Curing and Storing Garlic

Drying

Once the garlic crop has been harvested, the bulbs should never be dried in the direct sun as this can cause deterioration. Some growers like to leave the garlic out in the field for a few days (or even a few weeks) before they bring them into storage. This is not generally practical in Canada (unless you live in an exceptionally dry area) as most regions can't guarantee an extended period of time without rain. If you do leave your garlic in the field or garden, place the garlic in rows with the leaves of one row covering the bulbs of the next row, to protect them from the sun. This way the leaves will dry, but the bulbs will be protected.

Once the garlic is removed from the field, it should be tied into bundles of between five and ten plants. These bundles should then be hung with the bulbs facing down (i.e., roots down, leaves pointing up) in a well ventilated area with good air movement that is sheltered from rain and direct sun. The leaves and roots should be left intact in order to help with the drying process.

If you live in an area with high humidity, you may need to add fans or even heat to help with the drying process. In dry regions, the garlic should be fully dried and cured after three to four weeks. Locations that are humid can take up to five weeks or even longer in some cases.


Curing

Proper curing of your garlic will minimize the risk of molds and other diseases from taking hold while optimizing the length of time your garlic can stay in storage. Curing garlic actually occurs in two stages, first in the ground as the plant begins to have leaves die and second once the garlic is harvested and placed to dry. The purpose of helping the garlic dry is to facilitate this curing process and prepare the garlic for storage. Drying the garlic at a moderate pace is best. Too fast and the garlic can loose storage ability, while too slow risks problems with disease introduction.


Cleaning

Once the garlic has dried down and been fully cured, the roots and tops can be trimmed off, leaving about half an inch to one inch above the height of the cloves (you want to be careful not to trim too close to the cloves as this can expose them to infection and premature deterioration). When trimming hardneck varieties, it is important to make sure that the scapes are dry when cutting the tops. If there is any moisture remaining, or the scapes don't seem dry, then it is too early and the bulbs are not properly cured yet.

Depending on how dirty the bulbs were at harvest time, you can also clean off any loose bulb wrappers and dirt at this time. If the bulbs are properly dried down, this is usually an easy task. This makes the bulbs look nice and prepares them for either for sale or for storage.

 
Storage

We have found that hanging in mesh bags in a basement works best for us. The trick is to keep them in a cool dark place with good air circulation (especially in more humid condtions). 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 should never store your garlic in a refrigerator as it will begin to sprout (not to mention loose it's flavour). As well, humidity between 45% to 50% (which is what many homes are kept at) is best to minimize dehydration.


Length of Storage

How long garlic can stay in storage depends on many factors. These can include the conditions before harvest, varieties being grown, the size of the garlic bulbs and how they are being stored. Softneck garlic generally stores much better than hardneck garlic and medium to small bulbs tend to store the longest.

Within the hardneck family, Asiatic and Turbans have the shortest storage ability at only a few months, while the Rocamboles and Purple Stripes are usually ok for about four to six months. Porcelains are the longest and can generally be stored for between six and eight months.

Within the softneck family, Artichoke varieties store for eight to ten months, while Silverskin and Creole garlic can often store for up to a year.