So, you wanna learn how to dig up, cure, clean, and store your garlic bulbs.
Garlic makes an excellent, tasty allium to countless dishes.
It’s one of the most versatile culinary toppers you can possibly get.
Plus, garlic is super healthy for you too.
Thankfully, this bulb can be dried and saved for long term storage.
Then you can add it to your casseroles, soups, stews, potatoes, chicken, and whatever else you need it for.
Let’s dive in.
Last updated: 11/10/21.
How to lift garlic bulbs
Digging up the bulbs is simple.
But you need to be careful not to disturb the plant. Wait until the soil is completely dry before you lift them.
Dig around the bulb with a garden fork or spade. First, loosen the soil and dig around in a circle. when you get to the bulb, don’t dig through them.
Be careful of hidden roots. If you happen to accidentally slice a bulb, use it for cooking. It’s no good for storing anymore.
Never directly pull garlic from the soil. This can disturb the stalks and break them from the rest of the root system.
Remove as much coarse dirt and debris as you possibly can.
But don’t worry if you can’t get to the fine clumps of dirt that have stuck on the bulb. We’ll get to that later.
How to cure garlic
Garlic can be cured by drying out the bulb for up to 6 weeks, depending on your local conditions.
Garlic helps reduce the overall moisture and helps make them more edible and removes some of the pungent odor.
Start by setting up an area to cure them. Place the harvested garlic on a secure tray and don’t remove any of the leaves, stalk, and roots.
This helps keep the garlic healthy during the curing process.
They need a warm location that’s out of direct sunlight with plenty of moving air. But curing garlic isn’t hands-off.
You’ll need to flip the bulbs over every single day until they’re completely dried out. The whole point of this is to help them soften up and make the flavor even.
You may be able to turn them over every other day if they’re becoming drier.
Over time, you’ll notice that the green leaves will start to brown and become dull. This is normal.
The curing is done as soon as you notice the leaves are completely browned and the garlic is completely dry. It should be “crackly” when you handle it. The garlic is now to store.
How long does garlic take to cure?
Garlic takes anywhere from 10-30 days, depending on your local temperature, humidity, and preparation style.
Curing is officially “done” when you notice the outer skin turns to paper and crispy. The neck of the bulb also becomes narrow and constricted.
And the stem becomes tough.
How to prepare garlic bulbs for storage
Depending on if you have hardneck or softneck garlic, the process differs.
Softneck is easier to store, but hardneck offers more storage options (hanging). Let’s talk about preparing your garlic.
You’ll need to clean garlic after you harvest, like this:
Prepping softneck garlic
Preparing the bulbs for extended storage is easy. You can safely prep them so you get them ready for storing for a long period of time.
All you need is a pair of scissors. Carefully grab the bulb and trim the roots off at the end of it. They should come off easily since you dried them (cured) out already.
After you trim the roots off, get a small toothbrush, and brush off the dirt or debris on each bulb. This will clean off the soil or stuck debris on each one.
You also should clean off any remaining skin that’s stuck on the bulb while you’re at it.
Dispose of bulbs that are rotting or damaged. If you don’t, you may risk them rotting during storage and ruining your good bulbs.
Because you cut the stem off completely you can’t hang them up.
But you can place them in socks to bundle and then hang the sock up. You can also braid them quite easily before you store them.
Prepping hardneck garlic
Hardnecks need to be prepared specially so they correctly. They need to be trimmed from the stem 6” in length from the head.
You’ll want to leave some stem on their neck so help removes moisture. Trimming the complete stem is pointless.
This just makes your job harder overall when you crack the bulbs. The stem also makes an easy access point for hanging the bulbs, grabbing them, and handling them overall.
So if you plan to hang, don’t trim the stem completely.
How to store garlic for a long time
After garlic is cured, prepped, and cleaned, it’s ready for storage.
The thing to keep in mind is that you should store the bulbs somewhere that’s dark, dry, circulated, and stable in temperatures.
Avoid hanging a braid of softness in your kitchen as a decorative piece if you plan to use them in the future. The constant lighting conditions and sunlight will make the garlic expire quickly.
Plus, the moisture from cooking and the kitchen sink also may lead to bulb rot. Choose an area that’s away from water and has no light with temperatures around 60F.
Be sure to never directly touch the bulbs, because this will add water to it which may rot the bulb or even sprout them!
Only brush, never wash. You can leave the stalks on the bulbs in small bundles. Put 8+ garlic stems together and tie it with the plant twice.
Then hang it bulb side down in a dark area. Or you can just put them on a layering pan and leave it like that.
Whatever you do, keep it out of direct sunlight. This stops any flavor distortion because the sun can affect the overall taste and texture of curing garlic. Let them cure for up to 30 days.
Don’t keep the bulbs in the fridge because it gets too humid in there.
Plus, constantly swinging the fridge door open also fluctuates the temperature. Yoru bulbs may become moldy from all the moisture.
You may even notice that your bulbs will sprout in the fridge! If you must keep them in there, use an airtight food container. This will help keep the moisture out and bulbs dry.
Shield it with some foil to block the fridge lighting form disturbing the garlic during storage.
Any bulbs that become rotten or moldy should be disposed of. You can use them as compost or save the good cloves for food.
Garlic can also be canned, frozen, or dehydrated.
After the roots are dried up, don’t forget to remove the outer papery skin. When you do this, hide the cloves from sunlight. If you have soft necks, forgo the stalks and leave them in. use them to braid the garlic.
For hardnecks, keep the stems for easy hanging.
How to dehydrate garlic
Garlic is easy to dehydrate and you can do this to keep it stored for extended periods.
The bits of garlic can be used for a variety of culinary purposes, as you know garlic is pretty much a flavorful touch to meats, marinades, veggies, soups, sauces, and more. The possibilities are countless.
You can use a food dehydrator to dehydrate them if you have one. Follow the manufacturer’s directions to your specific model if you have one.
For the rest of us, we’re going to dehydrate garlic the traditional way:
To dehydrate garlic, peel the cloves and cut to your desired length. The smaller the pieces, the easier it is to dehydrate them.
You can do half cuts along the length of the garlic pieces or just use each piece of the clove. Lay down the garlic on a drying tray at 140F.
Let it bake for two hours, then flip them over and continue at 120F until they’re dry.
You can tell when they’re ready to go because their outer skin will be crunchy to the touch. Remove from the oven and let it cool to ambient temperature. Use an airtight container and toss them in it. That’s it.
You just dehydrated one of the most versatile pieces of culinary power on the planet!
Keep the container out of sunlight and store it away in the pantry. The garlic should be good up to 48 months from the date you prep them.
Check on them periodically. If you notice rot, there could be moisture getting into the container or trapped liquids. You’ll have to dump them out and start over.
How to freeze garlic for storage
Garlic can be saved by freezing. Any extra bulbs or cloves you have after harvest can be stored in the freezer for years without any problems.
To freeze garlic, mine the garlic and place the bits into a freezer bag.
Place a layer of aluminum or saran wrap around the bag by rolling it up around it like a burrito. Then place another bag over it. Store it in the freezer.
This double bag layer helps prevent the odors from the fridge from getting into the garlic.
But that’s best controlled by using baking soda and keeping your fridge clean and properly organized.
You can also freeze entire bulbs with the tunics by the same technique. Take out whatever amount you need when you cook.
As with freezing any vegetable or fruit, the texture and flavor will change once it becomes frozen.
But once you cook it in your soup, stews, or casseroles, the difference is barely noticeable.
Storing frozen garlic helps keep the vegetable usable for up to 16 months.
How to pickle garlic
You can pickle garlic to keep it tasty for your next salad. Find a pickling recipe that you’re happy with and pickle away.
Something to keep in mind is that garlic has a low pH, which means that it’s low in acid. This means it’s very easy for bacteria to grow and you need to constantly monitor your garlic and prep it correctly.
Depending on the recipe you’re using, this will vary.
But you should store your pickled garlic in the fridge to help slow down any bacteria vectors. Be sure to date the jars with labels so you know when to throw it out.
A simple recipe? Use wine or vinegar. Add garlic. Done.
This also helps prevent much bacterial growth if done correctly.
Whatever you do, be sure to keep watch of your pickled garlic.
When in doubt, throw it out. Refrigerated garlic can last anywhere from a few days to a few months.
You can add your favorite spices like cumin, celery seed, peppercorns, etc.
Can you eat garlic before it is cured?
Yes, you can eat garlic that’s been freshly harvested whenever you feel like it!
You only need to go through the process of curing and prepping if you want to store it.
The garlic plant should be kept intact until you want to eat the cloves to keep it fresh.
Which way do you hang garlic to dry?
Garlic can be hung with the bulb side facing down.
Keep them in the dark in a dry place with well-circulated air. This takes about 2-3 weeks on average.
Bundle up to 8 garlic bulbs together and tie them by their stems if you have soft necks. Hardneck garlic can be hung by the items individually.
Trim them to 6” stems before you hang. You can also just use a screen or aerated layer if you don’t want to hang your garlic.
Do you wash garlic before drying?
How do you store fresh garlic from the garden?
It requires a process of lighting the bulb, cleaning it, curing it, cleaning again, and storing it. There’s no exact science to this.
You can do it however you want as you see fit.
Storing garlic seeds for planting
If you plan to replant your garlic bulbs, you’ll want to choose only the largest ones to use the next growing season.
Just like any other phenotype, the larger bulbs will grow larger future generations.
So whatever you plant is whatever you get. Choose the best and biggest bulbs so you’ll end up with a harvest worth reaping.
The seeds can be saved by simply keeping your best bulbs. Planting small bulbs results in small harvests.
You can save the seed stock by storing the bulbs in paper bags. Just keep them in a well-ventilated room.
Keep it cool, dark, and free of moisture. If you notice any mold, remove it right away. They should be able to withstand time until the next planting season.
Or if you notice that your bulbs are drying out, try moving them to an area with higher moisture and room temperature to help keep them moist and ready to plant next season.
What is the best way to store garlic?
There is no “best” way to store garlic. It all depends on what you plan to use and how often you need to use it.
You can freeze, jar, or dehydrate garlic. It’s really up to you. You can even just put them into a paper bag and call it a day.
Garlic can also be pickled or stored in the fridge for easy access. It all depends on YOU.
If you plan to store them for an extended period, try freezing or dehydrating them.
If you plan to store them for a shorter time frame, try pickling, dehydrating, or just putting time into a freezer bag in the fridge.
The thing to keep in mind is that you should avoid moisture, sunlight, and high humidity. That should keep your garlic free of mold and prevent it from sprouting.
But if you plan to use ANY oils, remember that garlic is a low acid plant. This leads to bacterial growth like powdery mildew.
Consult an expert if you want to submerge them in oil or can them.
Storing garlic is easy and it lasts many months to years after being correctly lifted, cured, and prepped correctly. If you’ve never done this before, don’t sweat it. It’s simple!
Did you prep your garlic?
You should now have everything you need to know about curing, prepping, and storing garlic bulbs.
The process is easy enough for the first time harvester of garlic and will get you a bountiful harvest for next year.
If you have any questions, leave a comment below. Or if you have any tips, go ahead and share your words of wisdom!
I took interest into microflora and microgreens before it became mainstream. The idea of growing an entire ecosystem on a tiny scale simply was astounding. That’s where I discovered that I actually like raising plants and wasn’t as much of a black thumb as I thought. Now, I’m relaying what I’ve learned to others who are getting into the hobby in a way that anyone can understand.