles loosely in a large basket. Many find that storing in a basement or a root cellar at about 60° with about 50% humidity will bring the longest storage. We see some customers that are able to store their Garlic until next year‘s harvest. Not everyone is so lucky to have a good storage. One thing we recommend, is taking some of your garlic bulbs and putting them in a brown paper bag in the crisper drawer, and we can usually store these garlic bulbs until April annually. Again, it is important to continue to check your garlic bulbs to make sure that they are not getting soft or that they are not molding. Also, when garlic gets cold and then it starts to warm up, then it thinks it’s time to grow. So, if you take your bag of garlic that was refrigerated and leave it on the counter it will sprout because it thinks it’s spring time and ready to grow. I do believe that when we refrigerate garlic we do lose a little bit of its flavor, but our goal is to continue to eat the garlic that we grow and never buy garlic from the grocery store.

If you are buying garlic to plant, we recommend that you watch for your tracking information and open your box of garlic right away. As long as the garlic boxes opened and you remove any packing materials, you can continue to store the garlic in the box in your house or basement until planting.

If you are ordering a large bulk amount of garlic to plant on your Farm, then, you can just leave your garlic in its netted bags in the garage or barn until you plant in October. Unfortunately, we cannot be responsible for Garlic that is not stored properly once you receive it. We do everything we can to make sure we are getting you perfect healthy garlic bulbs and we check each garlic bulb before it is shipped to you, once it gets to you it’s your responsibility to make sure you store it correctly until planting. 

When you harvest your garlic, we do recommend harvesting when there are four or five green leaves remaining. Each green leaf is a wrapper around the garlic bulb. You need at least three wrappers for good storage. So, if you harvest with four green leaves remaining and takeoff the outer leaf to clean the bulb, then you have three wrappers remaining around the garlic bulb which is good for longer storage.

When we harvest our garlic, within 30 minutes of harvesting our garlic out of the field, we try to pull down the lowest green leaf on the garlic plant and that will clean the outer wrapper of the garlic bulb leaving a clean garlic bulb. By doing this, it cleans the garlic bulb and reduces all the microorganisms that can attack the garlic reducing storage life. Many times, gardeners can just brush the dirt off the garlic bulb and roots and store the garlic with minimal dirt around the bulb. Garlic bulbs can be stored this way for many months until using in the kitchen or replanting.  After your garlic is completely cured, and if you did not pull down the lowest green leaf, then you can remove the outer dirty layer of the garlic bulb and have clean garlic bulbs.  I find personally that it is easier to use garlic in the kitchen when there is not so much dirt or soil remaining in the roots or around the bulb. But, hey, eating a little dirt is pretty healthy anyway.