Curing and Storing Garlic
Once the garlic has been removed from the field, it should be brought to a well-ventilated area that is sheltered from rain and direct sun. The tops and roots can be cut as soon as they have been brought inside and can be placed into bulb crates or laid out on tables with good air circulation. Large fans and warm air are usually necessary to help with the drying process if tops are removed, especially if conditions are humid.
Alternatively, the plants can be tied into bundles of ten and hung with the roots down and leaves pointing up. After several weeks of drying, the leaves and roots can be trimmed.
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 longer.
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 lose storage ability, while too slow risks problems with disease introduction.
Once the garlic has dried down and been fully cured, the roots and tops (if they haven't already been removed) can be trimmed off, leaving 1/2" to 1" 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.
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 sale or storage.
Dried and cured garlic bulbs stored in breathable mesh bags.
We have found that hanging the garlic in mesh bags in a basement or cool building outside before winter, works best for us. The trick is to keep them in a cool dark place with good air circulation (especially in more humid conditions).
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 lose 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.