Curing garlic is an important step for storing garlic for the long-term. Curing is essentially the process of dehydrating the garlic bulb wrappers in preparation for storage.
Curing allows time for moisture to evaporate out of the garlic bulbs. Excess moisture in your garlic can lead to mold and disease destroying your bulbs while they are storing.
Unfortunately, finding the perfect environment in which to cure your garlic can be tricky. So, in this article, I’ll share everything you need to know about curing garlic successfully.
Harvesting Garlic For Storage
First and foremost, correctly timing your garlic harvest is critical. Bulbs that are harvested too late are not ideal for long term storage, and should be used or preserved instead. If you harvest too early, the cloves may be smaller in size, but can still be cured and stored.
In short, harvest your garlic bulbs when about 50% of the leaves have died back fully. For example, if a garlic plant has 8 total leaves, 4 of them should be fully shriveled and dried out before harvesting the bulbs.
Preparing the bulbs for curing
After harvesting, clean off excess soil by brushing the bulbs or shaking them gently. Avoid banging the bulbs against the ground, as this can bruise and damage the cloves.
Do not remove the stalks or roots before curing. The entire garlic plant should be kept whole for the entire curing process, with minimal disturbance or damage.
Choose bulbs that have large, full cloves that are filling out the wrappers. Bulbs should be tight and well-wrapped. If cloves are separating, use this garlic in the kitchen or otherwise preserve it. Only the highest quality garlic bulbs should be chosen for storage.
Curing Location and Environment
Once you have your chosen garlic bulbs for curing, next is finding the right location. The ideal environment for curing garlic is a well-ventilated space out of direct sunlight, with temperatures below 90°F (32°C).
An open breezeway, shaded greenhouse, or covered porch all make for suitable locations for curing garlic. Most important is that there is natural airflow around the garlic so that the bulbs can evenly dry out while avoiding disease.
Direct sunlight can cause sun scald on your garlic bulbs, so make sure to keep them in the shade. Shade cloth can be used over a hoop-house or greenhouse. Temperatures above 90°F can slow the curing process.
Hang drying garlic
The most common method of curing garlic is to hang dry the bulbs. Simply string together 6-12 bulbs using garden twine, several inches above the bulb. Try to space out the plants to avoid a buildup of moisture and humidity around the bulbs.
Then, hang the garlic plants off the ground. I like to hang dry our garlic bulbs underneath our covered porch where there is good airflow and full shade.
How long does it take to cure garlic?
In ideal conditions, garlic will take between 2-3 weeks to cure completely. Fully-cured garlic bulbs will have dry and papery outer wrappers. The main stalk should also be shriveled and dry, and the center of the stem should be stiff when cut.
Storing Garlic After Curing
Once your garlic has cured successfully, you can remove the upper foliage. Cut off the leaves about 1″ above the bulbs. Also, trim up the roots to tidy up your garlic bulbs for storage.
Just like curing, finding the perfect spot for storage can be a challenge. Garlic stores best at right around freezing (30-32°F / 0°C). However, between 40-50°F (typical refrigerator temperature) is the worst temperature range to store your garlic in.
In most cases, the best place to store your garlic is in a cool, dark location in your home with low relative humidity. Avoid the refrigerator, as it is usually too humid, and can lead to premature sprouting of the cloves.
If you can, find a cool spot that gets good ventilation. Hanging in the kitchen out of direct sun is a great option, or stored in a milk crate to allow the garlic to breathe.
Once in storage, your garlic can be used as needed. Over time, your garlic may lose moisture and become slightly shriveled. Most garlic will keep for at least 2-3 months in good conditions before beginning to dehydrate and shrivel. However, some varieties are able to store for 6 months or longer!
If you plan to re-plant your garlic…
If you want to re-plant your own garlic cloves in the fall, store the bulbs around 55°F with a relative humidity around 60%. This will help the cloves sprout at the right time in the spring, and avoid pre-mature growth.
Uh oh, my garlic is sprouting!
If your stored garlic is sprouting, it is most likely due to excess humidity. Garlic stored in the refrigerator often sprouts early due to high humidity.
Another factor to consider is light. If your stored garlic is in direct sunlight, move it to a shaded or dark location with good airflow instead.
Lastly, garlic breaks dormancy best in temperatures between 40-50°F. So, if you are storing your garlic in a stuffy basement, they may sprout early.
I hope this article helps you learn all about curing garlic and storing it for the long-term. If you play your cards right (and grow the right garlic varieties), you can have fresh garlic cloves all winter long until next year’s crop!