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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.

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 55°F and 65°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.

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

How do you harvest garlic scapes?

Garlic scapes appear in late spring to early summer on hardneck garlic plants. They are 100 percent edible and delicious! And they should be harvested to help promote bulb development below ground.

To cut the scape, wait until the stalk is fully formed and grow above the rest of the plant. When it starts to curl and spiral, cut the stalk as close to the base as possible without cutting any leaves off.

Garlic scapes keep well in a plastic bag for two to three weeks in the fridge. They can also be stored upright in a jar of cool water on the counter (the way you’d display flowers), where they’ll last for a few days.

Can you store garlic in the refrigerator?

Storing garlic long-term in the fridge (at 35°F to 40°F) is not recommended because holding garlic at those temperatures stimulates sprouting (in the same way garlic sprouts when it’s planted in the cooler soil and cooler weather of fall).

If you’ve already peeled the cloves, however, you can keep them in the fridge for up to a week before they start to lose moisture (and eventually decay).

Can you freeze garlic?

Yes, garlic is quite versatile when it comes to freezing it. You can freeze whole bulbs that have cured, individual cloves (peeled or unpeeled), or chopped garlic. While it won’t retain its crispness after thawing, it still has all the flavor of fresh garlic.

Can garlic go bad?

When stored for too long, garlic will either sprout or shrivel. Neither makes the garlic harmful if you eat it, but they’re an indication that the garlic is past its peak in flavor and quality.

It’s time to discard (or compost) the garlic if the cloves have browned, turned soft, or shrunken in size.

Why is my garlic sprouting?

Sprouted garlic is the first sign that the garlic is about deteriorate, either from being old or being exposed to too much moisture or cold.

You can still eat sprouted garlic if the flesh is smooth and firm. The young green shoots are slightly bitter but can be chopped and used alongside the cloves when you cook. Just don’t try to put a bunch of garlic shoots in recipes where they’re the star of the dish (like garlic bread), as the difference in flavor could be noticeable.

Can you plant garlic that has sprouted?

Sprouted garlic (as well as garlic that’s still intact) can be planted in the fall for harvest the following year.

Simply plant the unpeeled garlic clove (sprouted side or pointy side up) about an inch deep in well-draining soil. Allow 2 to 3 inches of spacing between each clove and keep the plants consistently moist (but not waterlogged) while the shoots are growing.

Though the shoots are somewhat bitter when they start to sprout, they actually turn milder and sweeter as they grow. This makes those tall, tender garlic shoots a delicacy in spring when they’re picked as immature plants called green garlic (also known as spring garlic or baby garlic). There won’t be a divided bulb on the end of the green garlic, but the entire plant at that point is edible.

Or, wait for the leaves to start dying off as the crop matures so you can harvest fully divided bulbs in summer.

Garlic Harvest and Storage Sources

The Ultimate Guide to Harvesting, Curing, and Storing Garlic 1
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This post updated from an article that originally appeared on July 14, 2011.

Linda Ly 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 »

83 Comments

  • Avatar
    Jim Armitage
    January 5, 2021 at 2:47 pm

    Thanks Linda, found your article most helpful, I’ve just pulled a few garlic bulbs and wasn’t sure how to treat them. PS I’m in the southern hemisphere, hence pulling the garlic now.

    Regards

    Jim

    Reply
    • Linda Ly
      Linda Ly
      January 18, 2021 at 1:26 am

      Hi Jim, I’m glad this was helpful for you!

      Reply
  • Avatar
    Manfred Schlarb
    August 6, 2020 at 4:47 pm

    I made a huge mistake. I had just harvested my garlic and spread it out in my leanto to cure and had someone spray pesticides for mosquitoes. Some of the spray may have settled on my garlic. Would my crop be a write off or would it still be edible? Could we at least use it for seed? Thanks!

    Reply
    • Avatar
      Linda from Garden Betty
      September 2, 2020 at 7:53 am

      I probably wouldn’t eat garlic that’s had mosquito pesticide sprayed on it, but it depends on what kind of pesticide was used and how much overspray there was. However you can definitely pull off the papery outer layers (while keeping the cloves unpeeled) and use them as seed garlic. If the overspray was very slight, this would help mitigate any residue on your garlic as well.

      Reply
  • Avatar
    Susan Rubinsky
    July 19, 2020 at 12:53 am

    This is The Best article I’ve read, ever, on curing garlic! Thank you! And good luck with the house, property, kids, and your next garden. It will all go well. Take it from someone who was a single working Mom who now has a grown up son — there are bad garden years and good garden years. It all works out in the end. This is one of my favorite blogs!

    Reply
  • Avatar
    Cheryl Farmer
    November 19, 2019 at 11:09 pm

    Hi, my garlic has been hung for drying for approximately 4 weeks now, but when I cut a test stem it is still not completely dry right through. Can you please confirm that the stem needs to be dry right through before trimming and storing?
    Thank you

    Reply
    • Avatar
      Linda from Garden Betty
      November 22, 2019 at 2:48 am

      Drying your garlic completely will prolong its life in storage. Is your area particularly humid? You could try circulating a fan in the room to help the garlic dry faster. If you have a few bulbs left that haven’t fully dried, you can just allocate them for use in the kitchen first.

      Reply
  • Avatar
    Deb
    August 1, 2019 at 4:58 pm

    While curing and storing garlic do they smell? I have a number of places that I can do this but it will depend which is best based on odor.

    Reply
    • Avatar
      Linda from Garden Betty
      August 4, 2019 at 8:50 pm

      They don’t smell any more than garlic typically does… so yes, if you get close, you get a whiff of that nice savory pungency, but they won’t stink up an entire area as long as you keep them intact.

      Reply
  • Avatar
    On-line Ordering
    July 16, 2019 at 10:59 pm

    I waited too long to harvest, and have several heads that separated into individual cloves. Can I divide them up and plant them?

    Reply
    • Avatar
      BrunnenG
      July 25, 2019 at 11:03 pm

      Absolutely, just as you would any other clove for planting.

      Reply
    • Avatar
      Linda from Garden Betty
      August 4, 2019 at 8:49 pm

      Yep! Each clove is considered garlic seed (but with a head start).

      Reply
  • Avatar
    Rick
    July 4, 2019 at 5:30 pm

    I have dug up my garlic. It looks good , but there is a bright green sandy like substance in the dirt left behind.Not all but many of them.Any idea what it is? Never had it before.
    Thanx

    Reply
    • Avatar
      Linda from Garden Betty
      August 4, 2019 at 8:48 pm

      I’ve never seen this after my garlic harvests, so I’m not sure what it could be.

      Reply
  • Avatar
    Plunkhead
    June 23, 2019 at 8:42 pm

    “Pro” garlic grower here, using biggest bulbs every year and people swear its elephant garlic. Looking for storage tips and wanted to compliment you on a well written informative article.

    Reply
    • Avatar
      Linda from Garden Betty
      August 4, 2019 at 8:47 pm

      Thank you so much!

      Reply
  • Avatar
    Kathi
    May 9, 2019 at 3:28 am

    This had been a great article. I only wish I’d read it a month ago. I planted three varieties of hard neck garlic last October and have been looking forward to harvesting the scapes this spring. Unfortunately, nothing I read before this explained that the scape is the curly part that grows or of the garlic leaves. So I cut all the big 12″+ green leaves off, thinking I was harvesting scapes! And the following week, I cut them off again. There are rather small green leaves growing out of the ground now. 🙁
    The garlic leaves were chopped and sauteed and added to basil to make pesto and added to morning omelettes. And my neighbor was certain I had planted leeks two years before and that was what I was harvesting. She took home a handful of my “green leeks” and made leek soup. Then called me to say they were not leeks and tasted very garlicy. Her soup was delicious!
    But I don’t think I’ll be harvesting very nice garlic this summer.

    Reply
  • Avatar
    Grands grand
    January 9, 2018 at 8:16 pm

    I have bulbs that have turned dry inside the head. Are they still good? they will powder if I smash them.

    Reply
    • Avatar
      Linda from Garden Betty
      March 1, 2018 at 6:23 am

      The cloves are no longer good if they’ve dried out to the point of powder.

      Reply
  • Avatar
    Marycay Doolittle
    September 10, 2017 at 2:01 am

    What tools do you use to snip the roots and stems? Heavy duty scissors, garden shears? My hand is very sore from cleaning maybe 700 heads for storage and I have a lot more to go.

    Reply
    • Avatar
      Linda from Garden Betty
      November 9, 2017 at 10:52 pm

      I use a pair of scissors, which is probably my #1 gardening tool. 🙂 My favorite is this one: http://amzn.to/2hiDpha

      Reply
  • Avatar
    Laura Peterson
    June 18, 2017 at 5:51 pm

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

    Reply
    • Avatar
      Linda from Garden Betty
      June 21, 2017 at 6:54 am

      No it won’t harm the garlic, but your garlic might not last long in storage.

      Reply
  • Avatar
    Mike E.
    June 17, 2017 at 3:15 pm

    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.

    Reply
  • Avatar
    Annie Terry
    May 9, 2017 at 8:06 pm

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

    Reply
    • Avatar
      Linda from Garden Betty
      May 17, 2017 at 7:59 am

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

      Reply
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