Garden of Eatin' / How-To / Vegetables

The Ultimate Guide to Harvesting, Curing, and Storing Garlic

Fully cured, cleaned and trimmed 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 and storing garlic allows you to enjoy the flavor of your summer harvest well into winter.

One of my favorite things about garlic is that it still stays fresh long after it’s been plucked from the ground without traditional preservation methods. No pickling, no canning, no freezing. Just a simple head of garlic that looks and tastes the same as the day you pulled it.

Beautiful garlic bulbs set aside for seed garlic

Does garlic have to be cured?

Garlic does not need to be cured. It’s edible right out of the ground.

But if you want it to stay fresh in the pantry for a good long while, you have to take it through the process of curing—essentially just letting it dry. As the garlic dries, the skin shrinks and turns papery, forming a protective barrier against moisture and mold.

In this dried down state, under optimal conditions, cured garlic can store for several months after harvest (which means you can use the garlic cloves from your garlic harvest as seed for the following year’s crop).

Related: Get Your Garlic On: Planting and Growing Garlic the Easy Way

You don’t have to cure your entire crop, either.

Garlic that you want to eat right away can be used right away, straight from the garden. I usually set aside a couple of bulbs I can use up in three to four weeks (especially bulbs that may have been damaged during harvest, but are otherwise edible).

Garlic that you want to store should be moved to a dry, shady, airy place once they’re harvested to begin curing.

Garlic harvest being dried in preparation for storage

How to cure your garlic crop

First, determine whether your garlic is ready to harvest using this simple trick.

Garlic stops growing once the soil temperature reaches 90°F so if you have a hot, early summer, your garlic will mature faster (though it’ll also have smaller bulbs).

Once you’ve pulled all the bulbs out of the soil, lay them out one by one on an elevated surface (like a large table or shelving rack) that gets filtered or indirect light. This could be under a tree, on a covered porch, or in a well-ventilated garage.

There’s no need to clean off all that dirt for now—you’ll tidy them up when you trim them.

If you don’t have a table to spare, you can DIY one out of 1×6 planks (or fence boards) laid across two sawhorses. Or, build a large frame out of 1×3 lumber, stretch and staple a piece of hardware cloth or chicken wire across the frame, and prop it up on sawhorses or cinder blocks.

Foolproof tips for curing your garlic

Don’t pile them on top of each other. The key to proper curing is providing good air circulation between the bulbs.

Don’t spread them out in the sun. Garlic is susceptible to sunburn and can literally cook under the sun, which deteriorates flavor. So you want to minimize the amount of direct sunlight it gets during the curing process.

Don’t wash your garlic. After all, the point is to dry them out!

Don’t 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.

Garlic harvest being cured under a shady tree

Can you hang garlic to dry?

If you’re short on space, you can cure your garlic vertically by gathering the garlic into bunches, tying the leaves together with twine, and hanging them from their stems to dry.

You can even braid (plait) your garlic for storage, 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 for a smoother braid. Braid the garlic while some of the leaves are still green and pliable, and hang the bundle to dry in a shady spot (like a pantry or a corner of the kitchen).

Braided garlic

How do you know when garlic is cured?

Garlic is usually ready for long-term storage about a month after harvest. But curing can take as little as two weeks in warm, dry climates, or as long as two months in rainy, humid weather.

Large bulbs (and bulbs with large cloves) generally take longer to cure. During this time, the flavor continues to mellow and improve.

Curing is complete when the roots look shriveled and feel stiff like a bottle brush, and the leaves are completely brown and dried.

Shriveled roots on cured garlic
Brown and dried leaves on cured garlic
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The best way to store garlic

Once the garlic is fully cured, clean it up by removing the leaves at the neck and trimming the roots (with a pair of scissors or pruners) to 1/4 inch or 1/2 inch long. More dirt will dislodge and a couple 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.

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.

Save the best and biggest garlic bulbs to use as seed garlic

Stash the garlic 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’ve 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 lying around these days?!

Garlic stored in mesh nylon produce bags for proper ventilation in storage

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

But if you want to maximize the longevity of your garlic?

Keep it between 50°F and 60°F, around 60 percent humidity, in low to no light 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.

Don’t let good food go to waste

Download my Fruit & Vegetable Storage Guide for tips and tricks on maximizing freshness.

All that said, there is no exact science to storing garlic. Sometimes I store my garlic in wire or wicker baskets in the pantry, and sometimes (on a big harvest year) I save and reuse nylon mesh bags (the kind that potatoes and onions come in), sort my garlic into them, and hang them in a well-ventilated utility room.

How long does garlic last?

Once it’s cured, a whole bulb of garlic (with no blemishes or bruises) will last several months in storage. Softneck garlics tend to have a longer shelf life than hardneck garlics.

In general, Silverskins and Creoles are the longest-storing garlic (often keeping up to a full year), followed by Porcelains, Artichokes, Purple Stripes, Rocamboles, and lastly, Asiatics and Turbans, which have the shortest shelf life (up to five months under the most optimal conditions).

CultivarAverage Shelf Life
Silverskin1 year
Creole1 year
Porcelain8 to 10 months
Artichoke8 to 10 months
Purple Stripe6 months
Rocambole6 months
Asiatic3 to 5 months
Turban3 to 5 months

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

As soon as you remove the paper wrappers, break the bulb apart, or peel the cloves, however, the quality starts to decline quickly.

Individual unpeeled cloves will keep for about three weeks on the counter. Peeled cloves will keep for up to a week in the fridge. And chopped garlic will only last a day or two, so if you have leftover chopped garlic, it’s best to freeze it to retain freshness.

Cured and trimmed garlic ready for long-term storage

Common questions about harvesting and storing garlic

Where to buy garlic curing and storage supplies

Retail Resource Half Bushel Basket | Okatsune Garden Scissors | Charlton Home Set of 3 Sussex Trugs | Pike’s Original Maine Garden Hod | Sajid Nylon Mesh Bags | Organic Cotton Mart Reusable Cotton Mesh Produce Bags | Ahyuan Hanging Mesh Storage Bags | Trademark Innovations Foldable Water Hyacinth Storage Basket | BlueMake Woven Seagrass Belly Basket | VNCraft Foldable Black Bottom Seagrass Belly Basket

More posts you might find helpful:

This post updated from an article that originally appeared on July 14, 2011.

About Author

I'm a plant lover, passionate road-tripper, and cookbook author whose expert advice and bestselling books have been featured in TIME, Outside, HGTV, and Food & Wine. The No-Waste Vegetable Cookbook is my latest book. Garden Betty is where I write about modern homesteading, farm-to-table cooking, and outdoor adventuring — all that encompass a life well-lived outdoors. After all, the secret to a good life is... Read more »

91 Comments

  • Liz
    October 7, 2021 at 12:34 pm

    I took my garlic out of the ground late this season, Oct06th. Where I live this is probably the last chance I have to plant the garlic before the ground is frozen. Can I plant my freshly harvested garlic before it has had time to cure?

    Reply
  • Marie
    September 8, 2021 at 1:23 am

    Can’t find anything on this online. Many of my home grown bulbs have cloves that are just a gray, powdery dry nothing, and other half is fine. What have I done wrong?! Thanks

    Reply
  • Golda
    August 30, 2021 at 7:33 pm

    I planted garlic for the first time last year. Not sure if I have elephant garlic but the bulb are big. They have been curing since July 5. Peeled one yesterday and they were bitter. Also the clove had a greenish tint to them. Do you know why they are bitter? Could it be that they need to cure longer?

    Reply
  • Tamlin
    July 27, 2021 at 7:57 am

    Can garlic still cure if the roots and stalks were cut off after being pulled?

    Reply
  • Dalynn
    July 20, 2021 at 1:22 pm

    Thanks for this! So.. I damaged a couple heads while harvesting. I know to use them up soon, but do I clean them up? Cut leaves off? Wash and dry them? I’m not sure how to prep and store those until I use them all up.

    Reply
  • James Robert Van Alstine
    July 2, 2021 at 10:06 am

    THANK YOU FOR ALL THE HELPFUL INFORMATION I HAVE GROWEN GARLIC FOR A FEW YEARS BUT ALWAYS HAVE GUESSED WHEN TO HARVEST NOW I KNOW. THANK YOU AGAIN.

    Reply
  • Edward W. Skoglund
    May 25, 2021 at 1:07 pm

    Linda Ly, we have garlic that grows wild in the yard. It is a sweet, mild garlic. Up until now I have not known the correct method of harvesting or curing. Thanks for the information. I think I shall spread some of the seed heads elsewhere in the yard. Most of the garlic grows in the same area so that will change this year. Once I used too much of it in a sauce and was surprised how sweet it became. Any idea what variety we may have?

    Reply
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