Storing Garlic

Storing Garlic for planting

After you purchase your garlic, make sure you protect your investment. Improper storage will reduce shelf life of garlic. Whole bulbs of garlic can keep for 6-12 months or more when stored at room temperature in a dry, dark place that has ample air circulation. Keep in mind, that garlic's lifetime decreases once you start removing cloves from the bulb. If you are waiting to plant your garlic, open your box, take out any packing materials and keep in your basement, in your house, or any cool dry place with plenty of good air flow.  If we are storing our garlic for planting, we will keep our garlic in our barn with normal outside temperatures.  Remember we are in Wisconsin so take your region into consideration too.  If you are waiting to plant your garlic, keep your garlic in normal everyday household temperatures.  Do not allow air to constantly flow on your garlic once it is cured as that will dry out the garlic.  DO NOT store in plastic or sealed without air flow.  

Storing your garlic bulbs:

  • Upon receiving your garlic, OPEN YOUR BOX!
  • Take out packing material
  • You can store your garlic in the open box you received the garlic shipped in
  • Store in your home with plenty of air flow, but away from blowing air like fans or air conditioning
  • DO NOT store sealed in plastic
  • Feel bulbs for firmness and if they are starting to soften that means they are naturally deteriorating and need to get used or planted
  • Certain short storing varieties like Rocamboles will need to get used or planted quickly.
  • Although we pack your garlic well for shipping, the bulbs can get banged up a bit in shipping which they can usually handle pretty well, but this can decrease useful life.
  • Remember garlic bulbs are produce.  We can't see the inside of the bulb, but we do feel each bulb before shipping to ensure that it is in good shape for our customers.  Sometimes there can be issues in the bulb we can't see.  This can be normal.  Garlic is produce and should naturally rot in time, and some bulbs breakdown faster than others.  If there is an issue with the bulbs or cloves, please contact us so we can see what is going on with the garlic.  Send us a picture via email, so we can see what is going on.  We are always monitoring our bulbs and have become experts on watching for problems and can usually check the same bulbs here for any issues. 

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
  • If the garlic was shipped, what did it endure during the shipping process...
  • 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. 

Storing Garlic for Eating

Storing garlic uncovered, such as in a wire-mesh basket inside your cupboard or beneath a small overturned clay pot, is ideal. You can also store garlic in a paper bag or mesh bag. Just be sure there is plenty of dry air and little light to inhibit sprouting. Always watch the bulbs to see if they are starting to get soft and if they are, use right away.

Best garlic storage temperatures

To avoid mold, do not store garlic in plastic bags. Garlic needs to breathe. Garlic stores best long term when it is stored at between 35F and 55F and between 40% and 60% humidity. A normally air-conditioned house or basement seems to do pretty good.  Once the garlic is cured, do not allow air to blow on the bulbs.  It dehydrates the bulbs and they dry out.  Don't have a dehumidifier around the garlic either after the garlic has cured as it will also dry the bulbs and decrease storage life.      

Garlic in netted bag for storage
Storing garlic bulbs

Refrigerating Garlic

To get the longest storage life out of garlic, we do recommend putting the garlic bulbs in a brown paper bag and putting them in the crisper drawer in the refrigerator. When they come out of cold storage, they will want to sprouting thinking it is time to grow, so only take them out as needed.  After the garlic has been in cold temperatures, if you leave the garlic out in normal temperatures, it will sprout and deteriorate quickly.  That is why the garlic purchased from the stores does not last long because it has been kept cold and then sits out in the stores and then sprouts and goes bad quickly once you purchase them.  

Sprouting

Garlic sprouting is a natural part of the garlic’s life.  It will sprout after it has been through a cold period, and it starts to warm up and thinks it is time to grow.  That is why grocery store garlic sprouts, because not only is the garlic usually old since it is imported from other countries, but it was also put in cold storage to extend the life of the garlic.  We do not put any garlic in cold storage before it gets to our customers. Our garlic sees normal household temperatures until it gets to you.

Spouts have 13% more nutrients than the garlic cloves, so remove the sprout and eat it before cooking to get the superior health benefits from the sprout. If the sprout is cooked, some say it turns bitter.