How to Store Garlic

Garlic’s spicy bite is a sought-after flavor and the ease of growing this long-season plant means it is often found in vegetable gardens. It is also easy to store. In addition to cool, dry storage, garlic can be dried, turned into powder, frozen, pickled, fermented and frozen. However, it should not be canned.


What Do I Need to Know About Growing Garlic?

Garlic is a long-season crop that can be planted in early spring or late fall (well-mulched in cold climates). It needs loose fertile soil and regular water. A heavy feeder, it should have extra nitrogen such as bone meal or fish emulsion until cloves begin to form. It needs regular water but good drainage. You can grow either hardneck or softneck garlic, or both.

What’s the Best Way to Store Garlic?

There really is no “best” way of preserving garlic. Garlic storage depends on such factors as the variety you grow, your climate and the facilities you have for storage. If you can provide cool, dry dark storage inside, that may be the easiest way to store the cloves. However, garlic also lends itself to being pickled in brine or fermented. Chopped cloves can be frozen as is or pureed in oil and frozen.

What’s the Best Softneck Garlic Variety for Storage?

Softneck garlic is the type you’ll find in the grocery and grows better in mild climates. This kind of garlic has the longest storage qualities, but there are variations. Most of these will store 10 months or longer:

  • Blanco Piacenza
  • California Early
  • Corsican Red
  • Inchelium Red
  • Nootka Rose
  • Silver White
  • French Red

What’s the Best Hardneck Garlic Variety for Storage?

Rocambole and purple stripe hardnecks are the hardiest and best for cold climates. In warmer climates, porcelain hardneck garlics are a better choice. None of these store as long as softnecks, however, they have larger cloves and more complex flavors. Most will last an average of six months:

  • Music
  • Georgian Crystal
  • Italian Red
  • Chesnok Red
  • Spanish Roja
  • Georgian Fire
  • China Dawn

How Do I Freeze Garlic?

Garlic can be frozen in several forms. Whole unpeeled bulbs, peeled or unpeeled individual cloves and chopped garlic can all be frozen. To freeze chopped garlic, either pack into mini muffin tins or ice cube trays, then turn out the frozen cubes and place in a well-sealed zip-lock bag. You can also puree the garlic in olive oil and freeze the mixture in ice cube trays.

Can I Pickle Garlic?

Garlic can be pickled in vinegar with salt and sugar added. Wash jars in hot, soapy water and rinse well. Peel and wash the garlic, pack loosely into jars to within ½ inch of the top and cover with a boiling hot mixture of 1¼ cups vinegar (any kind), one cup water and one tablespoon pickling or kosher salt. Cover and refrigerate; it will keep several months.

Can Garlic be Fermented?

Lacto-fermentation is an ancient way to preserve foods with beneficial bacteria. Peel the cloves and place in clean washed jars. Dissolve two tablespoons of sea, kosher or pickling salt in one quart of water; pour over garlic and let stand, covered, for three or four weeks at room temperature. Momentarily remove lids each day to allow gases to escape. After four weeks, refrigerate.

Can Garlic be Canned?

It is possible to can garlic, but it loses most of its flavor and the texture deteriorates. The University of California at Davis notes that garlic is a low-acid vegetable. Low-acid vegetables are more susceptible to developing clostridium bacteria, which causes botulism. In addition, UCD notes that processing times have never been developed for garlic. This storage method is not recommended by food experts.

Can I Store Garlic in the Refrigerator?

It is possible to store fresh garlic in the refrigerator. Unfortunately, the whole cloves will quickly respond to the moisture in the air by sprouting. Sometimes the cloves will rot. However, brined, fermented and pickled garlic can be stored in the refrigerator. Chopped garlic can be stored in the refrigerator for a day or two. Garlic in oil can be stored in the refrigerator for up to four days.

How Do I Dry Garlic?

Garlic can be peeled and dried as thin slices or after grating/processing. If you have a dehydrator, follow the manufacturer’s instructions. You can also dry garlic in a 170°F (77°C) oven. Slices should be spread thinly and turned a time or two; they’ll take about 40 minutes. Chopped and processed garlic will dry in even less time. Store in a jar at room temperature out of direct sunlight.

How Do I Make Garlic Powder?

Gallic powder is easily made from dried garlic. Follow the tips above to dry your garlic. Let it stand overnight in a cool, dry place or leave it in the oven with the heat off for at least an hour. Place in your food processor and grind to a powder. Dried garlic powder can be used as is or mixed to taste with salt or spices.

How Do I Store Garlic in Oil?

A word of caution – storing garlic in oil increases the risk of botulism, as the oil shuts out oxygen. If you choose this method, be meticulous about following directions. Never store garlic in oil at room temperature. Place peeled whole cloves in olive oil and store in the refrigerator no more than four days. Store garlic in oil in the freezer for no more than three or four months.

How Do I Store Garlic in a Braid?

Softneck garlic can be braided (hardneck cannot) for storage. Place three just-harvested bulbs together and braid two courses. Add another bulb on the right and braid a course, then add a bulb on the left. Continue braiding to the desired length. Hang in a cool, dry place out of direct sun for a couple of weeks. Store the braided garlic by hanging in a cool, dry indoor room.

Do Growing Conditions Affect Garlic Storage?

Garlic grown in fertile soil and with optimum moisture will be much more healthy than garlic from poor soil that was stressed by drought. Well-grown garlic will also store longer and be less subject to insects or rot in storage. Planting and harvesting at the proper times also promotes better garlic health and storage qualities. For hardneck garlic, be sure to remove scapes (flower stalks).

How Should I Cure Garlic Before Storing?

Once the tops die back, harvest your garlic. Loosen the soil and make sure you have a firm grip on the cloves before pulling the plant. Brush off loose soil (don’t wash, it may encourage rot). Tie bunches of up to a dozen plants and hang in a well-ventilated room or a cool, airy spot outside out of direct sunlight. Let the garlic cure for three or four weeks.

Can I Store Garlic in the Ground?

You can leave garlic in the ground if you just want it to grow more plants for next year. However, that’s not the ideal way to grow garlic as it will be too crowded. You can’t store garlic in the ground like root crops. Winter rains will make the bulbs swell and split. The cloves will begin to sprout and will be unusable.

What Problems Might I Have with Stored Garlic?

Properly grown and stored garlic usually does well in the home environment. When problems occur, they are most likely to be related to moisture. Garlic that was not properly cured or that is stored in areas where it is too damp may develop rot or mold. High moisture also increases the risk that the cloves will sprout. Garlic cloves stored in extremely dry conditions may shrivel.

How Long Will Stored Garlic Last?

Storage methods and variety help determine how long garlic stays good. Dried garlic lasts the longest – at least a year if kept dry. Frozen garlic will last about six to eight months. Garlic frozen in oil should be used within four months. Hardneck garlics usually last about six months and softnecks 10 to 12 months. If refrigerated, pickled and fermented garlic should be good for six months.