How to Store Garlic Properly at Home
It is very common for people to ask how they should store their garlic at home. The process is actually very easy and if a few basic steps are taken, your garlic should stay in good shape for a long time.
When storing garlic for the first time, keep an eye on it for several months. Every home has different conditions and you may need to make adjustments to get things perfect. Over time, you will learn what works best for you and your environment.
(1) Garlic Varieties
Although the average homeowner doesn't always know the type of garlic they have purchased or grown themselves, it is important to understand that not all garlic keeps as well as others. Most of the garlic you purchase at the grocery store is grown in warmer climates such as California and is a type of softneck garlic. These tend to store for a very long time and are not overly difficult to keep in good condition when storing at home.
The majority of garlic that gardeners grow in Canada or is purchased at local Farmers' Markets is considered hardneck garlic (although some softneck garlic is also grown). Hardneck garlic tends to store for a shorter period of time but does have a very wide range of storage ability depending on the specific variety. They can be stored for as little as 3 months (Rocambole) and as long as a year (Creole).
(2) Temperature & Humidity
When being stored, garlic does not like to be too warm or too cold. The temperature should remain above 10⁰C (to prevent sprouting) and below 20⁰C (to prevent premature dehydration) with an ideal range of 13⁰C or 14⁰C. This means that you shouldn't store your garlic in a refrigerator as it will often grow roots, sprout, mould or dehydrate.
Also, it is best to keep your garlic in a dark place when possible (although not completely necessary) with good air circulation, especially in more humid conditions. Humidity between 45% and 50% (similar to conditions in many homes) is high enough to minimize dehydration and low enough to prevent root growth.
(3) Storage Method
If your garlic has had its tops and roots trimmed, hanging it in mesh bags is usually the best option. This allows for good air circulation and helps prevent moulds or decay. If a mesh bag isn't available, pantyhose can also be used as an alternative, as they act similarly and don't hold moisture.
Some people also keep their bulbs on the kitchen counter or in an open bowl or plate which works well for smaller numbers of bulbs.
Storing garlic in a closed container is not a good idea and will almost always lead to moulds or roots developing. This includes things like paper bags, zip lock bags that do not allow enough air circulation.
Another method used by many garlic growers is to leave the tops on and to hang the bulbs in small bundles (hardnecks) or braids (softnecks). Just like loose garlic bulbs, the bundles should be stored in an area with good air circulation.
Hanging garlic in a basement often works best for homeowners. Basements tend to be a bit cooler than the rest of the house and usually have the proper humidity levels. If your basement is on the humid side, it is very important to have the garlic stored in an area with good air circulation and to try lowering the humidity when possible.
Some homeowners will use a small fan to create a bit of airflow, but the fan should never be blowing directly on the garlic as this will usually cause it to dehydrate prematurely.
If you don't have a basement, a cool dark location such as a cupboard or pantry can work as well. The air circulation in a cupboard is not generally very good, so keep an eye on it to make sure it stays in good condition. If you begin to notice that your garlic has mould or that it begins to grow roots, you should consider storing it in a more open location such as a countertop.
About the Author: John Côté owns and operates John Boy Farms with his family who have been farming the same land for over 140 years. As an agronomist and experienced farmer, he helps other growers learn how to grow garlic successfully. He has written many articles and is the author of The Master Guide to Growing Big Garlic.