Fully cured, cleaned and trimmed garlic
Garden of Eatin', How-To, Vegetables

A Guide to Curing and Storing Garlic

You waited seven, maybe nine months, for all that homegrown garlic to finish growing. Now that you’ve dug it all up, you want to savor it for as long as possible until the next garlic crop is ready.

This is when curing becomes your friend.

Curing is the process of letting your garlic dry down in preparation for long-term storage. Curing your garlic allows you to enjoy the flavor of your summer harvest well into winter… and one of my favorite things about garlic is that it still stays fresh long after it’s been plucked from the ground. No pickling, no canning. Just a simple head of garlic that looks and tastes the same as the day you pulled it.

Garlic that you want to eat right away can be used right away, straight from the garden.

Garlic that you want to cure should be moved to a dry, shady, airy place — this can be under a tree, on a covered porch, or in a well-ventilated garage. Lay the bulbs out one by one to provide good air circulation. Garlic is susceptible to sunburn (it can literally cook under the sun, which deteriorates the flavor), so you want to minimize the amount of direct sunlight it gets during the curing process.

No need to clean off all that dirt for now — you’ll tidy them up when you trim them. Don’t wash your garlic either… after all, the point is to dry them out!

Garlic harvest being cured under a shady tree

You can also gather the garlic into bunches, tie them up, and hang them from their stems. If you’re feeling crafty,  you can even braid the stems, just like the beautiful ones you see in Italian restaurants. Braiding only works with nimble softneck garlics, and I find it helps to remove the scraggly bottom leaves first. The garlic is braided while some of the leaves are still green and pliable, and hung to dry in a shady spot.

Braided garlic

Do not remove the leaves while the garlic is curing. The bulb continues to draw energy from the leaves and roots until all that moisture evaporates. Keeping the leaves intact also helps to prevent fungi or other lurking garden contaminants from spoiling the garlic before it’s fully cured.

After a month (or possibly up to two months, if your weather has been humid), the roots should look shriveled and feel stiff like a bottle brush, and the leaves should be completely brown and dried.

Shriveled roots on cured garlic

Brown and dried leaves on cured garlic

To clean up the garlic for storage, trim off the roots and leaves to 1/4 or 1/2 inch. More dirt will dislodge and a couple extra layers of bulb wrappers may flake off, giving you a nice and neatly packaged bulb. Remember not to remove too many wrappers in case you expose the cloves.

Cured, cleaned and trimmed garlic

If you braided your garlic, you saved yourself an extra step and can simply snip a bulb off the braid when you need it.

Set aside your most beautiful heads of garlic with the biggest cloves to use as seed garlic the following season.

Beautiful garlic bulbs set aside for seed garlic

Stash it all in mesh bags, woven baskets, old terracotta pots, brown paper bags, or even cardboard beer/soda cases — as long as the container is breathable and the environment stays dry. I have even heard of people storing garlic in old pantyhose by hanging it from the ceiling, putting a knot between each garlic head, and scissoring off a knot when needed — but really, who has pantyhose laying around these days?!

Garlic sorted and stored in nylon mesh bags

Once properly cured, garlic can store for several months. In general, Silverskins and Creoles are the longest-storing garlic (sometimes keeping up to a full year), followed by Porcelains, Artichokes, Purple Stripes, Rocamboles, and lastly, Asiatics and Turbans, which have the shortest shelf life (average of five months under the most optimal conditions).

Temperature, humidity and ventilation all play key roles in determining how well your garlic will store. A “cool, dark place” is the usual recommendation, and it doesn’t get any simpler than a spare cupboard or closet shelf at room temperature.

If you want to get technical, the ideal storage condition is between 55°F and 65°F, around 60% humidity, with good air circulation. Garlic tends to sprout at colder temps (thus, no refrigerators!) and dry out in warmer temps. Lower humidity may cause dehydration (especially in Rocamboles, which are more finicky than other varieties), while higher humidity may bring in fungus and mold. Light is not a factor in storage, as long as you keep your garlic away from direct sun.

All that said, there is no exact science to storing garlic and I like to keep it simple. I save and reuse nylon mesh bags (the kind that potatoes and onions come in), sort my garlic into them, and hang my harvest in a storage room.

Garlic stored and hung in nylon mesh bags

If you’re lucky, you’ll be breaking out fresh cloves in winter and perhaps even through the following spring!

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  • Laura Peterson

    I had wash the drit off will it harm them by doing that

  • Mike E.

    This was a great article. Thanks. I am in my second season growing garlic. Started with two huge garlics from the store. In central texas I can plant any time in the fall and if I feed them well I get the stalks start to dry in early summer and they come out very delicious. Also I found another article about storing garlic in the freezer for long periods of time. I break the garlic into cloves. Remove all the coverings and massage them with olive oil. I purchased some small canning jars and store them in those in the freezer. Still have some from last year. When I use them I can take out the number of cloves I need and run them under cool water for a couple of seconds and they come out like I just picked them. No vampires in this house. Thanks again for the great info.

  • Annie Terry

    I cut off the leaves before I read this! Will they still cure for storing?
    Thanks

    • Possibly. The only way to know is to continue curing them, and keep a close watch on your garlic while they’re in storage.

  • Aaron J Clifft

    Great Article!

  • chipsdad

    Hi:

    I planted my garlic in late October (Zone 7) (about 24 heads or so) . The shoots came up up quickly – in late spring (mid May or so) they turned brown , and fell to the ground.
    i waited until early July to harvest and found most of my heads were extremely small ~1″ diam or so. only 3-4 were of any size.
    what am i doing wrong ?

    • If all the shoots turned brown before summer, my guess is overwatering or underwatering. Half the leaves should still be green when you harvest your garlic.

      • chipsdad

        Thanks !!

  • Jenifer Wilde

    Garlic babies?? On the bottom of my elephant garlic it looks like babies! Pulled them and have them saved..can I plant them come fall??

    • I think you’re referring to corms, and yes you can plant them, but it’ll be a two-year wait before they divide into bulbs of new garlic. And sometimes it takes longer than that for the plants to show up.

  • Newto Couponing1012

    Where do you get mesh bags from?

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  • Sean

    What if you’re new to garlic growing and after you harvest to trim the leaves and the roots already before they dried how long is it going to last Emily still dry properly

    • They will still dry properly, you just have to keep an eye on them more for signs of spoiling while in storage.

  • heitman

    Linda, I hope you can tell me what’s wrong with my first garlic grow. I got the seeds from Filaree Garlic Farm up in Omak, WA and I live in Washington state. We had a glorious summer and my garlic grew beautifully. After pulling, It was hung for a month below our raised living room where it was light and airy and not wet.

    The garlic bulbs are sitting on my counter with no direct sunlight in a cool part of the kitchen (not in the dark) 🙁 They’ve been in the kitchen about two months now and I’ve been using it a lot. Today I went to use it and I noticed that the paper is loose on the whole bulb and each clove is loose in its individual wrapper. When I unwrapped these huge cloves, they are brown on the outside but beautiful and fragrant on the inside. Some are in bad shape and I can’t use it at all.

    They were not in the sun but is it because they weren’t in a dark place that the individual cloves shrank in their wrapper? I just don’t know what might have happened to it because it has never happened with store bought garlic.

    Any ideas?

    • Indirect sun does not have any effect on the garlic. But perhaps the ambient room temp in your kitchen is too warm? (Due to the heat and humidity given off by the stove, oven, etc, not necessarily window light.) Garlic keeps best in cool (not cold) conditions, so I suggest moving yours to a basement or a room on the north side of the house.

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  • Mike

    I was visiting my 90 year old parents in Minnesota. I found in their previous years garden a large patch of garlic with round seed (?) heads. On the last day there it was raining so I had no choice but to pull the garlic out of the ground and store them in a large container, leaves folded, until I drove home to Idaho. I now have them drying in my trailer in the shade as per your advice to others. My question is those seed (?) heads. Are they seeds and can I plant them also? Also, will the folding of the 2-3 foot leaves affect the drying?

    • The seeds sound like bulbils. You can grow garlic from bulbils, but it takes a much longer time to form a full-sized bulb with multiple cloves (than if you were to grow garlic from individual cloves). You can always harvest green garlic (the immature plants) from these bulbils sooner however, and use them like green onions.

      As for the leaves, I’m not sure what you mean by folding them. If they’re covering the bulbs, that could have an affect on how quickly or thoroughly the bulbs dry out.

      • Sang_froid

        Thanks Linda. No, I had to fold the garlic to put them in a container while traveling from MN to ID. I have them stretched out , drying in a trailer right now. So, I’ll plan to plant 1/3 of the garlic cloves (the rest are for cooking!) and all the bulbils (love that word) to see what happens. I’m assuming I break up the bulbils to what looks like individual seeds? Do I still plants the seeds in the fall along with the cloves?

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  • Bonnie Jean Ohler

    I just grew my first successful garlic this year and I am now curing it according to your instructions. I love your website. The instructions and ideas are great and the pictures are very beautiful. I also learned how to peel and eat faba beans from your website earlier last year. Great stuff.

    • Thank you Bonnie! I’m happy to hear you’re finding my posts useful. Enjoy your garlic!

  • plmcat

    my garlic doesn’t have any stalks. i was going to pull it up and then we got a huge rain so i left it in the ground and now the stalks are gone. i dug the ones up today that i could find but some of them came apart and so the cloves are exposed. i know i can’t dry those. i will eat them but will my other ones be ok without a stalk on them? i tasted one of the cloves and wow it was spicy. i had two different kinds .. one was a spicey italian and i forgot what they other one was. it was supposed to be big i think. they didn’t really grow very big. i have crappy, rocky soil. but i want to plant them again because i love garlic to cook with and i love it for it’s medicinal benefits as well. i eat garlic every night before i go to bed. and i love the smell of garlic breath! hahaha!

    • I’m not sure what you mean by your garlic not having stalks. They cannot continue to grow without the stalks (aka the leaves) so if those are gone, you need to harvest them, dry them as best you can, and keep an eye on the exposed bulbs/cloves to ensure they don’t rot before you can use them up. Without a stalk, bacteria and fungi might enter the garlic before it’s properly cured, so if that happens, it won’t store well.

    • Brett

      I have had that happen also. You left it in the ground too long. As soon as the bottom 2-3 leaves turn brown your garlic is ready. Leaving it in too long causes the wrapper to disintegrate also. You just need to use them faster. Another solution is to slice the garlic and put it in a dehydrator. Then grind it up in a coffee grinder. Garlic powder.

  • Kathleen Quinlan

    I think the tops are flower like..But now to regrow garlic, are you saying you do it every year from your current harvest? ( I just bought this house garlic came with it ) If so What part of the Garlic do you replant and when? Is in individual cloves ? What position?

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  • Dave Reade

    This is my first year growing and harvesting garlic and I’ve been very happy with the results so far. Your writings on harvesting and curing garlic are extremely helpful. In fact, this is the one of the best sites about growing vegetables that I’ve been able to find on the internet. Thanks!

    • Hi Dave, thank you so much for the kind compliment! I’m glad to hear you’re finding it helpful in your gardening!

  • Vicki Curtis Fotheringham

    Question about elephant garlic. I found a video on You Tube that showed pulling the garlic, washing it off well and removing the tops before bringing the garlic in to cure. Now that I have done that, I find other sites that say leave the leaves on, to prevent fungi and to allow the garlic to draw from the leaves. Will my garlic be ok? This was my first time planting garlic and it is absolutely huge! It smells heavenly! I can’t wait to start using it and read in your post, it can be used right from the garden.

    • The best and longest way to cure and keep garlic is what I’ve explained in this post. Washing may increase the chances of your garlic rotting, unless you kept it very dry and well ventilated (with a fan) during the curing process. Since elephant garlic doesn’t store as well as true garlic to begin with, I recommend using yours quickly, or storing it in the fridge.

      • Vicki Curtis Fotheringham

        Thank you for this info. I will share this group with my cousins, and it will be used quickly that way. Now, I know, and will be better prepared for next year’s crop.

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  • Hi Linda,
    Found your blog while searching for info on — when to harvest garlic — Thank you for sharing your personal experiences and the photos. This has helped me tremendously, my first harvest is way over due, so I’ll be harvesting over the coming weekend or early next week. It’s time to plant again for next season’s harvest.

    PS: I’m based in the southern hemisphere (South Africa).

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  • John Crumb

    Linda, we just harvested our garlic. A neighbour came over and suggested we dip the heads in Olive Oil before hanging them up. Have you ever heard of this?

    • I’ve never heard of this, and I can’t think of a reason why you’d do it. Storing/hanging raw garlic in olive oil creates a potential breeding ground for botulism (as the spores thrive in an anaerobic environment).

      • John Crumb

        Thank you for the reply Linda. Much appreciated. That certainly makes a lot of sense. I was quite sceptical when I heard this, but was nonetheless curious. I think I’ll stick with your good, sound advice. Again my sincere thanks.

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  • Marc

    Hi Linda,
    Just found your blog today after I pulled out all of our garlic and hosed it down to get it clean… ouch! Hope I can get it to dry quickly so as not to loose any – it seems it’s one of the few things that grows well in my garden! Any suggestions? Also, I’ve heard that you shouldn’t plant your garlic in the same spot 2 years in a row… Any thoughts on that? Thanks and cheers from Ontario, Canada! -Marc

    • Just continue to dry them as you would when you cure them. And correct, you should not plant any plant in the same spot the following year (and this includes plants in the same family, such as garlic and onions). Three-year rotations are best to help prevent disease.

  • Arthur

    Everyone, and I do mean everyone, says cure the garlic with the leaves on, but I can’t find any real information on curing with the leaves cut off. I’ve been growing 300 plants for 5 years and for the first time last year I cut off the leaves at harvest leaving 6 inches of the stem. I dry them in the basement spread out on a table with a fan running on low speed. I cut off the roots and clean them up after 3 weeks or more. Honestly, I couldn’t tell any difference. I just harvested this year’s garlic a couple days ago and am repeating this same technique. Is this just plain heresy? I’m not really that much of renegade, a friend of mine started doing this several years ago and I finally decided to save some work and give it a try. -Arthur

    • The main reason you keep the leaves on is to prevent contaminants from spoiling the garlic while it’s curing. In your case, running a fan and leaving 6 inches of stem on likely serves this purpose, as you’re providing steady air flow and not cutting close to the bulb. However, most home gardeners trim their garlic tightly for storage (the way you see it in the store), so it doesn’t make sense to cut the leaves before curing, only to cut them again (closer to the bulb) after curing. All the work is saved for the end.

      It’s also my unscientific opinion that leaving the leaves on during curing prolongs storage life, as the leaves finish concentrating all their energy into the bulbs before they die. I’ve been told this by commercial garlic farmers, but I’ve never compared it in my own experience. My Silverskins and Creoles have stored for about 10 months on average (possibly longer, but they’re all eaten by then).

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  • bob

    First time with garlic as well thank you for your post verrry helpful got Italian red growing in Chicago looking good but not ready yet your pics very helpful thx again

    • You’re welcome! Good luck with your crop.

  • Beverbe

    Hello GB,
    We’re just about to harvest our first crop of garlic. Your post with the photos and step by step explanations have been very easy to understand…and I appreciate that. 🙂

    • Enjoy your harvest! Homegrown garlic is fantastic.

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  • papaya07

    My neighbors cure garlic in their apartment, and I wake with burning eyes. What can I do?

    • I haven’t heard of this happening before, so I can only suggest approaching your neighbors with this issue, assuming it’s indeed the garlic causing the burning eyes and not another irritant in your own home.

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  • Lynne

    My elephant garlic tastes bitter – it was just harvested. Do I need to age it before it tastes right?

    • No, garlic should taste the same whether it was just harvested or just cured. It typically tastes more bitter as it gets older or starts sprouting.

  • Katie

    I didn’t come across your blog until too late. I harvested too late and my bulbs came apart and did not develop the flaky covering. Has this ever happened to you? Will they last? Any tips to salvage this crop?

    • They won’t store well without the wrappers, so you should use those ones first. If your entire crop is without wrappers and you won’t be able to use it all within a month or two, you could try refrigerating peeled cloves, or freezing chopped garlic. There will probably be some flavor degradation, but at least you’ll still have some garlic on hand.

      • maryy

        We have stored garlic cloves in the refrigerator in a paper bag thru the winter and into July.

  • Catherine

    Organic farmer friend of mine died last year and I’ve once again grown a crop of garlic from what he gave me. It’s soooo beautiful and I hope I can continue to grow it each year as a tribute to him.
    Your website is very helpful. I know how to harvest and cure garlic, but I just thought I’d verify that I’m correct. Thank you!

    • You’re welcome, and hope you have an amazing crop next season!

  • Teresa Marie

    Thanks – very helpful. For years I’ve just been pulling from the ground, washing, drying for a few days in the kitchen and then popping into a tupperware 🙂 That seems to have worked so far, maybe I’ve been lucky

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  • It seems we have a veritable field of ‘wild’ garlic that comes through our irrigation and sets up house throughout the edges of our gardens, lawns & orchards–great to know how to take advantage of it besides the amazing aroma when I accidentally hit it with the mower!

    • Wow, I’d love to have a field of wild garlic around my house! Lucky you!

  • Beautiful pictures and excellent information! Thanks! Just grew my first garlic this year. Tiny crop but will try more next year.

    • Thanks Teresa! I’m saving a few bulbs to seed next season’s crop, but I’m really intrigued by the other varieties out there… I’m going to try more/others too!

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